Planes, trains, automobiles and Northwestern fans

Greetings from Gate A17 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Travel so far has been remarkably smooth (probably just jinxed myself). Traffic driving to the airport was unusually light and I’m not sure the last time I cleared security that quickly. Of course, it’s always quick when I allow myself two extra hours to get through it.

So I’ve had a lot of time to chill here at the gate. As I wrote earlier, I’m heading to Orlando to cover the Under Armor High School All-American Game but having to go through Tampa since that’s where the game will be played when I fly out Saturday. As a result, I’m sharing the flight down with a bunch of Auburn and Northwestern fans heading to the Outback Bowl.

I say “a bunch.” To be accurate I’ve seen a half-dozen or so Northwestern fans and two Auburn fans. I suspect most of the War Eagle crowd is probably driving down. I’ve also spotted four Georgia Tech fans. I’ll have to let them know the Orange Bowl is in Miami before we board.

Funny how the bowl thing works out. If Georgia doesn’t commit four second-half turnovers against Kentucky — the phrase “if a frog had wings” comes to mind — the Bulldogs would have been playing in the Outback Bowl and I probably would have covered that, too. I always enjoyed covering that game because it’s close to Clearwater Beach, one of my favorite destinations. But I digress.

The buzz this morning is about the rumor that Georgia coach Mark Richt had tabbed LSU’s John Chavis as the new defensive coordinator. Too bad I didn’t schedule an earlier flight because Chavis is due to address the media covering the Capital One Bowl at 2 p.m. in Orlando. I’m hoping to roll into town about 4 p.m. so I won’t have a chance. But I’ll keep my eyes and ears open while I’m there.

Coming up a little later I’ll be posting a blog about the Offense-Defense All-America Game that is being played in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Saturday. I talked to Georgia Tech commitment Denzel McCoy last night. He’s one of 14 Georgians participating in that game.

In the meantime be thinking about questions you might have for the players participating in the Under Armour Game. I’m planning to catch up with the Georgia guys late this afternoon at their hotel.

First boarding call so I better pack up.

C-ya later.

20 comments Add your comment

GT IS STILL A 4TH RATE HIGH SCHOOL TEAM

December 30th, 2009
11:52 am

FIRST. HAHHAHAHHAHAHA

GT IS STILL A 4TH RATE HIGH SCHOOL TEAM

December 30th, 2009
11:54 am

FOREVER AND EVER.

GT IS STILL A 4TH RATE HIGH SCHOOL TEAM

December 30th, 2009
11:55 am

RECRUITS OF YELLOW TUCKS WILL STAY ON HIGH SCHOOL TEAM. FOREVER AND EVER

football fan

December 30th, 2009
12:01 pm

I’ll leave it up to CMR to get the right men to fill our defensive spots. What I would like to know is what players play in the Under Armour game and what states do the players come from? Is the game televised, if so, what channel or network?

Steve in Buford

December 30th, 2009
12:22 pm

Paul Johnson was a favorite of mine when he coached GA Southern to greatness. He walked into a tradition began by one of the ALL TIME greats from UGA, Erk Russell. Which brings back memories of many opponents struggling to score double digits let alone 30-40 points or more against us. Are there any DC’s of that type? CMR will do right… after all, he did end the reign of WM when it was clear our program was headed in the wrong direction.

What??

December 30th, 2009
12:36 pm

The really interesting part of the UA game you will be attending is how well the recruiting polls have rated the players, and how well the coaches have evaluated these players to see if they can perform in their systems.

