Talking good works and football with Matt Stinchcomb

A lot of kids dream of one day playing with the Georgia Bulldogs. Thanks to a trio of former Georgia greats, those kids don’t have to wait to grow up to do that; from 3 to 6 p.m. on July 18 they can join Jeff Owens and other current members of the Dogs in running drills, throwing passes and even playing flag football at the UGA practice fields in Athens as part of the fourth annual Countdown to Kickoff fan festival, a fund-raiser for four child-oriented charities.

That’s one of the new wrinkles cooked up for this year’s fest, says Matt Stinchcomb, who organizes Countdown to Kickoff along with brother Jon and David Greene. “The past couple of years, Jeff Owens, who’s a special guy, and some of the other players haven’t just signed autographs, they’ve actually played with the kids for three hours, with them following Jeff around like the Pied Piper,” Stinchcomb said when we talked today. “So this year we’re going to give Jeff a chunk of field where he and the other players can do stuff with the young kids. We’ve gotten input from Jeff and the players on what they want to do, like playing flag football with the kids. Whatever Jeff wants to do.”

And for the grown-up fans who want to meet the players as well as past Georgia greats and get photos and autographs, Stinchcomb said, this year they’re going to try to lessen the long lines by “moving the guys around and have them more decentralized. We’ll also have some giveaways while folks are in line. We want to make it fun for everyone.” For the kids there’ll also be the usual moonscape, swings and other activities. 

Tickets to the fan day are $25 (or $75 for a family pack of four). There’s also a golf tournament and sponsor party the day before the fan fest. You can buy tickets and get more information here.

Stinchcomb couldn’t say for sure which former players will be on hand at this year’s festival, but last year’s attendees included Bill Stanfill, Scott Woerner, Randall Godfrey, Robert Edwards, George Foster, Charles Grant, Verron Haynes, Mitch Davis and Corey Allen. Vince Dooley’s been known to show up, too. Plus former quarterback and current offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and some of the other coaches. 

“We like to change up the quarterbacks on hand,” Stinchcomb said, “and this year we’ve invited John Lastinger,” beloved among UGA fans as the “all he could do is win” engineer of the 1984 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas.

A new photo op for fans will be provided courtesy of the Dawg House Grill in Savannah, which is bringing a mobile version of its bigger-than-life fiberglass statue of Uga the bulldog mascot, Matt said, adding that the real Uga VII hopefully will be on hand, too, along with the UGA cheerleaders, majorettes and Redcoat Band.

The Stinchcombs and Greene run Countdown to Kickoff along with a committee that includes representatives from the charities involved and professional event organizers. Attendance has grown from about 1,100 the first year to nearly 2,000 last year, Matt said, “and last year we raised $198,000.” A third of that goes to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, another third to the Georgia Transplant Foundation and the final third is split between the Children’s Tumor Foundation and the Pediatric Exercise and Motor Development Clinic in Athens run by Dr. Michael Horvat of UGA. Matt said he knows times are tough, but because of that “organizations like this need support more than ever. And every little bit is appreciated.”

The work the Countdown to Kickoff guys do is should make every Bulldog fan proud, but Stinchcomb said his own charitable work was inspired by that of Robert Miles of the 1980 national championship team, and he and Jon and Greenie are working with a Feed the Children food distribution event coming up May 26 in Athens that Miles has put together. 

Talking Dawgs: While I had Matt on the line, I couldn’t resist asking him about the upcoming season. The always gregarious former NFL player, who now works in risk management and financial services and dabbles in sports broadcasting (he co-hosted WSB’s post-game call-in show a couple of times last season), says that despite the loss of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, he’s encouraged. “I think this year there’s a chance we’re going to have as deep and experienced an offensive line as we’ve seen. And the defensive front will be really good if they can get some help on the edges. Especially with Jeff  [Owens], Geno [Atkins] and Kade Weston, who I think is going to end up one day anchoring someone’s line” in the pros. 

