October 26, 2023

Bulldog Nation will treasure 2021 championship book


            Thirty minutes of careful penmanship—with a cheap Bic ballpoint—and licking a nickel postage stamp started it all in 1965. With that, I dropped my college dream into the Jesup postal mail slot on East Cherry Street. The wait wasn’t long, and I still have the envelope with its red-slash announcement: “Official Acceptance.”

            Times were different then, very different.

            How different was it in 1966?

§  To begin my freshman year, I rode in the backseat of my parents’ teal-blue Buick to Athens. Big Dink decided that the 210-mile trip was too far for one day. We spent the night at Greensboro’s Nathaniel Green Motor Court, and he drove the rest of the way the next morning.

§  Vince Dooley was 34 years old. Herschel Walker was 4. Buck Belue was 7, and “Run, Lindsay (Scott), run” of Larry Munson fame was just 5. The immortal Munson started growling from the Bulldog broadcast booth that year.

§  Kirby Smart’s birth announcement wouldn’t appear in Holtvile, Alabama, for another nine years. How about Stetson Fleming Bennett IV? Dawg fans would have to wait 31 years for the back-to-back national-championship MVP quarterback, No. 13, to be born.

§  But “Whaddaya got, Loran” (Smith), also of Larry Munson fame, was already making a name for himself as the University of Georgia chronicler of Bulldog lore. His tutor was the incomparable sports information director Dan McGill.

I have run out of fingers and toes counting the books that Loran has written. I think that I’ve read them all, including his latest: HOW ’BOUT THEM DAWGS!, co-authored by head coach Kirby Smart.

            And if you’ve ever let loose a “woof, woof”—especially if you waited 41 years to win another national championship—you’re going to bark with joy over this 266-page treasure. Every time you pick up Loran’s and Kirby’s book—with Kelee Ringo’s pick-six on the cover—you’ll flash back to that glorious moment when No. 5 intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young’s pass and took it to the house to seal the by-damn-we-beat-Bama-this-time, 33-18.

            Ho, ho, ho!

            This University of Georgia Press masterpiece needs to be on your list for Santa, if you can wait that long. And if you order from the UGA Press website (ugapress.org) or Longleaf Services Inc. (800-848-6224), alumni get a discount with the code 08ALUM.

            The coffee-table book’s subtitle is “The Inside Story of Georgia Football’s 2021 National Championship Season.” The authors lauded a legion of sources and helpers on the project. Photographer Cassie Wright’s name is on the cover. Loran says Cassie’s camera and expertise put a “Sunday-best” look on the book. I agree.

            Photos. Names. Player profiles. Rosters. Game-by-game recaps. Reflections. You’ll want to savor them all. On my first thumbing through HOW ’BOUT THEM DAWGS!, I stopped and read Vince Dooley’s foreword, twice.

            Here’s an excerpt from the legendary coach’s comments:

            “During the course of the season, the road to the championship looked like a Bulldog superhighway to the throne. The Dawgs rolled over teams weekly with the best and the fastest defense ever to wear the red and black. Kirby’s incredible emphasis on recruiting has paid off. … Now I’m anxious to read the book and let Kirby and Loran take us on that memorable journey to the top of the collegiate football world.”

            Oh, how I wish Larry Munson could have done the play-by-play in Indianapolis. He would have begged, “Run, Kelee, run!”

            And, oh, how I wish our beloved friend—the late coach Vince Dooley—could have read this book.

            But you can.

            Woof, woof!