Dream Team aside, here’s a big reason to pull for Mark Richt

Mark Richt knows there's more to coaching than just winning. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt knows there's more to coaching than just winning. (Associated Press)

I first heard the story of James Eunice last Sunday when a post from UGA superfan Mark Dunbar showed up in my Facebook news feed.

Here’s what Mark passed along:

James Eunice, 17, from Valdosta, fell from a boat three weeks ago and drowned while duck hunting. He was found this Monday and his funeral was yesterday. James had been accepted at UGA, and his intention was to try and walk-on the football team. During the busiest time of his year, Coach Mark Richt sent a letter stating James had made the team, and a UGA jersey with his name on the back, was presented to the family.

One word came to mind and I added it as a comment to Mark’s post: Classy.

The story of Eunice is filled out by reports in the Valdosta Daily Times and Thomasville Times-Enterprise. Eunice had played baseball and football at Valdosta High School and had been accepted to the University of Georgia. He had contacted Richt about walking on as a football Bulldog.

Then came the drowning in the hunting accident. During Eunice’s funeral, two of his Valdosta teammates who have signed to play for Richt, Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell, got up to speak. Rome read a letter to the Eunice family from Richt in which he talked about his hearbreak over the young man’s death. At the end of the letter the coach added, “Oh yeah, James made the team.”

John Eunice holds up a jersey that Georgia coach Mark Richt sent to his family in honor of his brother, James Eunice. (Eunice family photo / Valdosta Daily Times)

John Eunice holds up a jersey that Georgia coach Mark Richt sent to his family in honor of his brother, James Eunice. (Eunice family photo / Valdosta Daily Times)

Then Rome and Mitchell unveiled an official UGA jersey with Eunice’s last name and the No. 23 he had worn at Valdosta. The tearful crowd at the funeral stood and applauded.

The letter and jersey were a simple gesture, but as Mark noted on Facebook, the timing made it all the more impressive, considering the strains of wrapping up easily the most important recruiting campaign in Richt’s coaching career with his job possibly on the line.

“I’m going to play for an incredible man,” Rome said.

Added Mitchell: “It made me proud to be a Bulldog.”

Sometimes, in the fervor over ranked recruiting classes and won-loss records that permeates big-time college football these days, fans can lose sight of some of the more important things.

I’ve heard some UGA fans who’ve lost faith in Richt actually fret that he’ll win just enough games this year to keep his job. Frustrated by the Dogs’ mediocre performances the past couple of years, they’d rather start over with a new coach than see this one get his program back on track.

I certainly don’t think Mark Richt is a perfect football coach and there are plenty of things about his program I’d like to see improved. But the James Eunice story is just one of the reasons I’m really pulling hard for Richt to get back on top.

Like I said on Facebook, he’s a classy guy. And that’s kind of rare in college coaching these days.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

312 comments Add your comment

dawggirl

February 11th, 2011
11:02 am

Great story! He is a classy man and that was a great move. As a parent I am 100% sure I would have been so honored by that move.

Thanks for the Friday morning tears…

dawggirl

February 11th, 2011
11:03 am

Enter your comments here

C U Later

February 11th, 2011
11:03 am

Great article. We need more positive things to come to the surface.

Jackson

February 11th, 2011
11:04 am

82Dawg

February 11th, 2011
11:04 am

This shows just what a great man Coach Richt is…

ncb34

February 11th, 2011
11:04 am

ive been anti mark richt alot this past season,
especially after losing to florida.. again.
but, i have to say, having a person like this is better than any championship. this is so much more important than a ball being thrown around. i wouldnt trade richt for any other coach in college football.

lastgrad

February 11th, 2011
11:05 am

Thanks Mark Dunbar and Go Trojans!

Brandon

February 11th, 2011
11:09 am

Well said Bill…Any fan who wants to see our team fail in order to see a bunch of men lose their jobs really has some issues. Coach Richt has proven before to be able to coach a championship team, is just two season removed from winning ten games, and proves over and over again to be a man who knows how to be a great man of character with a true heart for the young men he coaches as well as their families. I’m proud to be part of Bulldog Nation this morning…I hope we all are!

