Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is a “prodigy” of the highly regarded Nick Saban of Alabama, Georgia’s opponent of the week. He coached under Saban in Tuscaloosa from 2008 to 2014. He started out as an assistant coach and ended up as the highest paid defensive coordinator in college football at the time. In 2015, he accepted a head coaching job with his alma mater and now pours his heart, soul and coaching talent into the program at Georgia.
Smart has said time and time again that he wants the football at Georgia to be relevant. He has shown the nation how relevant Georgia is by leading them to SEC Championship and Rose Bowl victories and a hard-fought National Championship game last season. This season is looking to be just as significant. With an 11-1 record, the Bulldogs have secured the SEC East and are headed to another SEC Championship this weekend. Smart said that the relevancy doesn’t just come from big games though. It comes from every game big or small.
“I’ll be honest with you, becoming relevant and significant is every game. When you play on national TV, you play in the SEC, you have a chance to be relevant and significant every week,” he said. “Certainly, this (SEC Championship) is a wall game. It’s for the number that goes up on these walls in here. Put numbers up in here, especially on that side of the room [for the national championships.] It’s special. That’s what you’re playing for; you’re playing for a championship.”
Although the big matchup to come is not necessarily a motivating factor for the successful head coach, it has an impact on him.
“I can’t remember much about being a player. I was excited, I guess nervous; I don’t know, I’m nervous about everything. I’m competitive, want to do well. Work hard at it,” said Smart. “Certainly, once you prepare, there’s only so much you can do. I get the most comfortable the closer the game gets, because I realize there’s not a lot you can do, but I’m more intense leading up to, because I want to get all the hay in the barn. When the hay’s in the barn, there’s not a lot I can do. Let the players go play. Show confidence in the players.”
What drives him are his players. He and the coaching staff try to put them in the best situation to succeed.
“That’s all we’re concerned with because when you let all the outside forces and the outside motivation control you, sometimes you get emotional and you don’t make the best decisions,” he said. “We have to put the best plan together we can to play our best game against Alabama. Not the Alabama last year, not the Georgia last year. So that’s motivation for a lot of people. And that’s the media talk. But for us it’s what do I have to do to play my best game. That’s what I want to work on.”
Although Smart still has some close ties within the Alabama program, he said it is a new team and there are no personal feelings driving him to usurp them.