Skip to main content

INDIANAPOLIS—For those of us who are lucky enough to cover the sport of college football for a living, Monday night’s College Football Playoff national championship game was just chocked full of compelling story lines:

**--After a 41-year wait that included more heartache than one fanbase should endure, Georgia finally got its elusive national championship.

**--Kirby Smart, the favorite son who was brought back to Georgia in 2016 for this moment, will never again be saddled with the term “best coach to never win a national championship.”

“Now I can go to the charity golf tournament and not get asked the question,” he said with a smile.

**--Stetson Bennett IV, the former walk-on quarterback, looked like his Cinderella story was coming to a most-disappointing end. When it looked like he was destined to be yet another heartache story, he fashioned two touchdown drives to snatch victory away from an Alabama program that has won seven national championships under Nick Saban.

**--The image of Bennett crying in the arms of Smart will stick with me for the rest of my life.

**--And when Smart met his mentor for the standard post-game handshake, we saw a smile from Saban, the greatest college football coach of all time.

I saw pride. Saban is the teacher. Smart was his best pupil. And after four head-to-head meetings, the pupil finally won.

“I’m proud of him,” Saban said after the game.

But let me share a personal note about Monday night’s historic game (won by Georgia 33-18) at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The photo that runs with this story is of myself and three of my fraternity brothers (Delta Tau Delta) who are (left to right) Carl Brantley, Tom McMillen, myself and Robbie Chester. Every year we get together for the Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville where we sit around with good food, an adult beverage or two, and tell lies about our youth, at least to the extent that we can remember them.

We are scattered throughout different parts of the country but we make it a point to see each other every year in Jacksonville. College brought us together but college football has kept our 50-year friendship alive.

So I promised the boys that if Georgia got to the national championship game I would sit in the stands and watch with them, something I’ve done twice over the past 35 years.

It took some creative traveling for them all to get here but they did. And at 8 o’clock on Monday night, we took our seats in Section 116 of that beautiful stadium. It was cold—really cold—outside but things quickly heated up inside once the game started.

After doing this for a living for 45 years, I don’t get emotionally wrapped up into football games. Games come with deadlines. And you have to emotionally detached yourself from the game to meet the deadline.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

This was different. Given all the disappointment Georgia has felt over the past 41 years, my boys were nervous from the jump. And as the game went along their nervousness made me nervous.

But there came a time when Georgia finally began to exert control of the game. There were Bennett’s two drives and then the unforgettable 79-yard pick six by Kelee Ringo, which will live forever in Georgia Bulldog history.

The people surrounding us exploded in joy. There was a beer shower. People I didn’t know were hugging me.

And they were crying.

“Forty-one years is a long time to wait,” said my friendTom McMillen, a proud resident of Ringgold, Georgia, as he wiped the tears away. “I wondered if I would ever see this in my life.”

Another gentleman came down our aisle and grabbed my hand.

“Man, I wish Lewis Grizzard was here to see this. He would have loved this moment,” he said.

Grizzard was the award-winning columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who unapologetically wrote of his love for the University of Georgia football team. His books, which include titles such as “Elvis is Dead And I Don’t Feel So Good Myself,” are must reading for those who want to learn what makes Southerners tick. College football is definitely one of those things.

Another man wished out loud that Larry Munson could have been there. Munson was the radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs for 42 years and made no pretense of objectivity. He was pulling for Georgia.

When Georgia’s Lindsay Scott made the historic 73-yard touchdown run to beat the Florida Gators in 1980, thus launching Georgia to the national championship, Munson famously said on the air: “Do you know that is going to happen here tonight and up in St. Simons and Jekyll Island where all of these DAWG people have condominiums for four days? Man, is there going to be some property DESTROYED tonight.”

Smart paid an homage to the great Munson when he said after the game: “There is going to be some property torn up in Indianapolis tonight!”

It was good to see former coach Vince Dooley, now 89 years young, on the field congratulating Kirby Smart. He won the last national championship at Georgia in 1980, Herschel Walker’s freshman year. Walker is now 59 years old.

There is a lot of time for us to dissect what all this means for Georgia football in the future. The program is now built for the long haul in terms of facilities and a broad commitment to winning. We can be confident that Smart, who has 66 wins, an SEC championship and a national championship in six seasons, will be getting a healthy increase in his compensation package at Georgia, which is currently about $6.7 million per year.

But when next season arrives for Georgia, there will be no more questions about the missing national championship and the Bulldogs’ ability to beat Alabama and the great Saban.

But you can bet that THIS party is going to last for a long, long time.