The year 1980 is a polarizing year for both Georgia fans and haters. For the Bulldog faithful, they got to watch Herchel Walker plow through defenders on the way to the school’s most recent National Championship. Fans of rival schools use it to poke fun at how long it has been since Georgia has ended the season on top.
Now, 41 years later, Georgia players know they have a chance to be remembered forever and leave a legacy that will always be in the record books. It will just take a complete performance against the Bulldogs’ kryptonite since Kirby Smart arrived in Athens, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“To be the first since the drought, I tell people, you’ll be a Georgia legend no matter if you’re from inside the state of Georgia or outside of Georgia, you’re going to be Georgia legend,” said outside linebacker Nolan Smith on Wednesday. “We came in to be legendary, be special, leave your mark. Like I say, I want to bring my kid back and tell him this is what I did. I want to leave my mark. I don’t just want to be another University of Georgia player.”
Smith has been touted as the vocal leader of Georgia’s dominant defense this year. He can usually be seen with a smile on his face after games, except on one occasion. When asked how he handled Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship, Smith said he cried after the game.
“I’m 20 now I’ve been playing football since I was 4,” said Smith. “16 years, haven’t won anything. Haven’t won a championship. I won a couple of bowl games but anything big, any championship I never won yet.”
Smith’s passion seems to be carrying over to other players as well. The 2017 Georgia Bulldogs were just plays away from winning a national championship over the Crimson Tide, but the camaraderie, experience and talent seem to put the 2021 Bulldogs on another level.
“At the end of the day, we’re the only ones that matter,” said linebacker Quay Walker. “So other than that, our main focus just needs to be on worrying about us and how we can get better as a team and be able to do what we need to do in order for us to get a win on Monday.”
There is also a pride factor for players from the state of Georgia. Growing up, most have probably been aware of Georgia’s championship drought. They are the ones now in a position to make sure that 1980 jokes are merely a thing of the past.
“All they want is a Georgia championship,” said receiver Kearis Jackson when talking about Georgia fans. “So with me knowing that, with my team knowing as well, not only are we fighting for each other but we’re fighting for the ones in our community as well because they’re Georgia fans just like we are.”
It can be tough to balance the weight of what a championship would mean when still having to prepare for a very talented Alabama team that just beat Georgia a month ago. However, what is at stake is “no doubt” being used as motivation heading into the game.
“We just wanted to do something and be special that nobody can take away from us,” said running back James Cook. “We come back they can bring us up and not the 1980 team.”
For Nolan Smith’s full press conference:
For Quay Walker’s:
For Kearis Jackson’s:
For James Cook’s: