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Reflections with Sammy Way: Allen Ralph 'Buck' Flowers Jr. "could do it all"

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 10/11/19

Reflections remembers Ralph "Buck" Flowers, a small young player whose looks gave no indication of his athletic prowess. The son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Allan Flowers began his career as a member of the Sumter High School football team, finishing …

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Reflections with Sammy Way: Allen Ralph 'Buck' Flowers Jr. "could do it all"

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Reflections remembers Ralph "Buck" Flowers, a small young player whose looks gave no indication of his athletic prowess. The son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Allan Flowers began his career as a member of the Sumter High School football team, finishing as an All-American at Georgia Tech. The author examines the career of this young athlete destined to be called one of the greatest ever to play football by coaches, teammates and spectators.

Flowers noted that he began his career at Sumter High School, and during his senior year the team lost only one game in 1916. "He only weighed 115 pounds in high school and did all the kicking for the team. He remembered that he did not run very much due to being so small."

"Football," he noted, "was simpler in those days. It was largely a running game played from a single-wing offense and with a ball larger than the one used today."

In 1917 during his freshman year at Davidson, he "almost single-handedly accomplished what has been called one of the biggest upsets in Southern football history, leading the Davidson team to a 21-7 win over Auburn." It was reported he kicked all three extra points and prevented an Auburn touchdown, tackling the ball carrier at the goal line. He left Davidson and enrolled at Georgia Tech, playing his first year there for Coach John Heisman. "He was only a substitute there until Heisman became aware of his prowess in returning punts. It was at this time that he developed the quick kick under the guidance of assistant Tech coach (future head coach) Bill Alexander."

Flowers was elected captain of the Tech team his senior year, and the team claimed a national championship, losing only one game (to Pitt 10-3) and scoring 280 points to their opponents' 16. Flowers averaged 10.2 yards a carry on 80 carries and 16.5 average on punt returns. He led the nation with a 49.4-yard punting average. Coach Alexander proclaimed Buck Flowers the greatest kicker in the history of football. In 1955, he became the first Georgia Tech player ever inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame.

Zipp Newman, sports editor emeritus of the Birmingham News, wrote in 1974 that Flowers "may be the best all-round football player that ever lived." Cassie Nicholes writes that "comparing records of Flowers and the immortal 'Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost,' is revealing. In his final year at Illinois, Grange ran and received passes for 1,332 yards; he was not a passer or a kicker. 'Buck' Flowers gained 1,423 yards on the ground; he also passed, kicked off, punted and drop kicked. In addition, Tech lore has it that in his career as safety, no runner ever ran over or by him! The 1920 team only allowed 16 points while pounding the opposition for 312 points in a low-scoring era. Flowers is noted for having kicked a punt 85 yards and drop-kicked for 44 yards, the longest of the year. His performance against the powerful Auburn team is legendary; he had punt returns of 82 and 75 yards. He punted for an average of 55 yards and compiled touchdown runs of 31, 82 and 65 yards in a 24-21 victory."

Information obtained from obituary and Item archives.