I have memories of being an extremely small child, sitting on the floor, watching the game and listening to all my uncles and grandfather holler and cheer. I had no idea what was going on, but it was a good time.
Growing up in Ga is like nowhere else in the country.
My family is originally from the south Ga/N Fla area. My mom and dad left the state after my dad graduated from UGA, and we lived in several states and the Bahamas.
The summer before the third grade, my parents had separated and my mom, brother, sister and I returned to Ga. One day I was on the playground at school minding my own business, when a man approached me.
He said, “Boy, whats your name?" I told him and he replied, "Oh yeaaaaah, your Boog’s boy, Jimmy’s grandson. I went to school with your mom and dad, worked with your Me-Pa, went to church with your Me-ma, drive a tractor with your uncle plow-boy and dated your aunt Lucy when I was your age. Why aren’t you practicing with my team?”
I didn’t really know what to say, but before he could give me a chance to reply, he grabbed me by the hand and dragged me off to the practice field where 20 or so other kids were waiting for him.
That began my love for the game and provides some insight to small town GA life. I played football my entire life, and if had the opportunity would have gone to the collegiate level. Instead I joined the military.
Summer vacation was always fun growing up. While most kids went on vacation, my friends and I dreamt of playing football and practiced for the next season.
My best friend's dad was our little league coach, and had plenty of equipment stored in the garage. We would often ride our bikes through the neighborhood gathering up kids until we had enough to make two semi-complete teams. Then we would set the end zones in my other friend's yard, and it was game time.
A 35-40 yd field that brought new meaning to, “home-field advantage”.
You had to know how to run the ball just right, or risk falling victim to one of the many obstacles that made up the playing field. Too close to the house, and you run the risk of brushing up against my friend’s mom’s prickly holy bushes or razor grass. Too far to the other side of the field and you will slip on the hickory nuts covering the ground, or worse you could get tackled on top of them. And most important of all, you have to remember to jump the gigantic White Oak root running through the middle of the field.
After an hour or so of playing, my buddie's dad would be getting home from work from the paper mill, and would decide to be our “all-time QB”. Back in those days, kids could play outside from sun-up to sun-down and no one seemed to think twice about it. Some of these games went down as legend, and till this day, are still talked about when I return home, or bump into an old friend.
High school was all about the coach. If it were football season or not, you had to watch what you did. Many days we would be confronted by him, because someone at Wal-mart told him we were loitering outside. He knew all the mom’s and dad’s first names, and it was automatically understood what position you played, or even if you WERE going to play before you even talked to him for the first time.
You played, you loved it, end of discussion. The coach was a walking information super highway. He knew everything about you, and what you were going to do it before you did it. I went through a rough spell around my Sophomore or Junior year and momentarily contemplated quitting the team. That is, until the coach pulled me out of one of my classes and gave me a long talking to. Till this day, I don’t know how he knew, he just did.
I often wonder if other parts of the country are as crazy as my town was growing up. Friday Night Lights and Varsity Blues paint a pretty familiar picture. But even those two don’t come close. It's hard to put into words the way I was molded growing up. But it left me with a deep respect, and an undying infatuation with UGA football. Saturdays in the fall always bring me back to when I was kid.
Paige, You gave me the inspiration to write this. Thanks buddy.