In a long affiliation with the University of Georgia, there has been an opportunity to become acquainted with countless Red and Black aficionados who passionately savor their campus experience and cannot wait to return to Athenstown. Not just on fall weekends, but throughout the year—to a place with which so many are emotionally attached.
Over the years, I have been introduced to countless “greatest Bulldog fans there ever was.” It could be Waycross, Dalton, Augusta, Savannah, Fargo, Suches or any place where there is a dozen or more football fans. There is a “greatest Bulldog fan ever ” in every town and hamlet across the state.
I’ve never doubted the opinions because extreme loyalists are in abundance across our great state. I even have a couple with whom I would give the “greatest” rating, including the late John “Kid” Terrell. He didn’t want to drink with the head coach, he didn’t want to play golf with the offensive coordinator and had no interest in serving on the athletic board and sitting in the President’s box. He just wanted to host a tailgate party with his closest friends, enjoy a couple of shooters (Jack Daniels Old No. 7 if you want more detail about this passionate die-hard), and witness Georgia win a big game between the hedges. He truly hurt when the Bulldogs lost a game.
With a long time exposure to Bulldog fans, I have always taken note of the extraordinary devotion to UGA, the Dawgs and the hedges that is expressed by the members (and alumni) of the Redcoat Band. The band—from trombonists to bass drummers to the majorettes to the flag corps to the bus drivers—are “Damn Good Dawgs.” My experience has been that there is no backsliding with members of the band. They are the ultimate flag wavers.
Back in the summer, I got a call from Michael Abramowitz, former band member who works for the PGA of America, about a singular act of altruism on the part of Redcoat alumnus Danny Newton who donated a kidney to his best friend and band member Randy Nichols.
Danny played trumpet for the Redcoats, 1986-89, and Randy enjoyed that honor 1985-90. Let’s hear about their relationship from Danny: “We met our first day at UGA. I didn’t march my first year so I didn’t know any of the Redcoats at the time. My first class was in English, and the teacher asked each student to stand and tell the class the one thing we’d save if our house was burning down. One student (Kevin Sheridan, trumpet 85-88) stood and said he would save his trumpet. Later, I stood and said the same. We talked after class and hit it off immediately. I invited him back to my dorm room for leftover pizza.
“A few classes later the same day I had concert band class and sat next to a trumpet player (Randy) who had nearly the same make and style trumpet as mine. We struck up a conversation and hit it off as well. Like Kevin, I invited him for leftover pizza. Little did I know Kevin and Randy were roommates. We shared a laugh over the coincidence and have been the greatest of friends ever since.”
Thirty-six years later, after years of issues with kidney function, Randy was told that he would need a new kidney. To make matters worse he learned that he had a leaky heart valve and would need heart surgery before there could be a kidney transplant.
In 2020, Randy underwent successful surgery for a new heart valve but still needed a kidney transplant. Initially, there were no kidney donors available for Randy, which caused Danny to see if he might be a potential donor.
Glory, Glory all the tests came back positive. In late summer 2021, the surgery took place. Early this football season both donor and recipient were doing well. They came to Athens for a Georgia home game and were guests for the “Tailgate Show.”
“I feel very blessed,” Danny says, “to be able to help my best friend in a time of need and am grateful I was healthy enough to do so. We laughed at being told during Redcoat orientation by (the late band director) Roger Dancz that we might marry somebody in the classroom where we were meeting, but I never dreamed I would donate an organ to a Redcoat.”
The Redcoats don’t get the attention that football players get, but they work tirelessly to make the halftime show as thrilling as the games. When graduation comes about for them, they move on with the rest of their lives, often settling into towns and counties across the state. They distinguish themselves as doting alumni who consider a return to Athenstown a Mecca-like experience.
When someone displays a “brother’s keeper” act of kindness as it was with Danny Newton, it is no surprise that it came from a member of the Redcoat Band.