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Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 2:25pm

Tracy Ham: The Hall Of Fame And The Future Of College Football

Georgia is now home to the national College Football Hall of Fame. It opened a week ago in downtown Atlanta.

Georgia has 25 players in the national hall. They are all from University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, except for one man: Tracy Ham.

Ham led Georgia Southern to two national championships as its star quarterback from 1983 to 1986, shortly after Georgia Southern re-launched its football program after a four–decade hiatus.

He went on to be drafted by the Los Angeles Rams and play 13 seasons with the Canadian Football League.

He's since returned to Statesboro and is now the school's Associate Athletic Director for Special Projects.

GPB All Things Considered host Rickey Bevington took a visit to the College Football Hall of Fame and sat down with Tracy Ham to discuss his career and the future of college football.

Interview Highlights:

Rickey Bevington (host, All Things Considered): Why do you think southerners, in particular, of all Americans are so passionate about football?

Tracy Ham (former Georgia Southern quarterback and professional football player):
Well, growing up in Florida, we were playing sandlot football when I started running. And I was always the guy that made the teams even, so I was the last one picked. And you had to have five on five or six on six, but at an early age, we were playing sandlot football. And I think what got me was watching University of Florida play on TV. And my eyes would just light up and go “awww, I wanna do that.” And we’d go out in the yard and mimic it. And you look at the proximity of the teams in the Southeast, it just makes for a hotbed for athletes. And football in particular. There’s just something about football. And the weather down here in very conducive to being outside a lot. Which is contrary to what you do when you’re up North. You play basketball because the weather puts you inside. So I think it has a lot to do with the weather. And then, in my time, it was simply was, you could just get a ball and start playing.

Rickey Bevington: What's it like to see yourself in the Football Hall of Fame?

Tracy Ham: Now, that’s pretty amazing. Because when you look at my background, I’m the youngest of six-- three boys, three girls. And me and my younger sister are the only two that went to college on an athletic scholarship. And then, to not have had a program in 41 years. To restart your program after a 41-year hiatus. And then to win two championships within relatively a four or five year span is just incredible. And at the time, we were just young kids in college loving football. We really didn’t know what we didn’t know. And to be able to, after time passed, to be inducted into the College Hall of Fame, was just not about me. It really was about the entire system that I was involved in.

Rickey Bevington : You were a student at Georgia Southern and so you have that perspective. And you’re now an authority figure in the athletic department and you’re working with young people. What has changed?

Tracy Ham: What has changed? That’s a good question. Because there is a change, obviously. Kids now are tweeting out the things they are doing and Instagramming and, you know, they’re picking schools… I don’t know what they’re basing it on now. And so, I think what’s changed is the student athlete has changed with the times. You know, clearly they don’t do things like we do. And we showed a video of when I was in school to our team. You know, we didn’t have a phone {or a} cell phone. Now, coaches can get their team together with a click of the hand and say ‘hey, we have practice’ and it goes out to all of the kids’ phones. So, the accessibility, some of the things they have access to, we didn’t. And the facilities have just grown in enormous capacity. You know, we just built a new $10 million facility in our end zone and {when I} walk through it, I’m going ‘wow, how did we ever win a game? You know, with the technology that’s involved in the game, from a standpoint of film studying. Where you can watch this, that, and that. You can actually be in your room studying the plays and we didn’t have that type of access.