Coach Richt will be speaking at my home church, Eastridge Community Church in Covington GA, next Tuesday at 7pm…if you live out on the east side of Atlanta come check it out, it’s sure to be a great night!

mike

February 11th, 2011
11:09 am

Class, we need to remember this down the road.

Mitch Cumstein

February 11th, 2011
11:10 am

I’ll admit I haven’t been a Richt fan, basically since he’s been here, for reasons that are too long to express here. The man does, however have class!!!! And that I wouldn’t trade for all the crystal footballs in the world.

Spike

February 11th, 2011
11:10 am

Graet story and an even greater gesture! It restore a little bit of my faith in the human race. Compare CMR with Spurrier, Petrino, Saban, et. al.

Henry D.

February 11th, 2011
11:12 am

God Bless you Coach Richt.

GaDawg77

February 11th, 2011
11:12 am

Great article!
Really puts life in perspective!
Be thankful for God’s blessings!

82Dawg

February 11th, 2011
11:14 am

HT what is your comments on this??

Dbalcer

February 11th, 2011
11:14 am

This is why I am proud to be a DAWG we have a coach with the right type of heart. Coach Richt will win championships he showed he knows how to coach with over 90 wins in 9 years at UGA but more importantly he knows how to improve the lives of those he coaches.

Big Dawg

February 11th, 2011
11:17 am

Yes, it is a sad story and a testament to a great and compassionate man that Coach Mark Richt is. I feel for the family in their loss of their son, brother, nephew, grandson James Eunice. I pray that his soul is with the Lord now and that the Lord give the family that peace that defies all understanding and only comes from knowing him. Yes Coach Richt is a classy guy and yes he is a man of GOD and I pray that he has righted the ship at Georgia. Great article and reminder of the more important things in life Bill.

Go Dawgs

georgia87

February 11th, 2011
11:20 am

If we had Bobby Petrino or Nick Saban and the type season we have had the last two, I’d want to chuck them out today. But the integrity of Mark Richt makes me want him to be the Georgia Coach until he retires. Here’s pulling for him to turn it around and make us proud to be Dawgs for decades to come.

allan in texas

February 11th, 2011
11:20 am

May God continue to bless you Coach Richt!

Leedawg

February 11th, 2011
11:22 am

A great coach, and an even better human being.

WinderDawg

February 11th, 2011
11:22 am

Great story….pray for the family!

Proud of CMR

February 11th, 2011
11:23 am

I am proud to have Coach Mark Richt running the Bulldogs. The amazing thing is that he does selfless things like this all the time without expecting or wanting any fanfare at all. He walks it like he talks it.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by lifeofjaws, ericatothill, Naresh Kavali, Bert Watts, kjmercer and others. kjmercer said: RT @ajcjunkyard: Dream Team aside, here’s a big reason to pull for Mark Richt http://bit.ly/fJd4lG [...]

TTOUGH44

February 11th, 2011
11:29 am

Mark Richt is a fine fella! He is a fine football coach! Ye people of little faith that dont believe in him! I do and my prayers are with the Eunice family and CMR!

tom

February 11th, 2011
11:30 am

Class all the way. Remember when he was recruiting A.J. Bryant and his dad was dying? The kid wanted to commit a year early while his dad was still around so Richt went to see him on his death bed even though, I think, it was considered a secondary violation of some sort. I think he petitioned the NCAA for special permission and they denied it. Tells you what kind of organization they are running. I may have a few facts wrong on this but it has been a long time and a long day already.

dawgfanatic24-7

February 11th, 2011
11:31 am

Nice to see a coach who is about matters much bigger than football. That family hurt a lot less due to Coach Richt’s simple gesture by fullfilling a son’s dream. Win or lose he’s the coach I want to see on the sidelines.

LADawg

February 11th, 2011
11:33 am

Everyone in the Bulldog Nation needs to keep a copy of this article to remind us of the type of man we have leading our program the next time it seems the sky is falling. This two year trip into the valley is going to make the mountain top that much sweeter.

