Making Bulldog memories with your kids

Over the years, some of my favorite Georgia Bulldog moments have involved outings with my kids.

Their enthusiasm and delight at simple things like petting Uga, meeting Hairy Dawg or seeing a favorite player up close brings me back in touch with the early days of my own Bulldogmania growing up in Athens, before I’d ever even heard of point spreads, recruiting rankings and such things.

One of my son’s prized possessions is a photo of him posing with Hines Ward on the turf at Sanford Stadium during a pre-scrimmage August fan session that the Athens Touchdown Club used to host back when my Dad was a member. We went to a number of those during the Ray Goff and Jim Donnan years and my son posed with and got autographs from quite a few players as well as getting to pet Uga. Another time, at the annual Picture Day, young Bill’s uncles had fun trying to coax him into having his picture taken with a group of pretty cheerleaders.

I remember at one Touchdown Club session, held outside Butts-Mehre instead of the stadium, a young fan approaching the incoming freshman tailback and asking him if he was going to win a Heisman. “Well,” Garrison Hearst said with a smile, “I’m gonna try.”

Seeing the players and coaches up close and getting to meet them gives you a different perspective once you’re watching them on the field. And sometimes a little insight, as at the 1995 meet-and-greet, when the normally affable Ray Goff game off as surly and impatient. “I think he’s feeling the pressure,” I told one of my brothers. That wound up being the last of those sessions for Goff. The next year, we had Donnan, who gave the impression he wished he was somewhere (anywhere) else. That proved illuminating, too.

Nowadays, probably the best opportunity for letting your kids meet the current players, as well as Bulldog greats from the recent and distant past, is the annual Countdown to Kickoff organized by Matt and Jon Stinchcomb and David Greene and held at the Woodruff Practice Fields. The 2009 edition of the charity event is scheduled for 3 to 6 p.m. this Saturday.

For the kids, there are games (some led by UGA players), face painting, mock training camp drills and the Redcoat Band and cheerleaders, as well the chance to get in line for photos and autographs. I took my daughter to the first Countdown to Kickoff back in 2006, and I asked her recently what her favorite memory of it was. “Getting my picture taken with Uga VI,” she said. She did have to wait a little while for that, but nowhere near as long as at the more structured (and limited) Picture Day held during August drills.

Best of all, Countdown to Kickoff benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Transplant Foundation, as well as the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the University of Georgia College of Education and UGA’s Pediatric Exercise and Motor Development Clinic.

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.”

Tickets are $25 each for the Saturday event, or you can get a Family Pack for $75, which includes four tickets and a special pennant for player autographs. You can place your order online and either print your tickets out at home or pick them up at “will call” at the Stegeman Coliseum ticket window on Saturday.

“It’s a fun event and it supports some very worthy and needed healthcare philanthropies,” Matt says. Plus it gives the current Dogs a chance to interact with some of the guys who played at UGA before them and it gives fans “a chance to meet the person, not just the athlete.”

It’s also a great chance to make some wonderful memories with the little Bulldogs in your family.

20 comments Add your comment

Yes Sir!

July 14th, 2009
2:08 pm

DAWGPOO

July 14th, 2009
2:22 pm

back back back back backl back !!!!! back back back back BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK …….GONE !!!!!!! BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK…….. GONE !!!!! GOOD LORD SOMEONE TELL BURMAN TO SHUT UP…………………………….

K-Town Dawg

July 14th, 2009
2:34 pm

UGA just picked up a verbal commitment from South Carolina DE Morant according to ESPN.

Dawgs are on a roll!

DAWGPOO

July 14th, 2009
2:38 pm

I know one of my son’s most cherished memories from the 2008 Bulldawgs season is June 27 the night he spent a jail cell with offensive linemen Trinton Sturdivant and Justin Anderson. Talk about access all you need to do is get arrested in Athens and odds are you’ll get to spend some time with a real bulldog player. NOW THAT’S BULLDOGMANIA.

Cuz

July 14th, 2009
3:02 pm

Hey POO, what did he do?

Montgomery Burns

July 14th, 2009
3:15 pm

Surely the AJC can get better performance from its dwindling assets. This “blawg” is so weak.

Snellville Jacket

July 14th, 2009
3:32 pm

…but if I had a son, sir, I’ll tell you what he’d do. He would yell, “To He** With Georgia” like his daddy used to do!

Dawgdays

July 14th, 2009
3:33 pm

Cuz, do you mean dodo?

Dawgdays

July 14th, 2009
3:34 pm

My daddy’s son went to UGA!

DAWGPOO

July 14th, 2009
3:37 pm

Charges were eventually dismissed google Trinton Sturdivant and Justin Anderson

DamnGoodDawg

July 14th, 2009
4:53 pm

I don’t know what POO’s kid did but I’ll bet it involved a sheep. Bahhhhhhh!

Cuz

July 14th, 2009
5:03 pm

My daughter and I go to eat at the same restaurant with the UGA cheerleaders every Friday night before the USC east game. They come to Augusta for the “Border Bash” (registered trademark) party. She gets her picture taken with the cheerleaders and since she is confined to her wheelchair, we cannot attend the party. Just like a night game in Athens, 20,000 people with at least 10% out of control. The cheerleaders make a big deal of Baylie and she and I really enjoy it. My red hat is off to the cheerleading squad. They help us make our own Bulldog memories.

Saint Simons

July 14th, 2009
6:56 pm

45-42!!!!!!!!!! hahaahahahahahahahahaha

NewnanDawg

July 14th, 2009
10:03 pm

Wow – one actual post about the topic – at least it’s a good one – a very nice tradition Cuz. I wish you and Baylie the best at Mayo.

Go Dawgs!

Cuz

July 14th, 2009
10:50 pm

Thanks Newnan, that really means a lot.

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Steverino

July 15th, 2009
4:09 am

This blog is booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooring.

Michael Scharff

July 15th, 2009
7:28 am

Bill, I have not seen you respond to comments. I at least hope you read them. I do not always agree with you. However, I am from a true Dawg family, in that my Mom, Dad, brothers, cousins, uncle, and I all are UGA alums. I have been going to games since I was 5. I really appreciate your memories and insight, as I think any true Dawg fan would. Keep up the great work. And, to all you Tech Nerds out there – GET A LIFE!

Bill King

July 15th, 2009
10:50 am

Michael,

I do respond when I feel the need and/or have the time. And I at least skim the comments when I get a chance. Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading!

Bama Dawg

July 15th, 2009
10:57 am

Going over to see the new stadium additions prior to the 1981 season and finding a group of UGA players in uniform for a photo session with Sport Illustrated. Between shoots, Herschel, Woerner, Hoage and Belue graciously posed for pictures with the few of us who stumbled across the photo session. Great to meet and talk to these guys “offline” and realize they were just young college kids enjoying their successes.