George Ranager loves football.
The Meridian native has been associated with the game since his early childhood days of playing football in local neighborhoods.
Ranager was introduced to hard-nosed football at Northwest Junior High in Meridian by his first coach, Jimmy Gatwood. Northwest lost only one game in two years. He played both quarterback and receiver in junior high and continued in those positions at Meridian High School.
The future University of Alabama football player and his Wildcat teammates were mediocre in his first two high school seasons. Then the Wildcats’ fortunes changed in 1966 with the hiring of Bob Tyler. Ranager’s senior season brought the Wildcats their 11th Big 8 championship as they finished 10-0 with a 34-0 win over Jackson Provine in the mythical state championship.
In the win over Provine, Ranager hauled in a touchdown pass on the game’s first play. “Our quarterback was Bob White, and I was playing receiver. We broke the huddle, and for some reason a timeout was called to straighten the chains out. I went back to the huddle and told Bob if that defensive back lined up on me as close as he just had, he couldn’t cover me. Bob threw me a pass on our first play, and we kept rolling,” Ranager said recently.
“Coach Tyler was a game changer for our program. He brought a wide-open offense and that suited our team. We had one close game, a 21-20 win over Vicksburg,” the future SEC football official said.
Next up for Ranager was the North/South High School All-Star football game in the summer of 1967. Ranager set a record that may still stand. He caught four touchdown passes in the game. He caught one from quarterback Bob White before White injured his ankle and was replaced by a quarterback from Drew named Archie Manning. Ranager caught three touchdown passes from Manning as the North rolled to a 57-33 win.
Next came college football for Ranager. “I considered Mississippi State and Arkansas before signing with Alabama. My brother Tommy had played at MSU, and one of his Bulldog coaches, Johnny Majors, had talked to me about coming to Arkansas.
“Coach Tyler prepared me for Alabama and Coach Bryant. They were similar in their approach,” Ranager said. “You can believe all the stories you hear about Coach Bryant. I loved playing for him. He was a great person, coach, and leader of men. He taught us about life and impacted the lives of all of us who had the opportunity to play for him.”
I loved playing for him (Bear Bryant). He was a great person, coach, and leader of men. He taught us about life and impacted the lives of all of us who had the opportunity to play for him.
Ranager had an outstanding career in Tuscaloosa as he garnered more than 1,000 yards receiving and scored 15 touchdowns. The first prime time college football game in 1969 against Ole Miss saw Ranager catch the winning touchdown with 3:42 to play as he took a bullet pass from Scott Hunter at the one-yard line and battled his way into the end zone, giving Alabama the 33-32 win. Later that year, in the Iron Bowl against Auburn, he returned a kickoff 102 yards to set an Alabama school record.
After his playing days, Ranager came home to Meridian to work in the hardware business. He took up officiating city recreation youth flag football. That led to a 12-year high school officiating career that then led to a 25-year SEC officiating stint before he joined the league’s replay crew for another eight years.
Today, Ranager is living in Meridian with his wife, Beth. They have two daughters, Heather Coleman and Kelly Ranager. He has one granddaughter, Coleman Clay, and one grandson, Hollis Clay. Hollis has signed to play football at Rhodes College in Memphis.