A long way to run wrong

On January 1, 1929, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets claimed a 8-7 victory in the Rose Bowl, in part, thanks to University of California Golden Bears center Roy Riegels who recovered a ball fumbled GT halfback J.C. Thomason in the second quarter and ran 62 yards in the wrong direction.

By the end of the game Riegels was dubbed with the nickname ‘Wrong Way.’ Despite being named All-America, it stuck with him until he passed away in 1993. The New York Times titled his obituary ‘Roy Riegels, 84, Who Took Off In Wrong Direction in Rose Bowl.’

An adrenaline rush prevented Riegel from knowing exactly what he was doing. Teammate, Benny Lom, grabbed him in an effort to right the wrong, but was immediately brushed off. Lom grabbed his mixed up teammate again at the 10-yard-line and did not let go.

By the time Riegel realized what he was doing, he was at the three-yard-line. He turned around just in time to see the wave of Georgia Tech offensive players who were about to run him to the one yard line.

The Bears decided to punt the ball, eliminating chances of messing up a play so close to their own end zone. Tech’s Vance Maree blocked Lom’s punt for a safety, giving the Yellow Jackets a 2-0 lead.

 

Riegel had to be talked into returning to the field for the second half. His success included blocking a punt. Despite Lom passing for a touchdown and kicking the extra point, it was not enough for the Bears to win the game.

After graduating with a degree in agriculture, Riegel taught and coached football. He served as an officer in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II and went on to work in the agricultural field as cannery executive. He lived a quiet life in Sacramento with his wife and two children.

He knew he would never live life without constantly hearing about his mishap so he learned to laugh at himself. “Sometimes my 10-year-old son calls me ‘Wrong Way Riegels’—and I don’t even spank him for it,” he said.

 

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