SAVANNAH – Here in late summer, when Nolan Sental Smith, Georgia’s multipurpose linebacker, returned home for a promotion for the Boys and Girls Club, he was introduced to Uga X, the Georgia mascot, widely proclaimed by Sports Illustrated as the No. 1 mascot in the nation.
Although the accomplished linebacker—one distinguished in the classroom as well as in competition—was familiar with the heralded mascot, he had never spent time with the all-white male English bulldog which the Frank Wilkins Seiler family has maintained and coddled for well over a half-century, he had never enjoyed a closeup and personal experience with Uga. He inquired as to how he might someday own a descendant of Uga. He even had his photo made with “Q.”
Nolan’s reaction to the Uga scene was comparable to what he experienced in the Florida game last fall when he literally stole the ball from the Gator quarterback, which led to a touchdown late in the second quarter, and intercepted a pass, among other defensive maneuvers that have become standard with him and brought about one of the best linebacking reputations in college football.
While Nolan had seen Uga on the field and had been near the most famous bulldog in the land during games, he never had actually linked up with the mascot for a photo op on Savannah turf. Nolan was full of questions for Charles Seiler, Uga’s keeper.
Nolan’s infatuation with and curiosity about Uga did not surprise Charles, who, like his father, Sonny, has seen a similar reaction for years. The proud and handsome Uga line could have only become what it has become were it not for the Seiler family.
No family pet in the country has ever been given such tender loving care. He has a spacious backyard to romp and roam. He sleeps in air-conditioned comfort, and he has a generous diet which is organized by Charles and Wendy Seiler with Uga’s health in mind.
When something needs fixing with his 62-pound body, the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine provides the best expertise there is to ensure that Uga is the best cared for live mascot in the country. His health is of the highest priority for the Vet school and, of course, the Seiler family.
I have known all the Uga’s from Uga I right on down to current Uga X, who is getting long in the tooth. He still has plenty of showcase verve and fan appeal left, but it is easy to forecast his retirement since he is nine years old, which makes him a senior citizen in the canine kingdom.
Uga has achieved widespread fame as Georgia’s mascot. When Clint Eastwood came to Savannah to produce the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” he told Uga, “I’m going to make you a star.” Cecilia Seiler, Charles’ late mother, promptly told the famous actor, “Oh Mr. Eastwood, he is already a star.”
From the halls of Congress to the Heisman trophy presentation to the Rose Bowl to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah, Uga has seen and done it all and will be at his smiling best when he leads the Georgia Bulldogs into action this fall in Georgia’s defense of the national championship.
In Cassie Wright’s gifted lens, you notice in the background a photo on the wall of Uga IV lunging at the Auburn receiver who taunted Uga after scoring a touchdown in 1996 at Auburn, the year of the first overtime game in SEC history.
The wall photo was taken by a female photographer who was on assignment from the Montgomery Advertiser. She captured Uga’s intent and Robert Baker’s fright perfectly, which caused a flood of orders of the print. In those pre-digital days, the requests for the photo were so voluminous that the negative wore slap out.
This prompted Sonny Seiler, when that factoid was disclosed, to wonder aloud, “I’m a little surprised that so many Georgia people would want that photo.”
The photographer exclaimed, “Oh Mr. Seiler, it was the Alabama people.”