What’s the Word? FEATURE: JOHN LASTINGER

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What’s the Word? FEATURE: JOHN LASTINGER

John Lastinger

John Lastinger, a native of Valdosta, Georgia, better known as Title Town, USA, played high school football for the highly touted Valdosta High Wildcats. After high school, Lastinger was a top recruit, but remained in-state, attending our very own University of Georgia. “What time is it in Texas?… 10-9!” The well-known Georgia football question refers to the 1984 Cotton Bowl in which the Dawgs defeated Texas by a score of 10-9, thanks to John Lastinger’s last-minute 17-yard touchdown run. The game has gone down in Georgia history as one of the greatest games ever played by the silver britches. In this inaugural article for the 2019 season, I had the privilege of speaking with this famed University of Georgia quarterback, so please enjoy.

Why Georgia?

“I took an official visit to the University of Alabama, and they played Southern California. It was kind of rare for Alabama to lose back then, but they lost, and their campus was like a morg. I was still impressed with the Tide, but then I came to Georgia for a visit, and we played Ole Miss in 1978. Sanford Stadium was rocking, I had a blast, and the Dawgs won that day 42-3. Then, Buck Belue [former Valdosta High quarterback and friend of Lastinger] was already at Georgia, and he said to me, ‘I’m not going to tell you where you need to go to school, but we have something special here.’ In addition, Coach Dooley told me before I signed that I could play other positions than quarterback, which was very enticing as well. My decision ultimately came down to where I was comfortable, and Georgia fit the bill.”

Favorite game (besides 1984 Cotton Bowl)

“Our 1982 win over Auburn was pretty sweet. We were favored going into the game, but it came down to a last-minute drive that gave us the 19-14 victory. Just to claim that third SEC title in three years was something special and is certainly a close second to the Texas game.”

What time is it in Texas?

“Texas’ defense was phenomenal that year, so we knew coming into the game that it would be tough sledding. We fought tooth and nail just to get those 10 points on the board. There were a lot of three and punts on both sides. Of course, our defense was excellent, in fact, our defense was probably better that day, so I think both punters just wore their legs out. So at the end we caught a break, got the ball back, and on that third and four, we just made the right call. We ran an option play, and all I had to do was read one player because Texas had limited support on that side of the field. As their guy leaned towards Tron Jackson, our running back, I just held on to the ball. The first thing I thought about was getting those four yards for the first down. Then, I told myself, “Well, I might have a chance here.” I saw their free safety coming across but somehow got there. Kevin Butler then gave us the lead with the extra point, but we still had to kick it back to them. However, we knew there was no way we’re losing this thing.”

With Saturday’s dedication of the field at Sanford Stadium to Coach Dooley, I undoubtedly had to get a few quotes from Lastinger on the hall of fame coach.

One word for Coach Dooley

“Consistent. He won consistently. He practiced consistently. He was, bottom-line, a consistent guy.”

Favorite Coach Dooley moment

“My senior year, coming off an ACL surgery in spring, I started the first two games. We beat UCLA in home opener, then tied Clemson at their place. I didn’t play well against them, and our back-up quarterback, Todd Williams, played great. Coach Dooley called me in his office Monday morning, and we discussed the quarterback situation at length. While I wasn’t happy, we both agreed that Todd deserved to start against South Carolina the following week. After the meeting, he called my father and discussed the decision with him. He didn’t have to call me into a meeting, and he certainly did not have to call my parents to inform them. He could have just announced to the press on Monday that he was making a quarterback change. He went way beyond the call of duty, and I always appreciated what he did!”

What makes UGA so great?

“The people. The relationships I made at UGA are life long, and I would not trade them for the world.”

Expectations for the 2019 season

“I think it is a very talented team that can honestly compete with anyone. We will definitely be in the mix, but it takes a little luck, staying healthy, and many other things to fall our way. There are just so many good football teams out there, so you really just have to bring it every week. I, along with many others, expect the talented bunch to be at the top, and I just can’t wait to see what they do.”

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