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My top Georgia Highlights, or How I Learned To Love the Road

I was going to simply post this as a reply to Kyle's post on the greatest Georgia Highlight of all time, but then I realized what I had written was far too long.... and it's late, so I'm now "pot committed" as they say--unwilling to let all that typing go to waste. So here I'll put forth the greatest moments I've ever seen live, which I feel very blessed to have been able to see. I can only hope my kids get to see ONE such event while they are in college.

Anyway, on the topic of highlights that I've seen, there are really only three that are in contention. The Hobnail Boot is one, and I can confirm that Neyland Stadium was tomb-like in its silence after Haynes caught that pass. What really made that silence, though, and what many people forget, is that Tennessee had JUST scored to re-take the lead with a minute to play. It was DEAFENING in there. When they scored that touchdown, you have to think that Tennessee fans thought this could be their "Run, Lindsay!" They were playing a team that was historically a tough customer, but which they had totally dominated of late. With a masterful drive to re-take the lead in the final minute, they probably thought this was going to be one of those close scrapes that would go down as a "gutsy win," showing all their "resilience," and ability to "finish the drill." Maybe it's the win that shows they can win the close one, after which they go on to stomp everyone else into the ground en route to a National Championship. Sound familiar? Except they didn't. We stomped them into the ground. I've never been in a place louder than Neyland with 7 seconds on the clock, and I've never been in one quieter than Neyland with 6 seconds on the clock. Good times.

The next great moment for me is also against Tennessee, the next time we were in Neyland Stadium. Sean Jones' run-back was critical in that game, because we were fixing to go down by something like 10 points, and instead we took the lead (en route to really bashing their brains in). Let us also recall that Casey Clausen had recently lamented the fact that he was benched during the 2002 game with a broken arm, and boasted that he could have beaten Georgia "with one arm." But what seals this one for me was how it really felt like I was a part of it. As a member of the Redcoat Band, I was already down on the field at that point of the game, prepping to head on the field for halftime. I had climbed up on the bench to try and see the action, because I was near midfield and the play was obviously happening at the goal line. When we saw commotion at the goal line, we knew it was a good sign, and we were proven right as Jones streaked all the way past us to score. As that was the last play of the half, the rest of the team followed Sean straight off the field into the locker room, jumping and high-fiving the Redcoats as they went past. Keep in mind this was on the UT sideline, right in front of the UT alumni crowd (whose seats come all the way down, almost right onto the field, BTW). The Redcoats then proceeded to turn around and blast a rendition of "We Are the Champions" into that alumni section. They were less than pleased.

But in the end, 70-X Takeoff has to be the biggest. As everyone else has said, this was a monumental play in the most monumental game. Like the description someone gave of "Hunker it down one more time!" this showed that Georgia could really put it all together when it really mattered. Fourth down, in the fourth quarter, on the road, against our oldest rival, to go to the SEC Championship? Come on. But for me, it was the whole atmosphere and the whole lead up that made that moment wonderful. Again, I was in the Band. I could barely see what was happening on the play, because we were located at the exact opposite end of the field, but on the same sideline as the play (meaning it happened a hundred yards away straight to my left). It was freezing as *&%. My future wife had just come down with a major flu, and had been told by the doctor not to go to this game. It was going to be 30 degrees and wet, we'd be screaming our asses off for four hours, and when the game ended at 11:30, we'd be on the bus until 3:00am. She told the doctor he was crazy. Good call. It was a nail-biter of a game, but we were pretty much used to it after that year. But when 1st and 2nd down failed to get us in the end zone, I'll admit a little doubt crept in. When 3rd down sailed on us, the Auburn noise level went through the roof. The Redcoats and the surrounding area of Georgia fans, who were exhausted from screaming and playing our guts out for hours in the freezing cold, and who couldn't really see the action at this point anyway, were hanging by a thread. Then, with little hope remaining, the Redcoat Drum Major (some members of the Dawg Sports staff know him quite well...) stomped down on his podium and literally reached down to his belly, straining his arms as though he was hoisting the entire stadium above his head, and let out a gutteral yell for us to never give up. In the last moments before the snap, all the Redcoats, and I'd like to think all the Georgia fans around us, roared back to life, and in my mind, I suddenly had complete composure and confidence in what was about to happen. We let loose a cry of victory even before it was assured, and we didn't stop screaming until we got back to Athens. That was when I learned to never EVER give up, and that lesson hasn't been wrong since.

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