Chip Towers

December 30th, 2009
12:50 pm

TRAVEL UPDATE: OK, so I’m trying Delta’s new in-flight WIFI system and, as you can see, it’s working pretty well. It’s free through the end of the year with a promotional code but will cost you $4.95 after that. If you fly a lot you can get the “GOGO pass” for $24.95 a month. . . . Thanks to that, you get to hear from me some more. Aren’t you thrilled? . . .

football fan: Here’s a link to an earlier blog I did about what players are playing in the Under Armour Game, focusing on the 12 players from Georgia, of course. There are also upward of a dozen five-star rated prospects, including guys like Jeff Luc, Devin Gardner, Georgia’s Da’Rick Rogers and Chris Dunkley. Quarterbacks Phillip Sims and Nick Montana, sons of NFL greats, will be featured as well. As for the game, it will be nationally televised on ESPN at 11 p.m. Saturday. The skills challenges that are also a big part of this event will be televised on ESPN2 Friday night at 9 p.m. . . .

Outback Bowl update: I take it back. There are far more Auburn fans on this flight than I originally noted. I’ve seen at least a dozen, at least those that are adorned in school colors. But Northwestern folks are decently represented as well. . . . The Tech fans were just seeing off friends at my gate and left to catch another flight. I’m guessing to Miami.

trueUGAfan

December 30th, 2009
12:52 pm

foottball fan, 19 players from TX, 15 players from FL, 13 players from GA, and 7 players from CA

trueUGAfan

December 30th, 2009
12:53 pm

football fan, thats just the biggest break down of where they from

trueUGAfan

December 30th, 2009
1:08 pm

the game will be aired at 11:00 am not pm on ESPN, saturday

TN Dawg

December 30th, 2009
2:13 pm

Any new rumors on Garrison Smith?

toph

December 30th, 2009
2:22 pm

What’s going on with Garrison Smith? Also, have you heard anything new about TJ Stripling?

the truth

December 30th, 2009
2:49 pm

Garrison smith is as solid as a commit as it gets right now. anything said otherwise is completely false and probably banter out of nerd jealousy

football fan

December 30th, 2009
3:21 pm

Chip and trueUGAfan: Thanks a lot for the info about the Under Armour game and other activities. I’ll be watching, that’ for sure. Thanks again, guys.