RxDawg

February 11th, 2011
11:34 am

Good post Bill and good story. I am not one of those “fans” hoping for Richt to lose just so he’ll get replaced. I firmly believe in him and am hoping that he can lead us back AGAIN.

sonny

February 11th, 2011
11:35 am

great man–and thanks to the other fans for nothing negative

I-DOG

February 11th, 2011
11:35 am

This won’t happen, but what I would love to see in Spring practice is:

first day – work on run pass equally and then announce to the team at the end of practice that this year UGA is going to run the ball and do it well. For the next week, we are not going to throw a pass until we are satisfied with the development of the running game.

The offense will run running plays and the defense will defend running plays until we like what we see. All the drills will be geared toward running and stopping the run and once we are satisfied with the progress, we will go back to balanced practices.

If we can run the ball this year, we have a chance to be successful. If we are anything like we were last year in terms of lack of success running, it could get ugly. Take a week and see if that sets the proper mindset

Parker

February 11th, 2011
11:37 am

Richt’s a righteous guy, and the Bible says that God will bless the righteous. I read in a recent piece how Richt said that something “spiritual” seems to be going on right now at Georgia, I think Richt meant a period of refreshment or semi-revival in a way. Leamy’s father is a Pastor, Drew is a preacher, Murray is a devout guy. God just seems to continue to shine on Mark Richt, despite whatever adversity comes his way, a true sign that you have a very special coach. Integrity is the #1 key to success in eladership.

I-DOG

February 11th, 2011
11:40 am

Didn’t read the article unti after I posted. My deepest sympathy to the Eunice family.

Doug

February 11th, 2011
11:41 am

Coach Richt reminds me Coach Wooden. They both do it the right way. It’s not flashy or quick, but it has a solid foundation. Coach Wooden went 20 years without a National Championship, because he wouldn’t cut corners. Then won 10 out the next 12. Coach Richt will probably be the same way, when you have ethics, it takes a lot longer, because you don’t cut corners there. But when it finally clicks, the pay off is big.

NFLDAWG

February 11th, 2011
11:42 am

Fans need to look at the bigger picture and not let one or two down seasons generate so much negativity. Based on records to date, Mark Richt is the best football coach in Georgia history. Why on earth so many of the lunatic fringe are ready to run him off is beyond me! I believe the wins will come if we can show some patience as a fan base. Richt is just an eyelash from greatness as a coach. If what UGA did in 2002 was done in any other season, UGA probably plays for and wins a National Championship. If Shockley does not get hurt in 2005 we certainly had momentum that could have carried us to be in position to play for the national title. In 2007, if we catch one of maybe four or five drops against South Carolina or if Tennessee is not so lucky down the stretch of the season, we get the opportunity to play for the SEC title against LSU. A win there would have put us in the BCS game against Ohio State. If Vince Dooley had a better 10 years, I would like to see it. For those of you who want to run Richt off, please go back and relive the decade of the 90s for Georgia football, because there is a good chance that would return under a new head coach and coaching staff.

Dawg4ever

February 11th, 2011
11:45 am

If I had a son that was going to play college football I would want them to play for this man! He cares about them personally as to where they are gong in life and in death.

BMDPD

February 11th, 2011
11:46 am

NFLDAWG, I won’t argue with you. We have been very close. Even with our bad record last season, we were very close in every game. This class may just provide enough of a mental spark to our team to believe in themselves. Coach is a good man! I am glad he is our coach.

Who the hell you gonna hire next anyway, fools?

February 11th, 2011
11:50 am

We would be absolute fools to get rid of this man. People are short-sighted and ignorant about this. Yes, there’s a lot of room for improvement from the past two years, but Richt has a fine overall record in Athens, and if allowed to stay on, WILL win SEC Championships again sooner than later. We would make a mistake of guargantuan to get rid of him. Who would we hire?? What do you do in 3 or 4 years when the replacement isn’t winning National Championships or SEC championships? Fire him too I guess. Some people need to get a freaking clue. Pathetic. I can’t wait to see this man vindicated, in a world where there’s a lot of SOB coaches.

robodawg

February 11th, 2011
11:53 am

I want to win big, but I also want to win the right way. With Richt, we can do both. No way would I trade him for someone that sells their soul for Ws. God bless you Mark. We’re pulling for you.

