Han Vance on Georgia football:
When I say I love it, you tell me “You Better.” GEORGIA FOOTBALL is back. Suddenly upon us, the defending SEC champion Bulldogs getting the Governors of Austin Peay at 3:30, it is September – GO DAWGS!!!
Looking for a player, a la Isaiah Wynn (the first Georgia offensive lineman drafted in the first round in 15 years) to move up the NFL draft boards with dynamic velocity this season? I’m betting on Jonathan Ledbetter.
In my 2018 Impact Performers series, which concludes today with the start of actual, real football action, I have looked at seniors: Terry Godwin, Deandre Baker, Natrez Patrick and Lamont Gaillard. The heart of a winner is its senior class…every year at every school. While much of the talent getting it done on the field may be of another school class – quite often sophomores, actually – the leadership the oldest kids carry can be burdensome for some and gels the program as far as it is ready to go.
Sure Roquan, who was by all accounts a near-senior, playing too well not to go pro early, but Wynn (easily our best blocker), Wims (easily our best receiver) and Sony and Chubb and company carried Kirby to glory in 2017. Now, a new class rises to the ultimate pinnacle of a college career. As most of the members of any college team will not have long and fruitful professional careers on the gridiron, folks, this is the time. ‘Senior leader’ is an extremely essential role in the health of any winning program. Rightly called young in the media as a team overall, all hail our current senior class.
A 6-4 280-pound playmaker from Tucker, Ledbetter is a consistent honor roll student at UGA who started 11-of-15 games in 2017. He matched his career high with six tackles in the Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma, as the Big 12 champions had much trouble blocking the pass rushing, penetrating combo of Ledbetter and Clark (Tyler Clark is a key junior defensive lineman).
When I was sitting in the 5th row in Pasadena, with the San Diego UGA Alumni Association, I realized I was at perhaps the greatest college football game ever and knew how blessed I was. I thought to myself this is one of the games they will show a lot on TV replays. I underestimated how often. That and heartbreak city ATL are on every night. ESPN got it wrong in the #1 and #2, though, the Rose Bowl was the more exciting game of the 2017 season. Played in January 2018, it the prequel to Shakespearean tragedy awaiting.
But that was then and this is now. I can cry over spilled milk, as the best story never came to be written last season, or we, as a fanbase, can rally around this program. See you on the 50-yard line Saturday!
He has had his problems, like many of us have in life, but Ledbetter is better now and ready to dominate. He’s ready to show the SEC and the country, the pros, what he can do and the nasty butterfly of a Dawg he has become.
Georgia has senior talent. So much so that I only wrote about seniors in this series, ultimately, as I came to fully realize that 2018 Georgia has senior leadership at every level of the roster. In the secondary, at the skill positions, in the middle of our defense, on the powerful offensive line. It was such a pleasant thing to know, because like a crusty old coach I only trust guys that I have seen do it in live game action on a college football field.
Between the Hedges, that lone horn sounding yet another season in that hallowed, drained river bed. Beside those tracks made famous by the Track People. Larry Munson gravel and gloom and doom overriding itself with the sheer joy of Georgia football. My God, a touchdown. Did you see what he just did. A chair. A steel, metal chair…he went through his chair…for us.
+Sporting family essay: Friday morning in the world capital of college football, preparing to head to the Classic City with my chief photog, daughter and lovely alumna wife. One of my brothers and I were on a good one at “The Ted” last night after a few bars, taking Uber for some retrofit urban stadium gazing on the Connector. The ball-control QB-ground-game dominant Kennesaw State University Owls outplayed the Georgia State University Panthers almost the whole game, tasting defeat in the end, on a late, beautiful touchdown grab, to my brother Johnny Vance’s dismay. I like both schools – having worked Downtown near State after college and speaking on the formation of their football program (from a UGA perspective) in Atlanta magazine. My ex-wife, so obviously ex-girlfriend too, was finishing undergrad there when I was finalizing my run as a non-trad presidential scholar at the fair University in Athens. We used to kick it at her apartment in the city near the nightclubs and my house in Athens, near where I will be tonight. The Boulevard Historic District, where Johnny and I lived, the three of us were a cute little crew, even hitting the Outback Bowl together for a memorable, rum-sogged New Year’s in Tampa. Donnan’s Dawgs ruled Wisconsin, as Mike Bobo set the bowl completion percentage record.
Living in East Cobb most of our lives, she and Johnny did some studying at KSU, he a Georgia Man getting an MBA, she on her way to being a (with six total degrees) high school teacher at Woodstock High. When she and I were married and he was married to his first wife and we had only a few young ones, we used to be regulars at Kennesaw State basketball games. They were great then under Coach Golden and suddenly football is in the (real, plural ones) playoffs and playing for an FCS (the “C” is for real, settled on the field, with no voting or committees) championship. We at GEORGIA, like Georgia State, are FBS (“B” for the bowls and “BS” for BS), thusly relegated to the whims of a few folks in a room. State won a bowl game last year, and it’s nice to see two nascent regional programs evolving – they should play every year and make this a big event; they sell beer at Georgia State games, by the way. Here I stood behind the fun, KSU band, at former home of the Atlanta Braves, the Chophouse a ghost bar of my many Atlanta pasts, barricaded away…I could still see it in the distance.
Thanks for reading me. …Onto ATHENS>>>