$1.4 million Shreveport vs. our $14 million BCS Orange bowl

December 30th, 2009
3:44 pm

Good article by Doug Roberson
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Paul Johnson’s will to win is so strong, his wife jokes that he wouldn’t even let his daughter win at Candy Land when she was a little girl.
When his wife would ask why, the coach gave the only answer he knew.
“Hey, she’s got to learn to win on her own,” Johnson said, retelling the story he says his wife still often jokes about.
Johnson’s will — no, his need — to win, whether it’s playing golf, football or even board games against little kids, is unlike anything his players or assistants say they’ve ever experienced.
Born and fueled in the Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina and then honed at coaching stops all over the country, that desire to be the best has helped Johnson propel the No. 9 Yellow Jackets to the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1967, the honor for winning their first outright ACC title since 1990.
“He’s been nothing but a winner his whole life and he wants to remain that way,” defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. “If you’re going to beat him in something, you better have your A-game.”
Some of it comes from people telling him what he can’t do. Take the people who said — some continue to say — that his spread-option offense wouldn’t work in the ACC. Some 10,500 yards and 20 wins later, he’s proving them wrong.
Some of it comes from just doing his job. As co-offensive line coach Mike Sewak says, you get only one chance every week to prove that you know what you are doing. He says Johnson always runs practices at full-speed, all the time. Sewak said he can’t remember the last time a Johnson-coached team did a walk-through that was, in fact, a walk-through and not a full-speed exercise.
There’s no wasted energy and no wasted time. The focus is on winning. It’s why Johnson scoffs when asked why skill players rarely wear no-contact jerseys. He points out that the team they’ll be facing on Saturday won’t be playing two-hand touch.
And some of it comes from growing up as one of the youngest kids on his block in Newland, N.C. Johnson says you got competitive or you got whipped. Baseball, basketball or football. It didn’t matter. No quarter was given.
“There’s a fear of failure,” Johnson said. “It’s who I am.”
Roddy Jones, a sophomore A-back, said that drive was evident in the first team meeting Johnson held after he was hired by athletics director Dan Radakovich in December 2007.
Some of the rules he put in place were simple: mandatory team breakfasts and mandatory class attendance. The last, however, showed his new team just how serious he was about one day leading his team to a national championship: 5:30 a.m. runs every morning before spring ball.
“We knew this was serious. We are going to work,” Jones said.
It wasn’t as if Chan Gailey, whom Johnson succeeded, wasn’t competitive. Jones and others who work with the coach said the difference is Johnson wears his emotions on his sleeve. Despite the “I-don’t-care-what-you-think” stance he often takes with the media or fans on his radio show, he takes slights personally. Couple that with his appetite for seemingly reading everything that’s written about him or his team as he searches for motivation and it can make for interesting exchanges.
There was a moment earlier this season after Tech defeated Virginia, when Johnson good-naturedly called out a national blogger who had picked his Yellow Jackets to lose to the Cavs.
Then there was the “McDonald’s” moment, while Johnson was coaching at Navy. Asked why the coaches seemed to get all the credit for the wins and the players the blame for the losses, Johnson cut loose but this excerpt made many chuckle:
“I don’t go down to McDonald’s and start second-guessing his job, so he ought to leave me alone,” Johnson retorted.
Johnson can be just as caustic with his players. Former Middie quarterback Chris McCoy, the same player who torched Tech for five touchdowns in 1996, tells a story of how Johnson once thought he caught him smiling a couple of days after a loss. McCoy said Johnson grabbed him by the back of the shirt and yanked him out of the huddle faster than you can say “spread-based option offense.” And that was during practice.
“I was just admiring his wonderful coaching ability, and he took it the wrong way, I believe,” McCoy now jokes. “You love to play for him. He’s going to give you his all. You see that in every play he calls, every minute with him. He expects the same thing … even when you are admiring his ability.”
Those who play for or coach with him now tell similar stories. Tech center Sean Bedford said he wouldn’t play Johnson in anything because he’s afraid what his coach might do to win. Wommack said even if he has beaten Johnson in something, he wouldn’t say. Sewak, who has worked with Johnson off and on since 1985, said he has beaten him in golf a few times, but jokes that Johnson wouldn’t admit it.
“He’s like me and like anybody else: let’s run it again,” Sewak said. “Best two out of three. It may end up best 1,300 out of 1,500.”
Most important, beyond all the bluster, Bedford and quarterbacks coach Brian Bohannon said the team has taken on their coach’s personality.
Take the overtime period of the Nov. 7 Wake Forest game, when Johnson, trailing by three points, risked his team’s chances of the ACC title by going for it on fourth-and-inches from inside the 5-yard line. He later explained his decision by saying he can’t ask his players to play to win if he’s not willing to coach that way.
“He coaches the way he speaks,” said Wes Durham, the radio voice of the Yellow Jackets. “He coaches the truth. He plays to win.”
One can’t talk about Johnson’s competitiveness without mentioning the other big fourth-down decision. Trailing Clemson by a point in the ACC title game and facing fourth down on their last drive on their own 23-yard line with less than five minutes to play, the Jackets had to go for it if they had any hope of winning the game.
Johnson said there wasn’t anyone on the field who doubted that not only were they going to get the first down, but that they were also going to score a touchdown and win the game.
“He’s built the toughness and character of this team,” Bedford said. “We have to go for 60 minutes. We’re not going to stop until the final whistle.”

Paddy

December 30th, 2009
4:06 pm

$1.4 million…..well reported by you. Thanks, very interesting.

Eagle

December 30th, 2009
4:07 pm

“GT IS STILL A 4TH RATE HIGH SCHOOL TEAM” – which makes UGA a 3rd rate high school team since they only beat them by 6 points.

Talking about dumb!

Rick

December 30th, 2009
4:47 pm

Chip,

How was I-4 from Tampa to Orlando?

Chip Towers

December 30th, 2009
5:31 pm

Rick: Not bad. But I hear it’s worse going in the other direction.

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