GaDawg

February 11th, 2011
11:53 am

I SINCERELY HOPE THAT WE WILL SEE JAMES EUNICE NAME #23 ON THE OFFICIAL ROSTER IN 2011

DAWG

February 11th, 2011
11:59 am

I am proud to say I am a “DAWG”. This is just a class act by a class coach.

D A DoubleU G

February 11th, 2011
12:00 pm

It’s GREAT to be a Georgia Bulldog!!!

CTDawg

February 11th, 2011
12:01 pm

This is just one of the reasons that I always ask who would you want coaching our team if it wasn’t CMR. I defy you to find a better coach and person than CMR!!!

KeepDreaming

February 11th, 2011
12:02 pm

AMEN BK, AMEN!! We are lucky to have CMR IMHO!!!

Look at the alternatives folks, the Sabans, Petrinos, and Kiffins of college football coaching. Embarrassing. There is a reason that CMR is the longest tenured coach in the SEC, and you can best believe if given time he will bring a few more SEC Championships to Athens. Most people lose sight of the fact that an NC is very hard to win, and usually requires not only skill, but a lot of luck (ask LSU coach Les Miles).

Needless to say this Dawg will always support CMR!

VA DAWG

February 11th, 2011
12:08 pm

As long as Richt is our coach, I will support him. Call it blind faith if you will, but I believe Richt will bring this program back to the top. He’s a good coach and even better man. Go DAWGS!

kevin

February 11th, 2011
12:10 pm

Richt handled the situation wonderfully, but I do not think it was extraordinary. It was very thoughtful but many coaches, in a similar situation, could handle the situation with as much care. Or, at the very least, exhibit a level of thoughtfulness which suited the stiuation. That said, as much as I appreciate Richt’s thoughtfulness, I do not think you keep a head football coach for “being a good guy”. You keep a head football coach based on team performance. And while Richt has performed well in the past, he has slipped a good bit as of late. So, if Richt underperforms again, UGA has to let him go.

DMR

February 11th, 2011
12:10 pm

Forget wins and losses. As a parent, when you are going to send your son off to college to be mentored and be taught how to become a man and valuable member of society, isn’t Mark Richt the kind of man you want watching over your child. Yes, the Georgia program has had a few problems with the behavior of some of their players. Mark Richt cannot turn a kid around in 1 or 2 years. These kids, after all, are adults by many standards. They know right from wrong. You can teach your children well. It is their responsibility to honor those teachings and act accordingly. Thank goodness Georgia has a quality man like Mark Richt watching over these guys.

Inlet Dawg

February 11th, 2011
12:11 pm

Never have I doubted that he was a first class type of guy(Hell I’d be proud to have him as a brother in law)I just don’t think he is willing to do the things he needs to do to or hire smarter people than him,that will take us to the top.

D A DoubleU G

February 11th, 2011
12:12 pm

Bill King,

Thank you for finally being the ajc blogger to write one of the MANY untold positive stories of Richt anf the UGA program.

I feel Richt has been held way too accountable for Washaun Ealey and Caleb King’s butterfingers these past few months.

I assure any hater of Richt, that if it were up to him, Washaun and Caleb would have held on to any and all fumbles.

Without 3 key fumbles (that i can think of), UGA beats S Cackalacky, Colorado, & Miss State. We still would have lost in Chick Fil A bowl to Florida State, but we would have had a 9-4 record, and feeling good about the direction of the team.

GO MARK RICHT, & GO DAWGS!!!!

JRW7DAWG

February 11th, 2011
12:14 pm

CMR is a great CHRISTIAN man, a classy man, a great recruiter, but as a
FOOTBALL COACH, I pray he gets his fire, his drive, his desire to WIN back. GO DAWGS!!!!!

Buckeye

February 11th, 2011
12:14 pm

Good move, Coach. It’s not all about W’s. My guess is that one was one of your greatest calls all year, sideline or otherwise.

Woody was well known for similar gestures and kindnesses. All you hear about down here is the fateful Clemson game.

Valdostadawg

February 11th, 2011
12:14 pm

Your best article to date, Bill…Thanks for doing it…