A couple of years ago, our Maghen Moore had the opportunity to interview one of the all-time greats of college football, University of Georgia legend and NFL Hall of Famer, Charley Trippi.
Mr. Trippi and his gracious wife, Peggy, invited UGA Football Live into their Athens home for an entertaining taped interview and an amazing tour of his impressive Georgia and Chicago Cardinal’s memorabilia collection.
All one needs to know about the career and place in history of Charley Trippi comes from these impeccable sources. Possibly three of the 20th century’s most knowledgeable college football authorities, Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Arkansas head coach, athletic director and ABC Sports analyst Frank Broyles and the legendary voice of college football, ABC play-by-play man Keith Jackson, each is on record of having stated that Charley Trippi was the greatest college football player they had ever seen play. Mighty high praise indeed.
One of the unique items we came across during our tour of Mr. Trippi’s collection was a photo of an entrant in the 2000 Kentucky Derby, a tall, regal bay horse by the name of Trippi. We made a mental note and decided to look further into Mr. Trippi’s relationship with the colt.
Cothran “Cot” Campbell was a pioneer in the field of thoroughbred racing. The ever-genteel Campbell founded Dogwood Farms in the horse country of Aiken, South Carolina. Campbell was a keen advertising executive and the first to venture into thoroughbred syndication. He had attended Suwanee and knew of Trippi’s exploits on the college gridirons and baseball diamond (Trippi batted .355 for the professional Atlanta Crackers) and had witnessed Trippi’s brilliance for the Chicago Cardinals.
At the April 1999 two year olds training sale in Lexington, Kentucky, Campbell purchased a striking colt for $65,000. Son of the appropriately named End Sweep, the handsome horse reminded Campbell of Charley Trippi. Tall, elegant and regal, the future stakes winner was named after one of the greatest college football players. Campbell, who won the Preakness in 1990 with Summer Squall, was hoping Trippi would run the track much as Charley Trippi ran through opposing defenses on the football fields throughout the South 45 years earlier.
Trippi did not start as a 2-year-old because of an infection. As a three-year old, the sprinter had early success. Beginning in 2000, Trippi won his first four races, including the prestigious Flamingo Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a race of a mile and an eighth. Trippi was being groomed for a run for the roses at Churchill Downs in May and the stallion was entered into the Kentucky Derby.
As a sprinter, Trippi was the fastest horse in the country and unbeatable. However, the mile and a quarter Derby was outside his comfort zone and Trippi faded to 11th. He would go on to win another three races in 2000 and collect over $665,000 in his successful career. He had Charley Trippi’s speed but not his endurance.
Over the years, Cot Campbell would keep Charley Trippi abreast of Trippi the racehorse. Charley Trippi was a shrewd investor as well and was pleased with the stallion’s results on and off the track. In 2001, Dogwood Farms sold Trippi to an Ocala breeding syndicate for $1,250,000. He covered 120 mares in his first year at stud and earned $900,000. Trippi was earning nearly $2.5 million annually, when in 2008, he was sold to Drankenstein Farms in South Africa, where he resides very comfortably today.
As of today, Trippi has sired nearly 600 colts and produced major winners on three continents with over $50 million in winnings. His current stud fee is $18,000 and the handsome steed remains in great demand while living the good life in South Africa.
Charley Trippi was one of the first big-money contract football players. He was offered a contract by the Boston Red Sox and was able to leverage his two-sport ability into a $100,000 ($1.3 million in today’s dollars) deal with the Cardinals’ owner Charles Bidwell.
If Charley Trippi was playing today, he would be earning sums even greater than his productive namesake. Matter of fact, if a 25-year old Charley Trippi walked into the Arizona Cardinals’ office of Charles Bidwell’s grandson, Bill Bidwell, Jr., I believe his introductory words would be, “Bill, we are about to become partners.”