Parade, stadium celebration give national champion Bulldogs one more Saturday to remember

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They threw quite the party for the national champions Saturday.

Paraded the Georgia football team down S. Lumpkin Street and into Sanford Stadium with throngs of Bulldogs fans there to catch a glimpse and soak up the moment with the players and coaches that brought them the program’s first national title since 1980.

Coach Kirby Smart, who grew up in Bainbridge, delivered the Bulldogs that championship in his sixth season. He did it with a former walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett from the small town of Blackshear and a fearsome defense that set a program record for wins, going 14-1 including an unbeaten regular season.

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“They never embraced the success,” Smart told the crowd during a stadium celebration event of nearly an hour that followed the parade.. “They never acknowledged the success. You know what they kept doing? They kept chopping wood.”

During his 10 minutes speaking to the crowd, Smart said a "new standard of excellence” had been set.

Offensive tackle Jamaree Salyer put I this way: “I just want to say Dawgnation, look what we built.”

Smart rode a Kirby Copter on the recruiting trail on Friday in the Atlanta area and then was in the back of a Ford pickup truck with his wife and three kids during the parade route of a little less than a mile from Pinecrest to S. Lumpkin through the Tate Center parking lot. He got off the truck then and walked and waved to the fans.

Assistant coach Glenn Schumann went through the Dawg Walk with his 2-year old son Bryson on his shoulders into a stadium nearly filled to capacity.

The event drew a near capacity crowd inside the stadium that seats more than 92,000, despite temperatures in the mid 40s.

“I can’t tell if I’m getting goosebumps or am I just cold?” Smart said.

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A winter weather advisory beginning late Saturday night that could make roads slippery in the surrounding area. The forecast called for up to two inches of snow and accumulations of ice up to .2 of an inch beginning late Saturday night in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

Ty Sprayberry from Bremen in West Georgia said he was fine risking the elements on the drive home. He came with wife Sarah, son Pete and daughter Audrey and was standing off S. Lumpkin Street in front of Clark Howell Hall.

Kirby Smart embraces the national championship trophy during Saturday's celebration at Sanford Stadium in Athens.
Kirby Smart embraces the national championship trophy during Saturday's celebration at Sanford Stadium in Athens.

“It would be worth it,” said Sprayberry 34, who works for GDOT and has been a season-ticket holder since 2010.

They left their house four and a half hours before the parade began. Pete, 7, wanted to see linebacker Nakobe Dean up close.

“It means everything to have the kids and the family out here,” he said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever live to see a championship but it brings tears to my eyes.”

Before the parade arrived, one Georgia fan started a chant of “Who’s that Coming Down the Track?” getting the crowd pumped up. A man was selling 1980 Coca-Cola bottles he said he bought at a yard sale.

Fans were four and five deep watching.

During the ceremony, three national title trophies were presented including from the National Football Foundation and American Football Coaches Association.

Smart again lifted the trophy from winning the College Football Playoff that he held in Indianapolis. That weighs 23 pounds and is 26 ½ inches high made from 24k gold, bronze and stainless steel with a steel core and a 12-inch base.

Nose guard Jordan Davis asked entire team to stand up and for the crowd to give a round of applause.

“This is something that nobody can take away from us,” Davis said. “We’re forever legendary. So for all of Dawgnation, we love you. Go Braves and Go Dawgs.”

He then revealed a Braves jersey.

President Jere Morehead said he and then athletic director Greg McGarity knew in December of 2015 when Smart was hired that “he was the right person to set the University of Georgia to the national championship.”

This was a grander event than in the event following the 1980 national title when a “coronation” event was held on the floor of Stegeman Coliseum.

This was probably the last time that this complete team would be together anytime soon. Five Georgia underclassmen — Nakobe Dean, George Pickens, Zamir White, Lewis Cine and Travon Walker — declared for the NFL draft Friday.

The parade came five days after Georgia turned back Alabama 33-18 Monday night in Indianapolis.

“How bout them Dawgs?” Gov. Brian Kemp said during the ceremony.

He said he was in New Orleans 41 years ago when Georgia beat Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to win the national title.

“This has been a long time coming,” he said.

Aaron Campbell, who lives in Anniston, Ala., wore a custom-made national championship sweatshirt and hat to the parade.

“Letting people know, hey, we did finally beat em, got over the hump, baby, beat Alabama,” said Campbell, a 39-year old Augusta native who was near the Dawg Walk area off S. Lumpkin. “This is everything. With me staying in Alabama now, I went through all the heartbreak surrounded by Alabama fans.”

The game clock in Sanford Stadium stayed stuck on 20:21.

The ceremony ended with seniors from the 1980 team raising a 2021 national championship banner on the east side of the stadium.

Smart earlier sent a message he’s chasing more titles.

“We’re burning the boats, baby,” he said. “We’re coming back.”

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Georgia football fans soak up national title on Saturday of celebration

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