Tim Worley’s cri de coeur about Georgia’s disappointing Sugar Bowl performance is getting a lot of attention, based on the emails and comments I’ve received.
No doubt it’s powerful, both because Worley’s been in the arena (in a positive sense)…
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.
… and because he’s undeniably passionate about the point he’s making.
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.
How can you not respect that passion?
Well, all it takes is being from another generation.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker left to become Colorado’s head coach the week after the SEC Championship. All-American cornerback Deandre Baker decided the bowl wasn’t important enough to risk injury before he gets his NFL shot. Quarterback Justin Fields and tight end Luke Ford, both of them 5-star signees in the last class, thought it important to enter the NCAA’s infamous transfer portal before the bowl game. Key players were either sidelined by or played with injuries. Meanwhile, a half-dozen juniors continue to contemplate early-entry in the draft.
Not everybody buys the distracted theory.
“Not at all,” said junior safety J.R. Reed, another Bulldog contemplating the NFL jump. “… When you have guys leaving for the draft, some staying, it’s going to happen every year on this team. Going forward, the Georgia fans are going to have to get used to that. It’s not going to be a distraction to the players at all. Each year it’s going to be the same thing.”
Worley admits he’s old school — not that there’s anything wrong with that — so there is an aspect to his complaint that I don’t think even he expects to translate cleanly now. And there is a certain element of “back in my day” when you read this:
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 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 as 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 the University of Georgia have some made for the 2019 season….just as that wise dude said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
Except back in his day and even before his day there were unfortunate moments when Georgia didn’t show up mentally ready to play. Anyone old enough to remember the egg laid in the 1969 Sugar Bowl?
Steve Greer was a 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior defensive guard who had arrived at Georgia in 1965 and was finally getting to play in 1968 after a knee injury and being redshirted. He would go on to make all-American in 1969 primarily on scrappiness and not by being a prototypical size.
He remembers that day in the Sugar Bowl as a long one for the Georgia faithful. “It wasn’t a good day,” he recalled with a laugh over the phone from his Athens home. “Arkansas had a great receiver and a quarterback and whipped us pretty good that day. They had a great game and we made some mistakes.”
He also remembered that the weather had been nice in New Orleans leading up to the game, but that the temperatures turned frigid on Jan. 1.
Mr. Greer, who later went on to coach at Auburn and Georgia and retired as director of football operations at Georgia after the 2008 season, said another part of the problem was that Georgia thought it might be going to the Orange Bowl. At that time before SEC bowl alignments, Georgia was looking to go to a game against the highest-ranked opponent possible for maximum positive national exposure.
However, he added that they did manage to have a good time in New Orleans.
1968 standout receiver Charley Whittemore jokingly said rumors have long persisted that Georgia’s disappointing Sugar Bowl outcome was affected by the fact they had too good a time after arriving earlier than Arkansas did. But he does not buy those comments.
“A lot of people say we went down and spent all our time on Bourbon Street,” he said with a laugh. “I know some guys went on Bourbon Street, and there might have been a day or two when they were having a good time before getting into their weekly routine. But I felt like our team was ready to play.
“Those people I played with were competitive. They were wanting to play hard.”
All that’s missing to make that a complete echo of what happened this week is a social media reference. And that was from a time when the Sugar Bowl was part of college football’s postseason very top tier. In short, Worley’s right in more than one way that there’s nothing new under the sun.
These kids, just like the ones who came before them, are human beings. Their coaches are paid a lot of money to get the best out of them, but the old saw about leading a horse to water ought to resonate a bit. What you have to hope for is that each player’s potential for personal growth is nurtured. That’s why the part of Worley’s piece that I think is best comes in this paragraph:
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.
It’s not the Deandre Bakers whom I worry about. He proved his mettle when he came back as a senior and made his regular season count. It’s the kids that show up, but don’t really show up, if you get my meaning.
Georgia didn’t lose the game on Twitter because it decided to mouth-off — although, that’s what makes it seem foolish in hindsight. Rather, those tweets showed what Georgia thought of this game.
There was nothing to play for in the Bulldogs’ eyes. It was apparent in the locker room when many of the players were laughing and smiling as they would after practice. There was no excuse given for players being absent, but the game’s output represented how Georgia viewed the Sugar Bowl…
Texas saw a deflated, unmotivated Georgia and took advantage of it.
“At the end of the day we have to come to play,” wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman said. “We didn’t come to play. Texas came to play.”
That was obvious to anyone who watched the game. Any coach or player who attempts to brush that off afterwards should make us as concerned as Tim Worley.
I do expect along with him that there will be folks stepping up. Nobody likes being embarrassed on the big stage and fortunately this team has enough talent that if it gets its mind right it can do something about that.
There’s a lesson that everyone in that locker room needs to heed. You can’t take anything for granted, no matter how talented you may be. Nobody’s entitled to a damned thing. Just ask Tim Worley.