timTALKS: UGA Football leadership...you're being warned
At the risk of sounding arrogant and entitled, I’m about to fuss. Yes, it’s about the Sugar Bowl, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Along with everyone else in Dawg Nation, I saw some proverbial fruit on the UGA football tree last night, and the root of that fruit is what I’m compelled to address.
But really, I’m fussing. Without apology.
And at the risk of sounding arrogant and entitled again, I submit this: I get to say whatever I want. I played the game. As a ‘Dawg… ‘Tween the Hedges.’ There’s something to be said for the perspective of someone who has actually lived in those trenches, and I’m in no mood for pleasantries.
I’ve spoken to the UGA football team many, many times - under two different coaches - including Coach Smart. By the way, that’s how he should be addressed. I do not know why it is now acceptable for media to refer to coaches by their first names, but it is not okay. Can you imagine anyone addressing Coach Dooley in a press conference as “Vince?” Or addressing Coach Bryant as “Paul?” This kind of familiarity is one major symptom of what I’ve been saying is a growing problem with amateur and professional football today: there’s no mystery anymore.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
It’s too late to call me old school. For one, I already know that, and secondly, I’m not bothered by that fact. It’s too late to say things are different now than they were when I was totin’ that rock for the Bulldogs. The wisest dude who ever lived once said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Life is cyclical. Everything recycles. This movie is a remake; not an original.
So, let the fussing commence.
Do your job
I ran my butt off at UGA a long time ago. I put in the hours getting screamed at and outrunning the campus buses on Lumpkin and Broad streets to get some extra hills work in (yeah, that was how running backs in the 80s got strong for the fourth quarter). I suffered my consequences when I screwed up, and rehabbed when I got injured.
You know what else I did?
I played in our bowl game when I knew I was declaring for the NFL Draft as a junior.
In fact, when I played in the 1989 Gator Bowl against Michigan State - my last game as a Georgia Bulldog - guess who else played in that same game, and declared for the draft days later? First round and the second overall pick, offensive lineman Tony Mandarich and first-round, twenty-second overall pick, Andre Rison (who, by the way, was the Spartans’ MVP with nine receptions for 252 yards.)
Don’t @ me about their NFL careers. That’s not the point. The point is, the bowl game I played in had three first-round picks in it. And we didn’t just play in the game. We. Went. At. It. Along with my backfield mate, Rodney Hampton (who was a first-round pick the following year), we flat out battled in that game. And, UGA won by a score of 34-27 in front of 76,000 people.
Why? Because we were supposed to play. Because our universities expected us to play. Because our scholarships required us to play. Because we gave our word to our families and to ourselves that, every time we were on the field, we were going to leave everything on it. And equally as importantly as all of those reasons, because our teammates depended on us to play, and we were not going to abandon our brothers.
Because every game we played in our school jerseys mattered.
Whether UGA’s coaches and players realize it or not, the Sugar Bowl mattered.
Quit smellin’ yourself
Now I’ll discuss the bigger issue about last night’s loss to Texas that, frankly, has me concerned. Really concerned. This issue has been adequately addressed by journalists. In this (Dawgnation.com) article, Coach Smart said Texas “wanted it more” and he said, “I hope they learn you better show up to play every game because the teams you’re playing at the end of the year are all capable of topping you.”
With all due respect, Coach, “hope” isn’t gonna get it done. You can’t “hope” they get it. You have to make them get it. That only happens with a no-exceptions culture that is either bought into, or players play somewhere else. You’ve seen it done. As Alabama’s defensive coordinator, you have championship rings proving it can be done….with this generation of athletes. I mean no disrespect, but later for all that “hope” stuff, bruh.
I’m not a journalist. I’m a ticked-off member of “Running Back U, and the issue that concerns me is entitled apathy.
UGA’s players (and possibly its coaches?) clearly didn’t want to be at the New Orleans last night, and it’s not because they don’t like gumbo. I’m a North Carolina native - and a country boy - so I’m going to say what happened the way we say it in Lumberton: they “threw their suckers in the dirt.” See the image on the right for a visual of what that means.
I’m not going to single anyone out, but UGA players were blowing Twitter up during the Clemson-Notre Dame game, lamenting the Playoff Committee’s faulty decision making in choosing the four best teams for the Playoff. And they didn’t hold back. They were brash. Arrogant. Haughty. Loud. And, based on last night’s lackluster performance, UGA players’ bodies were at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but their minds were out west in Levi’s Stadium…where they will not be playing, because a team that beat them will be. UGA showed everyone watching (including NFL scouts) that, if they weren’t playing in the Playoff, then they weren’t playing at all.
Another country boy saying: Tell the truth and shame the devil.
Here’s the truth. UGA players being comfortable with publicly blasting the Playoff Committee is, without question, a leadership failure. Mic. Drop.
UGA is at a crossroads. I see an opportunity on the other side of what I hope is a nasty taste left in the mouths of the ‘Dawgs leadership (and when I say leadership, I’m including coaches and players). That opportunity is that somebody gets to step up right now. Not during spring practice - today - and cut entitled apathy off at the pass before it becomes an epidemic.
Coach Smart hasn’t asked me to come back and speak to the team since his first year at UGA (and I’m probably dramatically decreasing the odds that he will invite me back now, but that’s fine…sometimes you have to get mad before change can happen), and he hasn’t hired me as a leadership development consultant (yet), but I’m extending some free advice because I know all too well what can happen when an athletes’ character is left unchecked.
Keep in mind, I’m assuming someone is going to step up. I’m assuming someone is going to take the word of a former player who is not speaking from a sanctimonious high horse, but instead from the 20/20 hindsight wisdom of a person who took his foot off the character development pedal the second someone in authority at UGA told me I was going to be a millionaire.
Consider this as the kind of advice an uncle would give his nephews.
Uncle Tim’s wisdom
Compete. Every game. No exceptions. Ever.
Win games you’re supposed to win. That means all of them. Enough with the trying hard crap. You’re there to win. Do it.
Get off social media before ballgames. Shut your mouth. Shut your mouth. Shut. Your. Mouth. Say what you have to say with sixty minutes of dominate play.
Stop whining about where you’re not, and commit to where you are. You’re didn’t make it to the Playoff. You made it to the Sugar Bowl. Your job was to play like your life depended on it…in the Sugar Bowl.
January 2, 2019 hurt recruiting. It hurt the futures of those who will declare for the draft. It may not seem like it right away, but the long-term effects could be irreparable. The performance last night sent the wrong message. It encourages the pervasive sentiment that college ball is just a stepping stone to the NFL. This dishonors the integrity of amateur football, diminishes the privilege it is to play next-level ball, disrespects the scholarship/investment the school has made in the player’s education and athletic ability (for those on scholarship), and throws up the middle finger at the responsibility that comes with the privilege of playing NCAA - and, I will with much bias say, especially SEC - football.
Take a page from Nick Chubb’s and Sony Michel’s book: big TEAM; little me. This is a photo of an actual shirt we wore when I was at UGA. I strongly suggest UGA get some made for the 2019 team. Just as that wise dude said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”