Skip to main content

It's Georgia-Florida Week. And once again a small group of fraternity brothers and I will head to Jacksonville for a week-long celebration. Carl Brantley, Robbie Chester and I have been making this annual trek for almost 40 years. Only a few times, when I was working for CBS in New York, have I missed "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party."

There is always lots good food, an adult beverage or two and the best tailgate in the World put together by Chef Robbie Chester. We might even watch the football game but that depends how the tailgate goes. 

Over time, because of our loyalty to this event and to each other, we became known as "The Boys."

But this year's journey to Jacksonville, which started Monday morning when I picked up Carl at the Atlanta  airport (he flew in from Colorado Springs),  begins with heavy hearts and bittersweet memories. That's because we lost the heart and soul of The Boys when the great Tom McMillen passed away on March 7

It hit the rest of us hard. Really hard. And when we were together at his funeral in Ringgold, Ga., we made this promise to each other. We WOULD be going back to Jacksonville as a tribute to Tom. He would never have forgiven us for letting the tradition fade away. 

We will have his enlarged photo (known better as a Fathead) with us as we return to our favorite restaurants and watering holes. Every table will be a table for four. And there will be a cold Miller Lite resting on the place on the table where he would have been sitting. Rest assured, no one else will be sitting there.

We will make our annual trip to the beach on Friday but it will be especially difficult without Tom. Going back to our days at Georgia Southern, it wasn't officially a beach trip until Tom did his world famous "McMillen's March To The Sea." The three of us will march to the sea togethter. hoping for emotional strength through numbers.

But it won't be the same.

One of Tom's final notes to Carl ended with this. "Love you brother. Can't say it enough."

No, you can't say it eough.

We also can't say this enough: We are dedicating this trip to Tom's wonderful wife, Ann, his children, Jessica, and Casey, and  his two granddaughters, Anna Grace and Mary Chandler. We know you miss him.

Here is a photo of The Boys together at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018. Tom is the one wearing a visor and pumping his first just minutes after a win over Oklahoma that sent Georgia to the CFP national championship game.

The last time we saw him was in January after Georgia beat TCU for the national championship in Los Angeles. Then we celebrated with another long-standing tradition that we have for weddings, funerals, and big football wins.

I can't give you all the details but let us simply say that it involves a newly-opened bottle of Wild Turkey.

 As we headed home we started making plans for the next time we would all be together again--the Georgia-Florida game on Oct. 28.

And now you know why this one hurts so much..

Rest in peace, brother. We'll see you in JAX.