“They say games are won or lost in the trenches, and that’s true,” the former offensive lineman said. “Look at Alabama last year. John Parker Wilson wasn’t a great quarterback. It was a great offensive line that took them as far as they went. I know I’m biased, but you can go a long way with a good offensive front, and I think that’s an area where we’ll see vast improvement.”

As for Joe Cox at quarterback, Matt said, “he doesn’t have the arm Matthew Stafford had, but nobody really does. That’s a luxury, not a necessity. Joe Cox can get the job done. It’s the same as with guys like John Lastinger and [former Alabama QB] Jay Barker, who just keep you in the ball game. I think that’s all you want out of your quarterback.”

Georgia’s schedule, opening with a trip to Stillwater to meet Oklahoma State, “will be a challenge,” Stinchcomb said, “but if we can keep from having an all-SEC caliber team in the training room [with injuries] like we had last year, I think we can put something together. A lot of what happened last year can be attributed to the injury situation. It changes what you do and how you prepare. One key injury can change everything.”

Football, he said, “is a war of attrition. It’s who can survive the longest with the best talent they started out the season with. At the end, it’s who has hung on most effectively.”

17 comments Add your comment

Blindog

May 6th, 2009
1:49 pm

Joe Cox will do just fine and so will the Bulldogs. Joe knows the playbook about as well as Bobo and he is surrounded by a lot of talented skillposition players. GO DAWGS !!

GeoffDawg

May 6th, 2009
1:55 pm

I was thinking about Matt Stinchcomb during the NFL draft two weekends back after the Raiders made those first two nonsensical picks. Made me wonder if his NFL career could’ve lasted a while longer if he’d gone to a team that ran a competent organization. Glad to read that he’s doing well and contributing to the community and the Georgia program.

OZZFEST

May 6th, 2009
1:55 pm

I hope one of the Stinchcombs reads this….I appreciate your efforts, and last year’s COUNTDOWN event was fantastic. I might suggest that you re-think the autograph setup. Last year you had one line feeding into each table with perhaps 5 players per table. The result was one would be signing and talking with a fan, while the other players just sat there. It would be MUCH MORE EFFICIENT to have a line to get to each player…so that if you only wanted “Frank Ros” you did not have to wait an hour behind a huge line waiting to get to “Scott Woerner” at the same table, while Frank just sat there drinking his beloved Coca-Cola.

If you absolutely have to ~ get a Tech guy involved to engineer this…it was very frustrating to look at the setup and know how easy it would have been to have made it better for everybody there.

Go Dogs…Nuke the Cowboys!

Idiot Fan

May 6th, 2009
2:31 pm

Man the team that wins is the team that like, adjusts and stuff. You know you like see teams and they don’t like adjust and then they like lose and stuff and then you see other teams and they like adjust and they don’t lose, you know cause they adjusted. I just wish we adjusted more. We’d have won every game ever, if we just adjusted when it appears to me as if adjustments were needed.

If you ask mean what I mean by adjustin’ all I can really say is that if you win you adjusted and if’n you don’t you didn’t. Adjustin’ the whole key to everything, not what Stinchcomb says. He prolly thinks like Willie does that adjustin’ ain’t important, but it is.

Like take Florida in 2007. Didn’t adjust. In 2008, they did a lot of adjustin’.

Bama was 6-6 in 2007. Why? Saban forgot to adjust. Then in 2008 he adjusted like crazy and won all the regular season games. Then they play Utah and guess what? No adjustin’.

Adjustin’ the key to everything you know. Besides that saying “adjustin’” over and over makes me feel like I know my azz from a hole in the ground when it comes to football even though I don’t have a dman clue as to what the hell I’m sayin’.

GeoffDawg

May 6th, 2009
2:49 pm

Don’t make eye contact with the poster above me. Dude’s crazy.

Tom

May 6th, 2009
3:09 pm

Speaking of “Countdown to Kickoff”, the annual off-season rites of suspension have begun in The Classic City.

