After a big weekend of Christmas parades in Barnesville and Zebulon and watching Stetson Bennett get snubbed at the Heisman ceremony in New York, I spent Sunday recovering from a sinus infection and reflecting on just how times have changed for Dawg fans like myself.
Growing up in Savannah, I followed UGA but was mostly a pro football fan. I rooted first for Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts then Don Meredith and the Dallas Cowboys and then the Miami Dolphins with Mercury Morris, Jim Kiick and Larry Czonka.
The 1972 Dolphins went 17-0, defeating the Washington Redskins 14-7 in the Super Bowl. The MVP in that game was former Dawg Jake Scott, the Dolphins’ safety. He played that game with a broken left hand and a broken right wrist and still had two interceptions.
My love for the Dawgs solidified after I arrived in Athens in the fall of 1972 when coach Vince Dooley was about to go on an epic run, which culminated in a national title in 1980 and a near miss in 1981.
Dooley went 201-77-10 over 25 years in Athens. In his last five years, however, he slipped to 40-17-3.
Then came the controversial hire of Ray Goff, one of Dooley’s former quarterbacks. Goff went 46-34-1 over seven years which just didn’t cut it with the fan base.
Jim Donnan then took up the baton and went 40-19 over five years. Dooley, the AD, then hired Mark Richt. Before his first season, I met Richt at a Bulldog event in Macon. I told him I wanted to go to the SEC title game before I died and he got us there several times and won two titles, going 145-51 over 15 seasons.
UGA gets in your blood. Goff, Donnan and Richt all still live in Athens and Dooley, or course, lived there until he died earlier this year.
At that point, connected alumni and boosters forced then AD Greg McGarity to hire Kirby Smart and there are thousands of us who are glad they did. Smart has gone 79-15 over seven years and 71-10 following his first season in which the Dawgs finished 8-5. His second team went to the national championship game, losing to Alabama.
Last year the Dawgs went 14-1, winning the school’s first national championship since 1980. This year, they are 13-0, SEC champions and are headed back to the CFP. They will play Ohio State Dec. 31 in the Peach Bowl. A win will propel them to another title game.
The Dawgnation is in the midst of an epic run and the leader of it is Bennett, the former walk-on with a huge chip on his shoulder whose story reportedly will be immortalized in film. Bennett said all the right things in New York, showing grace and class. He was the only player wearing his school letter jacket.
I suspect the Heisman snub has added to the size of that chip which means Ohio State is in for a south Georgia beatdown New Year’s Eve.
Then comes the battle for another national title in which the Dawgs will be favored.
Yes, it is an epic run indeed. Hang on and enjoy the ride Dawgs!