It’s early in the morning, January 2, 2018. The golden sun has yet to rise above the San Gabriel mountains to pour its orange glow onto the streets of Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica or Orange County, California. Regardless, Georgians all over the country, and tens of thousands in California, are waking up, asking if it was real… and rejoicing that it was. The Dawgs have won the Rose Bowl. Pinch… yep, it’s real.
I attended the University of Georgia. I was fortunate (in several ways) to graduate, in 1988, after 4 years in Athens. I then received a “slot” for pilot training and a Commission in the United States Air Force. What a blessing that time was.
When I started at UGA in 1984 some of the glory days had just occurred. I had just missed it, but the glory could still be felt on campus, and surely, we thought, there was more glory soon to come.
Herschel Walker was still on campus during my time at UGA. He wasn’t playing college football by then, however. I chatted with him a couple of times as we walked to class. I was in awe and he was gracious and friendly enough to spend some time talking with a lowly freshman.
It’s a little known fact that Herschel went back to Georgia to finish his degree. He traded the thunder and glory of Sanford Stadium for the peace and quiet of the majestic oaks of Old College. Not necessarily by choice, mind you, but definitely out of an obligation and commitment to finish what he had started. Just like Coach Dooley had wanted.
Gone were the “Walker, My Dawg” t-shirts from just a few years before and “Life after Glory” had begun to set in. He was back on Athens keeping a promise made. All because he was, and is, a Damn Good Dawg.
On a side note- the Savannah Historical Society has Coach Dooley’s day planner from the late 70s. If you go visit, you’ll see it opened to a page, quite appropriately, where the Coach had scribbled “go to Wrightsville to meet the Walker family” or something to that affect. What a visit that must have been. Glory. But… All of that was a long time ago.
So, needless to say, it’s been a long road back to glory for Georgia and our Dawgs.
Dooley, Goff, Donnan, Richt. They’ve all coached from the heart and out of a commitment to the school they love. There’s no question about that. They all had varying levels of success, however, and none have ever seemed to reach the level of the Modern Era UGA Glory of the early 80s.
As a result, those of us who cheer our alma mater have had varying levels of frustration, over the last 35 (plus) years, as we have pined for Glory, once again.
But College Football is big business. Really big. It’s not about heart or love, right? It’s all about going through the motions and showing up on time for the ESPN interview, right? Wrong. So wrong.
I get it that coaches and staff have to move around and that sometimes their allegiances need to shift like the gears on the buses running the North-South route on campus.
I get it that team chemistry is something that can’t be calculated or, many times, duplicated. I get it that sometimes a recruiting year is good… and sometimes not. I get it.
But, when it’s all said and done, I truly believe that team, sports, football, chemistry, etc is as much about Home and Roots and “Raisin'” and Staying Grounded in Faith and doing things for others rather than yourself as it is about business, allegiance to a job and just showing up on time. And that’s what seems to be different about the 2017 version of the University of Georgia football team, its Coaches and its staff. Glory, Glory.
I’ve watched a lot of UGA football but I never played in college. I know I’m not alone in being a Grandstand Coach and that there are plenty of legends who are much more knowledgeable of the game than me.
I also don’t know all of the coaches and players… but I know a few, and I’ve watched them grow as the games have unfolded. As a result, I feel like I know the heart and commitment that the team and staff have. The selfless commitment to others. The commitment to integrity. The commitment to chopping wood. The commitment to winning. The commitment to Attacking the Day. The commitment to Throwdown Thursday.
It’s all of that which makes it fun to have watched this season unfold.
I’ll admit that over the years I’ve grown used to us beating ourselves. I’ve grown used to conservative calls on third and long… or even 1st and ten for that matter. I’ll even admit to resigning myself to some of that old-time defeatism as our Dawgs fought through the first half of the 2018 Rose Bowl. But then… Glory.
This year’s team, it seems, has turned a corner. You could try to point to a person that brought about that new direction… maybe he wears a visor. Maybe he wears a certain number. Maybe it’s even a few people who you could argue have made that happen. I’d submit, however, that it takes more than that. Much more.
One, two or three people can’t change a mindset. It takes buy-in for that to happen. It takes “want to” from the rest of the team to get to the National Championship game. It takes talent committed to excellence to compete against a team that “beat the dog crap” out of you only a few weeks before.
It takes a fan base thirsty for just a little more, willing to travel to South Bend or even cross country, by any and all means available, in hopes of catching a glimpse… or maybe even being a part of that thing… called Glory. And then, when you see it, you grab it… fleeting as it is… and you revel in the moment. And you wake up pinching yourself.
So here we are. On the threshold of a National Championship game. And we’re in it. It brings tears to my eyes to even type it. Glory.
It’s everything people talk about in sports. It’s right before our eyes. It’s on the backs of jerseys with the letters Chubb, Michel, Eason, Cleveland, Blankenship, Fromm, Swift, Wims, L. Carter, that other guy, the one with the visor , and so many, many more. Each name with its own story on this path. Knowing that those names have created a bond, between themselves, a bond that will last a lifetime. A bond that only combat veterans and Championship sports teams can truly relate to. The bond that only comes from self-sacrifice and commitment to excellence.
It’s knowing that those names will be talked about for a long, long time. They’ll be typed into record books and emblazoned in bronze. Regardless of what happens on January 8th, 2018, what has happened already is legendary.
Now please don’t misunderstand me. I realize that many people, inside and outside of Georgia, could care less about Georgia football. I also realize that there are pressing issues in the world that need “fixin'”. Regardless, this is timeless to many. Many that I know and many that I call friend.
It very possibly may be a “once in a lifetime” thing. I certainly hope not… but, who knows!
Glory is all around us. It is, I believe, ahead, as well. Life, in some of its most mundane forms, can go on a week from today. For now, however, the Glory unfolding before our eyes is truly a sight to behold. It makes us smile… it’s a tie that binds. It’s success, focused like a laser and in its purest form. Seeing victory and success is life at its best. And when it’s your Alma Mater, it’s truly inexplicable.
Go, Dawgs. On to Glory.