The only Outland Trophy winner in Georgia history, Cairo native Bill Stanfill is known for famously harassing Florida quarterback Steve Spurrier and the Gators in Spurrier's Heisman season. The Bulldogs went 26-6-2 and captured two SEC championships in Stanfill's three-year stretch.
In 1966, Spurrier had basically wrapped up the Heisman Trophy with a game-winning kick (yes, kick) against Auburn. The Gators led Georgia 10-3 at halftime and were closing in on their first SEC championship. However, the Bulldogs turned them back in the second half, winning 27-10, and Georgia and Alabama shared the SEC championship that season.
The most athletic lineman in Georgia history in the minds of many old-time Bulldogs, Stanfill reeked havoc in Florida's backfield all day, and in
In 1968*, as Georgia was marching to its second SEC championship in three years, the Bulldogs dismantled the Gators 51-0 and Dooley inserted Stanfill at quarterback to finish the game, which didn't sit well with the Gator faithful.
Stanfill was drafted 11th overall by the Miami Dolphins in 1969 and would star on Miami's 1972 undefeated team as an All-Pro with former Georgia teammate Jake Scott on Dolphins' "No Name Defense." Stanfill retired early due to injuries at age 29 with four Pro Bowls to his credit, holding the Dolphins' single-season record for sacks with 18.5 in 14 games (1973).
The 1968 All-American and Outland Trophy winner was selected to the 50th Anniversary All-SEC team and the 1960s All-SEC team. He was also elected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
DAVIE — When Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter was asked recently what he knew about Bill Stanfill, he shook his head and raised his palms in the air as if to say, "Nothing."
Porter is not alone. Stanfill, a former Dolphins defensive end, played only eight seasons in the NFL and retired in 1976, a year before Porter was born. While other members of the "No-Name Defense," such as Dick Anderson and Nick Buoniconti, have maintained a local and even national presence, Stanfill has all but disappeared from memory.
But this was some player - a four-time Pro Bowler who, despite being forced into retirement at 29 by neck and back injuries, amassed 671/2 career sacks, a team record that lasted more than 35 years before being broken by Jason Taylor.
Stanfill's biggest achievement might be the Dolphins' single-season record of 181/2 sacks that Porter, who has 161/2, has in his sights. Not only did Stanfill achieve that mark in a 14-game season in 1973, but he did it at a time when the passing game was almost an afterthought for many teams.
"One of the best I ever saw," said former defensive line coach Mike Scarry, a member of coach Don Shula's staff for 16 years.
"Probably the most underrated member of our defense," Anderson added.
Manny Fernandez, who played alongside Stanfill at nose tackle, compared him to Hall of Fame member Dwight Stephenson, a Dolphins center who played only eight years.
"The fact he's never even been nominated for the Hall of Fame is a real miscarriage of justice," Fernandez said of Stanfill. "He had a short career, but so did Gale Sayers."
Vern Den Herder, who played at right defensive end on the line with Stanfill and Fernandez, said Stanfill's achievements were especially impressive because he was part of a three-man front.
"That meant more double-teaming," Den Herder said. "We played a lot of 2-gap defense, meaning we lined up head up on the tackles. Nowadays, most defensive ends line up on the outside shoulder of the tackle and get penetration every play."
Stanfill, who was born in Cairo, Ga., was a superb all-around athlete who was recruited in 1966 by legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley. Dooley recalled "having to play referee" with four of his assistant coaches, all of whom saw Stanfill (6-foot-5 and 248 pounds) as the answer to their prayers.
"He was the best lineman athlete I ever coached," Dooley said. "This is a guy who never threw the discus in his life, picked it up at a state meet and set a record that lasted 30 or 40 years."
Dooley said Stanfill could have played tight end or fullback but wanted to play defensive end. Good choice: He won the Outland Trophy and was named SEC Lineman of the Year in 1968. Two years earlier, he helped end Steve Spurrier's hopes for a national championship in his senior season at Florida when the Bulldogs beat the previously undefeated Gators 27-10.
Drafted 11th overall in 1969, Stanfill and the Dolphins endured a 3-10-1 season before Shula arrived in 1970. Miami went 10-4 that season and was on its way.
"We had a brief players' strike that first year that ended a week or two prior to the season, and then we did four-a-days," Stanfill said. That, he admitted, was "quite a change" from the previous coach, George Wilson.
Playing injured in those days was much more the norm than it is now. But Stanfill literally left his hospital bed to play in the 1973 opener against San Francisco at the Orange Bowl.
"I'd been in Mercy Hospital for 10 days with a lacerated liver, and early that morning, the team doctor (Herbert Virgin) came to see me and said my white blood count was too high, he couldn't let me out," Stanfill recalled.
"Then at 12:15, the nurse walks in and said, 'Dr. Virgin is going to be calling.' He did and said, 'Bill, do you have your car? Drive on down to the Orange Bowl.' I went down, the team was on the field, I got taped and went out and played 18 snaps.
"We won the game and when I was cutting my tape off, I noticed I still had my hospital bracelet on, so I walked into the training room and told Dr. Virgin, 'I'll give you the honor of cutting this off.' He said, 'No, you're going back to the hospital.' I spent three more days there."
Three weeks later, Stanfill sacked the New York Jets' Joe Namath five times in a game. He also had five sacks against Buffalo in 1974; among Dolphins, only Den Herder has matched that number.
In 1975, the injury problems that would end his career began. Nearly paralyzed by a neck injury in the first exhibition game, he missed the rest of the pre-season but returned for the opener. He needed cortisone shots before nearly every game that season.
"After the '76 season I got Shula's permission to see two outside doctors in Ann Arbor, Mich., and both told me I'd be risking paralysis if I played again. Shula said he'd make the announcement that I'd be retiring at mini-camp, but then I took the physical and Dr. Virgin said I was able to play."
Stanfill said his contract was guaranteed through 1979, and that then-owner Joe Robbie didn't want to pay him unless he played. Stanfill retired and successfully sued to get paid.
He has had a succession of surgeries since, mostly to his neck and hips, though none since 2001. Doctors have told him the hip problems are mostly a result of the multitude of cortisone injections he took to keep playing.
Stanfill has returned to rural Georgia and sells real estate, earlier this year selling some property to Fernandez, who looks forward to the two former linemates heading out in search of ducks and birds just as they did after practice in what was then a much less populated Dade County.
Stanfill admits he keeps tabs on Porter's pursuit of his record but feels Porter must catch or pass him in today's game against San Francisco for the mark to count. Both will have then played in 14 games.
"Otherwise they ought to put an asterisk by it," Stanfill said. "It's only fair."