After eight years of coordinating Alabama's defense and helping the Crimson Tide to three national titles, it was announced Sunday that Kirby Smart has landed his dream job—head coach of his alma mater, Georgia. Former Bulldogs quarterback D.J. Shockley, who led Georgia to the 2005 SEC title while Smart served as the Bulldogs running backs coach, penned this letter welcoming Smart back to Bulldog Nation. All words are his own, as told to Bleacher Report SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee.
To a Damn Good Dawg:
Kirby Smart, welcome back to the Bulldog nation!
I believe I speak for many former players in saying it's always great when you can return to Athens.
Not many people outside the Bulldog nation understand what it feels like to be a part of the tradition and lineage at the University of Georgia. But you do, and that is what excites me about your return.
From our days back in 2005, when we won the SEC championship when you coached the running backs, I knew then that your ability to get the most out of your players through the way you coached them would lead you to this point.
Your passion, energy and knowledge of the game not only helped the running backs, but me as well. You played a big part in making that team special.
As you enter your first year as the new head coach for our Georgia Bulldogs, I only ask one thing of you.
Bring the same tenacity, work ethic and sheer desire to be the best. That same tenacity that you played with as a Bulldog in your playing days. The success you have had as a coach speaks volumes and excites me for the future. I know with this unique new opportunity, it will not be taken for granted because I know being a Bulldog means everything to you.
As a former Dawg and now a fan, I look forward to seeing the type of recruits that you pursue and ultimately get to sign with UGA.
First and foremost, we must get better in the trenches. As college football has shown over the years—regardless of how much skill you have on the outside or back end—the game is won or lost in the trenches.
Georgia has always been known for having great running backs, and we have so much talent at that position right now. But lately, we have lacked the big-play ability on the outside with our wide receivers. Hopefully, we get back to having big-time wide receivers like A.J. Green and Chris Conley as well as making sure we control the line of scrimmage.
Kirby, thank you for believing the University of Georgia is a place that belongs on the national stage and winning championships, because if you didn't, I'm sure you would have stayed put at Alabama.
Your belief in this program will permeate through our players and force them to be great.
As you know, the support from the Bulldog nation is loud and proud, because we know at the University of Georgia, we should be second to none. The expectations are always high—as they should be—but from knowing you, I know that you expect to win and win big.
Back in 2005, I remember you saying average is not what we do here at UGA. We always strive for greatness and give it our all. Being great on and off the field is a trait that I know you believe in, so knowing you will hammer that home gives me the sense of assurance that you will hold every individual associated with this university accountable.
I look forward to your leadership and dedication—as well as the pure joy I get when the Dawgs win!
Welcome back, coach Kirby Smart, a Damn Good Dawg to the Bulldog Nation!
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.