Nov. 3, 1979 is a day Wahoos’ Joe Bock will never forget; nor will Georgia legend Vince Dooley

By Jerry Ratcliffe

UVA alum Joe Bock (52) as a member of the Houston Gamblers of the USFL (Photos: houston-gamblers.com).

Coming out of high school in Rochester, N.Y., Joe Bock didn’t get a lot of college football offers. In fact, it looked like he was headed to the Ivy League before Virginia came along.

Bock had plenty of smarts and so the Ivy was a natural fit. His top two choices were Cornell and Columbia. Virginia was the only Division-I offer and so he grabbed it up.

“The funny thing was that the summer before I entered Virginia, some magazine did a top 10 of worst teams in the country,” Bock chuckled. “They were my top three schools in order: Cornell, Columbia and Virginia, 1-2-3.”

Back in those days, there was a “Bottom 10” poll each week during football season with the author taking shots at America’s worst programs. Bock got the last laugh though, as he helped raise UVA’s profile his last two years in the program in 1979 and ‘80 under the late Dick Bestwick.

“We were told the night before the North Carolina game that if we won that, we’d be invited to a bowl game,” Bock said. “We were 6-3 going into that game.”

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they lost 13-7 and followed that up the following week with a season-ending 17-7 loss at Maryland. UVA finished 6-5, with two of the losses coming to ranked teams, NC State and Navy.

However, one of the monumental wins in Virginia football history was among Bock and his teammates’ accomplishments. The Cavaliers shocked Georgia, 31-0 in Athens, a loss that legendary Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley called the worst of his career.

“I think that game produced two records that may still stand,” Bock said. “The last time Georgia was shut out at home and the last time somebody — and I have to humbly say this — recovered a fumble for a touchdown at Georgia was by me, the only touchdown of my life.”

The shutout record stood until 1995 when Alabama blanked the Dawgs “Between the Hedges,” also by a 31-0 count. Not sure about the fumble-for-TD thing.

“My parents had bought tickets and airfare way in advance, but had to cancel because my grandma was sick,” Bock said. “When I called my grandma, I knew it was probably the last time I would talk to her.

“I told her, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen but I’m going to make a big play in this game and it’s going to be a gift from God,’” Bock told his grandmother (to listen to Bock’s complete interview from last week’s “Jerry Ratcliffe Show,” and to hear more of his stories, click this link).

All day long, Bock said he was trying to make something happen as either the long-snapper or from his defensive-end spot, but it wasn’t happening.

“On snaps I was lined up against Meat Cleaver Weaver, their All-SEC nose guard, who was a dirty cheap-shot artist,” Bock said. “We scored earlier on a long pass to Greg Taylor and on the point-after, Weaver hit me and I was seeing stars. He did that on every field goal, point-after and punt.

“Well, there was only about two minutes left in the game and we were up 24-0. We were going to punt and I yelled out, in not so clean words, ‘Hey Meat Cleaver, leave me the heck alone. You’ve been cheap-shotting me all day. It’s over, we won.”

Joe Bock (right) at at the Houston Gamblers Reunion in June of 2010.

Virginia punted to All-SEC Bulldog Scott Warner, who tried to field the ball at his own 5-yard line, and he fumbled. Bock had gotten by Weaver and was in Warner’s face. When he saw the fumbled ball, Bock batted the ball forward and recovered in the end zone for the only touchdown of his life.

“I told my grandma it was a gift from me and God,” Bock said.

And perhaps Meat Cleaver, too.

“My grandma died the night before the North Carolina game (two weeks later),” Bock said.

He went on to play for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (twice), the Birmingham Stallions (twice) and Houston Gamblers of the USFL, the St. Louis Cardinals (NFL), the Chicago Bruisers, and at the age of 46, finished up his career with the Rochester Raiders and New York/New Jersey Revolution in 2006.

Bock tells some great stories to UVA fans during his 25-minute interview on my show, which is podcasted to this website each week. The show is on every Saturday morning on WINA Radio, flagship station of the Virginia Cavaliers (7-8 a.m.) on 1070 AM, and 98.9 FM. It is also live-streaming, so it can be picked up anywhere in the world on WINA.com. The show additionally airs from 9-10 a.m. on Saturday’s on ESPN-Charlottesville WVAX (102.9 FM and 1450 AM).

Here are some highlights of Bock playing on the defensive side of the ball for the Gamblers:

Comments

  1. Joe Bock says:

    Thanks Jerry, really nice piece, several of my Virginia teammates have seen it and sent it to me and have enjoyed it.
    Dr. Kurt Pierce has questioned my smarts lol. Thanks again.
    Joe

    • Jerry Ratcliffe says:

      You’re welcome Joe. We’ve received several comments about the show and the story, and I guess only one guy, Dr. Pierce, has questioned your smarts! LOL.

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