Rick Millians

Rick Millians

Call me crazy. Just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming I drove to Tennille.

I wanted to see it in giant red letters on the white side of an old barn.

2021 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

I was not disappointed. Right there along Highway 15, between Tennille and Wrightsville, the UGA Football Barn Sign had been updated with fresh paint.

The Georgia Bulldogs, ending a 41-year drought, are indeed the 2021 college football champions. It was a long time coming.

The old barn is one of my favorite landmarks. I have traveled past it before. A guy who now lives in Macon updates it several times a year. One of my favorites was: UGA 24, JORTS 20 after Georgia beat Florida several years ago. 

Others included: “Be Smart . . . Commit to the G,” “Chubb for Heisman” and “Pressure is a Privilege.”

But the most prescient came after Georgia lost to Alabama in the 2017 national title game: “We’re Not Going Anywhere.”

It was a vow coach Kirby Smart made after that defeat to the Tide. 

Boy, was he right.

The barn in Tennille was just sign of how fans all over the state of Georgia got involved and rallied behind the Bulldogs. No matter your gender, race or political persuasion, you were a Dawgs fan.

Baldwin High and UGA classmate Gay Morgan emailed me a photo of a sign outside Raccoon Creek Baptist Church in Cartersville. It read: “Athens is in the Bible. Y’all Seen Tuscaloosa Anywhere?”

Everywhere I went this week, people were talking about the Dawgs’ national title. 

I went to the dentist. I told Dr. Melissa Farr that my old dentist was a big Clemson fan and hoped she wasn’t. 

“No way,” she said. “I’m a big Dawgs fan and that game was awesome.”

I took my dog to the vet. Dr. Cheryl Council was bragging on the Dawgs’ victory and got a “Woof, woof, woof” from some real dogs in the back room.

I can’t wait to get a game analysis from my pest control guy, Chris Holland.

What I’ve done the rest of the time is watch the replay of Kelee Ringo’s pick 6 to seal the game for Georgia. I think I’m up to about a hundred viewings.

The website ugasports.com put together a gigantic compilation of 25 videos that fans shot of the Ringo play from various locations in Lucas Oil Arena. I watched that a bunch of times, too.

The website also compiled the viral reactions of fans watching the interception from their homes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much yelling, screaming, dancing, hugging, running around inside, running around outside, and falling to the ground with tears of joy.

“Go, go go,” the Georgia fans shouted. “Yes, yes, yes. Kelee, Kelee, Kelee!”

No less than Jeff Foxworthy, among Georgia’s most famous fans along with Ryan Seacrest and Elle Duncan, said the Ringo interception would be this generation of fans’ version of the Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott pass that helped Georgia beat Florida enroute to the 1980 national title.

(By the way, you can already buy your Kelee Ringo SEALED THE DEAL T-shirt.)

No mention of Georgia’s national crown would be complete without the “Mailman” who delivered — quarterback Stetson Bennett IV — and shed tears of joy afterward. I finally realized that Bennett is so big-time that he can get away with using Roman numerals like Bulldogs mascot Uga. Uga X joins Uga III as the dogs with national titles.

I read an interview with proud dad Stetson Bennett III about how hard this season has been on his son. Then I saw a photo on Twitter of Stetson IV pretending to work behind the counter at a Raising Cane’s in Athens. His dad knew full well that just a few weeks ago plenty of Georgia fans wished his son worked full-time at the chicken chain restaurant.

But fate would have it that Stetson Bennett IV will go down as legendary in Bulldogs lore. He’s a modern-day Rudy with a better story.

I’ll leave it to a neighbor to wrap things up. She told me that after the game her son opened the door and yelled to the world: “How ‘bout them Dawgs!”

That’s a sign of the times!

Rick Millians, a University of Georgia graduate, worked at newspapers in Georgia, Ohio and South Carolina before retiring. Reach him at: rdmillians@aol.com

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