I woke up this morning to read Seth Emerson’s Article on Malkom Parrish and last year’s loss to Alabama in the National Championship game. He once again brought up the 2 and 26 play you are intimately acquainted with and the story he told broke my heart.
I want to be crystal clear to last year’s team and to Malkom Parrish and Dominick Sanders in particular. One play did not define the game. One play does not define your life or your future. Malkom & Dominick - you two did not lose that game. You two did not disappoint the entire Bulldog Nation. It’s not on you. Do not listen to the fans or the media, including this fan and this blog. You gave everything you had to the team, to the University, and to the fans.
I live in Oklahoma, surrounded by Sooner Fans who were all certain they would dominate you in the Rose Bowl. I lost track of the number of times I said, “Win or Lose won’t matter to me. This team has already far exceeded my expectations for this year.” They were crowing in the first half of the game, until you silenced them in the second half. I wouldn’t have cared if you had lost because you still exceeded anything we should have reasonably expected of you at the time.
To be a short two years in to a new Head Coach and to go toe to toe, man to man, and shoulder to shoulder, with the juggernaut Alabama Football has become since Nick Saban’s arrival in 2007, speaks volumes about your work ethic, your character, your willingness to play hard every single snap of every single game, your dedication to your craft, your teammates, to the University of Georgia and the Bulldog Nation at large.
Here you are again, playing for the SEC Championship this Saturday with a chance to play for a National Championship for the second consecutive year. This is only the third time Georgia has been SEC East Division Champions in consecutive years. You have once again gone above and beyond all my hopes and dreams for this season and I am a proud Bulldog no matter what happens this Saturday or beyond.
You each have so much more to offer this world than your athletic talents on the grid iron. None of you are defined solely by your football talent. You are sons, grandsons, brothers, friends, teammates, students, and leaders. Look to those who have gone before you and developed talents off the field. Malcolm Mitchell is a fine example of a DGD who made his mark off the field. Look at Coach Kirby Smart who went undrafted in the 1999 Draft, signed a free agent contract and yet was cut before the regular season started. I think he’s done alright and so will you.
As much as I love to see you win on the field, it is much more important to me that you win off the field. It is more important that your character as people defines you more than your athletic talent. Do not allow the uninformed opinions of the multitude of fans define who you are or how you feel about yourself. There are so many more fans like me, who love, respect, and admire you regardless of a single play or game or season.
Gentlemen, the task before you will be a challenge. It is a challenge you have worked hard and for which you have prepared yourselves. You can rise and win every snap, every play, every minute of every game. Do not be fooled by reports that this game is over before it begins. Do not give in to the idea that you have already lost. The whistle has not yet been blown and time has not yet expired.
I will be there to cheer you on again this year, just as I was last year in both the SECCG and the NCG. You will not break my heart with a loss. I, and legions of fans like me, will still take pride in you, adore, and respect you no matter the outcome. Play for the love of the game, play for yourselves, play for each other. When time expires remember this – it is just a moment in time. It is just a speck of sand at the bottom of the ocean that is your lifetime. It is not who you are. It does not define all that you will become.
Malkolm & Dominick – you are so much more than 2 and 26. You are Bulldogs who fought with all you had. You are men who gave us so much more and still have more to offer the world than a single play. I hope you ignore the ignorant among us who would denigrate you with ill-considered, unnecessary, hastily written vitriol. They and those comments are not worth your time, energy, or focus.
With all the love my Bulldog Heart can hold and a hearty GO DAWGS!!!!!