The careers of UGA football All-American Randy Johnson, women’s basketball coaching great Andy Landers, NCAA champion swimmer Robert Margalis and softball All-American Kim Wendland were celebrated Friday night at the annual University of Georgia’s Circle of Honor induction gala, held at the West End Zone complex at Sanford Stadium.
The Circle of Honor is designed to pay tribute to extraordinary student-athletes and coaches who by their performance and conduct have brought honor to the university and themselves, and who by their actions have contributed to the tradition of the Georgia Bulldogs. The criteria for selection also stipulate that each recipient has earned his or her academic degree.
Additionally, former UGA gymnast Jennifer Carbone Zuccaro was presented as the 2021 Hartman Award winner. Named for the late Bill Hartman, Georgia’s longtime kicking coach and chairman of the Georgia Student Educational Fund, the Hartman Award is one of the greatest honors given to a former UGA student-athlete. Presented annually since 1992, the Hartman Award recognizes former Georgia student-athletes who have demonstrated excellence in their profession and/or in service to others by 20 or more years of superior performance after graduation. Only former varsity athletes who have received a baccalaureate degree from Georgia can be considered for the award.
As a three-year starter on the offensive line, Johnson earned consensus All-America honors for the Bulldogs in 1975. That year, he was also voted the SEC’s Most Valuable Player among linemen by the Birmingham Quarterback Club; winner of the Jacobs Blocking Award, given each year to the league’s top blocker; and was named the Southeast Area Lineman of the Year by the Atlanta Touchdown Club.
The Rome, Ga., native played fullback and middle guard for Pepperell High School before coming to UGA in 1971. At Georgia, he quickly established himself as an outstanding blocker, as well as a leader among teammates. Said his coach, Vince Dooley: ”Of all the players I’ve had the privilege of coaching, no one was more of a naturally-gifted blocker than Randy Johnson. He naturally had all of the basic fundamentals to be a great blocker and All-American.”
Johnson won first-team All-SEC honors in both 1974 and 1975. As a senior he was elected offensive captain of a team that went 9-3 and earned a berth in the 1976 Cotton Bowl. The ’74 Bulldogs racked up 3,267 rushing yards, then the second-highest single-season output in UGA history.
Johnson earned his B.S. degree in Health and Physical Education from UGA in 1984.
In 36 seasons as the women’s basketball coach at Georgia, Andy Landers built an all-encompassing legacy that will be difficult for any successor to match.
The Maryville, Tenn., native was hired as UGA’s first full-time head coach in 1979 and quickly turned the program into a powerhouse. Georgia won the 1981 WNIT title. The Lady Bulldogs played in the first-ever NCAA Tournament in 1982 and advanced to the Final Four in 1983. Two years later, the Lady Bulldogs were NCAA runners-up.
By the time Landers retired from coaching in 2015, he had guided Lady Bulldog teams to 862 victories, becoming one of just seven coaches in NCAA Division I to have at least 850 wins at one school. By 2015, Georgia ranked second nationally in NCAA Tournament appearances (31) and weeks in the Associated Press weekly poll (522). In all, Georgia under Landers advanced to the “Sweet 16” 20 times, to the “Elite Eight” 11 times, to the Final Four five times, and finished as NCAA runner-up twice, in 1985 and 1996.
Landers was named National Coach of the Year four times, while his players were named National Player of the Year three times, National Freshman of the Year three times, National Defensive Player of the Year once, and 31 All-America honors. Equally impressive, all 67 of Landers’ four-year letter winners earned degrees from UGA.
Landers has already been inducted into the Halls of Fame for Women’s Basketball (2007) and the State of Georgia (2009). His induction into the Circle of Honor will place him into a small group of unique distinction. He will become just the sixth among all 83 inductees that are not UGA alumni. This group includes Dick Copas, men’s golf coach (inducted in 2006); Vince Dooley, head football coach and athletic director (inducted in 2004); Liz Murphey, women’s golf coach and senior women’s administrator (inducted in 2001); Steve Webber, baseball coach (inducted in 2018) and Suzanne Yoculan, women’s gymnastics coach (inducted in 2014).
Robert Margalis made his mark as one of the finest distance swimmers in UGA’s proud history, earning a slew of accolades from 2002-05. However, he saved his best single performance as a Bulldog for perhaps the sport’s most difficult event: the 400 Individual Medley.
As a sophomore, Margalis won the 2003 NCAA Championship in the 400 IM. At the time, just three previous Bulldogs had won individual national titles in men’s swimming. His winning time of 3:39.92 stood as the UGA record for 11 years before Olympian Chase Kalisz bettered the mark at the 2014 NCAA meet.
Margalis eventually earned 16 All-America citations in his Georgia career. He won Southeastern Conference titles in the 1,650-yard freestyle in 2002 and the 500-yard freestyle in 2003, after which he was also named SEC Swimmer of the Year. The Clearwater, Fla., native also won or shared the Reid Patterson Team MVP award in all four of his years as a Bulldog.
Margalis earned his B.S. degree in Consumer Economics from UGA in 2004.
A native of Rock Island, Ill., Kim Wendland was one of the first great players in UGA softball history. A three-year teammate of fellow Circle of Honor inductee Nicole Barber, the duo helped turn Georgia from an ascendant program to the national fixture it is today.
Wendland won All-America honors in each of her last three years as a Bulldog (2003-05). She remains one of just four players in UGA history to earn such an honor three times. She’s also the only player in program history to earn two outstanding honors: SEC Player of the Year and first-team All-SEC four consecutive years.
Sixteen years after her UGA career, Wendland’s 313 career hits, 233 runs batted in, and 64 doubles still rank among the top five in school history. Her 1,403 putouts at first base rank second in program history. As a freshman in 2002, Wendland helped lead Georgia to its first-ever NCAA Regional. The Bulldogs have now played in 19 consecutive NCAA Championships.
Wendland earned her B.S. degree in Child and Family Development from UGA in 2004.