Denver Dog

May 6th, 2009
3:46 pm

It is so great to see these guys come back and continue to “do good”. I just wish you could keep the naysaying losers from putting idiotic commnents on this good blog. Whoever we play will feel played at the end of the games, and since the best QB in country led our team last year, it shows that it is indeed a team game and not one player makes the team. Go dogs

BS Patrol

May 6th, 2009
4:39 pm

Idiot Fan, I for one would like to hear your view on executin’.

Maybe I could just substitute where appropriate?

english major

May 6th, 2009
5:38 pm

Idiot Fan, dude, i can totally like see what u r saying. i no why these dudes don’t like adjust and stuff. dude, they are jocks! cochys are like really old jocks except old. Like forty or something. Jocks are dumb dude, like everybody says that. everybody kant be a english major like me thats why we get the cool jobs like starbucks and stuff. jocks have to major in markiting or somerthing dumb. then they have to wear white belts and shoes and sell cars. barf!

Hunk Erdown

May 6th, 2009
6:17 pm

Finally someone “gets it”. I have been preaching adjustment more than a friggin’ chiropractor. All anyone wants to talk about are things like controlling the line of scrimmage, discipline, ball control, clock management, blah, blah, blah… it’s all bull hockey without adjustin’!!!

english major

May 6th, 2009
7:10 pm

hunkerdown, dude, what is bull hockey? do they like play that in mexico with bulls and stuff? that would be cool. dude, a bull for goalie. i would by a ticket for that for sure. i dont no what the rest of the stuff your talking about means. chill dude, you are gettin like complicated. and stuff.btw can buls like skate?

UGA alum '03

May 6th, 2009
7:12 pm

Idiot Fan,
Excellent points. I would like to point out that the Dawgs would have won a national title last year if they had adjusted their secondary by taking out the mediocre starters and put in the even-worse backups. Also, Willie should have adjusted the defensive ends by moving the guy on the left side of the D-line over to the right side and vice versa. These adjustments would have fixed all our problems.

Alfred Neuman III,Summa Cum Laude,60

May 6th, 2009
10:50 pm

Absolutely! But consider this: If we had adjusted AND executed where would we be? In the second half of the UA game we adjusted AND executed!If we had done either one in the first half we would have blown them away. Against UF, we had a great game plan but if Stafford had only executed! 6 TD passes would have done it. Moreno did not adjust! We would be champs, not the stinkin’ Gators. As for Tech, the horror! The horror!

hop

May 7th, 2009
4:43 am

the stinchcombs are very classy guys who reach out to the bulldog nation.

i think the dogs will be strong in’09 as they were in ‘07.there is simply too much talent and hopefully, injuries will not be a factor!

1eyedJack

May 7th, 2009
10:36 am

Run the ball and stop the run.

John Risner

May 8th, 2009
1:01 pm

I can’t thank Matt enough for his work with Countdown for Kickoff, and the entire Dawg’s community for supporting this. As the President of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, we are honored to be one of the charities that will benefit from this great event. Funds we receive from this will be used for our schwannomatosis research program (http://www.ctf.org/living-with-nf/schwannomatosis.html)

In the interest of full disclosure, as a loyal Univ of MD alum, my first allegiance is to the Terps. But my father is from Hartwell GA and I spent a lot of time there growing up, capped off by seeing Herschel run wild over the Vol’s Labor Day weekend in 1981. So unless they are playing the Terps, GO DAWGS!

[...] I talked with Matt Stinchcomb about this year’s event back in May, and what he was most excited about was having Jeff Owens and some of the other players interacting with the kids in attendance. “The past couple of years, Jeff Owens, who’s a special guy, and some of the other players haven’t just signed autographs, they’ve actually played with the kids for three hours, with them following Jeff around like the Pied Piper,” Matt told me. “So this year we’re going to give Jeff a chunk of field where he and the other players can do stuff with the young kids. We’ve gotten input from Jeff and the players on what they want to do, like playing flag football with the kids. Whatever Jeff wants to do.” [...]