I must first say thank you to the Dawgsports community for allowing me to post here. Some friends and I started our own blog, The Grit Tree (shameless plug #1) around a year ago, but I always come back to check Dawgsports. In fact, it was Dawgsports that inspired me to get started blogging. I am a big fan of T. Kyle King and the regulars, and I appreciate the civil tone everyone takes with each other (flattery will get you everywhere). I first commented under the name “bdawg” in January 2009, and though I took an opposite stance to Kyle (regarding Willie Martinez, which I would like to retract that comment), Kyle was very friendly and even went as far to thank me for my different opinion.
There have been three influences in my life that made me love the University of Georgia.
Like many of the other dawgographies so far, my love with the University of Georgia began at an early age with my family, although it wasn’t my parents who instilled a love of UGA in me-it was my sister (Sissy). My parents basically had two sets of children; I have a sister and brother who are fourteen and twelve years older than me and then a younger brother who is four years younger than me.
When I was four years old, Sissy went off to UGA. Some of my earliest memories are of the family going to Athens to visit her in the duplex she lived in off Laurie Drive. Davinci’s was always the favorite place to eat. We would also always go to Memorial Park. Because my Sissy went to UGA, I knew I wanted to go there too. That was all there was to it. l still have a stuffed Uga that was a Christmas present from her the first year she was in Athens displayed on a shelf in my office.
When it was time to look at different colleges, Sissy took me to Athens to tour the University properly. We had breakfast that morning at the Grill and she showed me around town. We did the Visitor Center’s tour around North Campus.
My sister and her family live in Birmingham, so I don’t get to see them as often as I would like. This was especially the case when I was a student. I was never able to make it over to Birmingham to visit, but six Saturdays each fall I was able to visit with Sissy and her husband. Starting with my first gameday my freshman year, I would always go over to their tailgate where fried chicken, cold beer and a $20 bill for “snacks” always awaited me. Aside from Christmas, Thanksgiving, and perhaps once or twice more during the spring and summer, football season is my time to visit with them. That is just as special to me as what happens on the gridiron.
My sister’s attendance to UGA lit the fire of love for the University of Georgia; my involvement with the 4-H club added fuel to the fire. I was very active in 4-H (like Sissy was) as soon as I was old enough to participate. For those of you who aren’t familiar, 4-H is under the umbrella of the Cooperative Extension Service through the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES). At any 4-H event, UGA and CAES are prominently displayed.
I knew from an early age I wanted to attend UGA. Being actively involved in 4-H throughout high school really provided great admission application material. Because of my involvement in the 4-H Club, I enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences-which I really enjoyed. I met my wife and my best friends through working at Rock Eagle 4-H camp.
(Being involved in 4-H has had immeasurable impact on my life. 4-H is a club that is more than just cows and chickens; the fact that Michael Adams used that organization as a pawn in his pissing contest with the General Assembly this past year adds to my already high level of dislike for the man. Perhaps if President Adams was involved in a club like 4-H, he wouldn’t be the crook and scoundrel he is today. But that is a different story for a different day.)
The third primary influence on my love for UGA was Lewis Grizzard. At an early age I knew who Lewis Grizzard was. We had some of his stand up tapes, and my brother and dad often quoted or made references to his anecdotes. When I was probably 8 or 9, we cruised down Hwy. 27 and went to the Lewis Grizzard Museum in Moreland on the way to a family day trip to Callaway Gardens. I remember not staying long, because being in a gas station, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. The more I have learned about Lewis, he probably wouldn’t want it any other way.
If someone were to ask me what book outside the Bible has influenced my life the most, I would say it would be If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet To The Ground. I know I have had read that one Lewis Grizzard book on at least 3 separate occasions, and perhaps more. Lewis describes the University with such emotion and love that I knew that was something I had to be a part of. That book made a great impression on me, and still does to this day. You can check out our weekly tribute to Lewis Grizzard on “Lewis Grizzard Wednesdays” on the Grit Tree (shameless plug #2).
Unfortunately, when my sister went to school and I began to be old enough to keep up with sports, it was the late 1980s and early 1990s. That was not a glory time for UGA football. I must say that growing up I was a much bigger Braves fan than Bulldog fan. This sin, however, is forgivable because I feel it is probably common with people my age . It wasn’t until the Donnan years before I began to steadily keep up with the Dawgs-circa 1997.
Perhaps what the 4-H club did for my love for UGA was provide me an outlet to attend games. My first UGA football and basketball games were through the “4-H Days at UGA.”
My freshman year of high school, 1999, is when I went to my first game. My dad worked Saturdays, and my parents weren’t UGA people. Going to games growing up was not something we did. As I walked around campus on that first gameday, I instantly fell in love with the atmosphere of a fall Saturday in Athens. The RVs at Tate, the Redcoat Band, the sights, sounds and pageantry of it all made a lasting impression on me.
An interesting note about my first UGA basketball game. It was a UGA-UT game-probably 2001 but I honestly can’t remember. I do remember Tennessee was really good that year and it was early in the Harrick regime. UGA knocked off UT in overtime in a game where DA Layne played well. My first foray in Stegemen was very positive; much more positive than many future trips unfortunately.
I was a student from 2003-2007, and had some great experiences. I have been lucky enough to attend some great games. My first road game was Tennessee in 2005. A buddy and I decided that, since we knew UGA was going to win the SEC that year, we wanted to go to the game. We made this decision around 9:00 pm Friday night before the game at the Ramsey Center racquetball courts. We struck out 7:00 am Saturday morning, and after making some phone calls, got tickets on the way up. We then proceeded to whip Tennessee in a game that was close until Thomas Flowers returned a punt for a touchdown.
The 2005 SEC Championship games was a surreal moment for me. I sat with my brother-in- law and our seats were right next to the LSU section. Literally 1 aisle separated us from a bunch of LOUD Cajuns. Even when the game was out of hand for them, they were still very loud, and, um, enthusiastic. The 2006 Auburn game was special. The 2007 season-my final as a student-was magical as well (except for my second-and now final-trip to Neyland Stadium).
I have confidence that Mark Richt will take us back to where we need to be as a football program. I mentioned above that the 2006 Auburn game was something special for me. We had a great time at that game, and it was a lot of fun to see Stafford run wild on the plains. The 2006 Auburn game is when I realized Mark Richt was the coach for the long haul for UGA. I was pretty livid after earlier season losses to Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and the Kentucky game was just the icing on the cake. I was as down on Georgia football as anyone-less than a year after the great SEC Championship game.
But I came to my senses: I had to convince the buddy mentioned above to go to Auburn with me. I had to give him a history lesson: 1986 an underdog Georgia team upset Auburn and the students got water hosed. In 1996 was the first overtime game in SEC history, and saw an reeling UGA team come back and beat Auburn (and the iconic picture of Uga lunging at the Auburn player took place then, too). 2006 was bound to be something special. Sitting in the upper deck of Jordan-Hare Stadium witnessing a complete domination of the highly ranked Auburn team, I realized I could count on Mark Richt to deliver when needed. Times may be tough now, but whenever I am frustrated with the football program, I think back to that day sitting in the cold drizzle in Auburn, Alabama and the warm feeling I had. I am also going to make plans to go the 2016 Auburn game.
I love being a Bulldog. I love the memories I have in Athens and across the southeast following the team. I love the city of Athens.
Most importantly, I am grateful and humbled to be able to call myself an alumnus of the University of Georgia.