Kirby Smart knows Georgia’s history. He’s a part of it. He was a member of the team in the 1990′s, an assistant coach in the mid-2000′s and the head coach starting in 2016.
He knew it had been 41 years since Georgia last won a national championship. He had the presence of mind to mention one of Larry Munson’s more iconic calls in the moments after defeating Alabama 33-18.
It is also why he sought out former Georgia coach and athletic director Vince Dooley on the field in the moments after the game. Dooley was the head coach of the 1980 team. His name is now on the field where Georgia plays its home games.
Related: WATCH: Voice of late Larry Munson narrates UGA championship play
Smart now joins Dooley and Wally Butts as the only championship-winning coaches in program history. But Dooley was not the only former Georgia head coach on hand in Indianapolis to see Georgia celebrate.
Mark Richt was there as well. Richt hired Smart as an assistant for the 2005 season, which happened to be the final time the former won the SEC championship as a head coach. Despite winning 145 games, Georgia had to fire Richt after a 9-3 campaign in 2015 to hire Smart.
“They helped set a foundation. That celebration in the locker room was, first of all, special. Then getting back to the hotel, the hotel was wild and crazy at the hotel,” Smart said. “And then seeing the pictures of Athens, that really moved me to see the number of people on the streets downtown. You just don’t know the impact that it has. That part was special.”
Given his own personal history at Georgia, Smart brought it back to the coaches who helped shape his incredibly long journey to get to this point. He has a connection to the four coaches who held the big job before he did.
It’s that understanding of all the program went through, along with the Georgia players and the Georgia fans, that makes his first national title for Georgia so special for Smart.
“From Coach Dooley, seeing him after the game it’s very emotional for me to see him. And then Coach (Ray) Goff who signed me, and Coach (Jim) Donnan, who coached me, and Coach Richt who I worked for and I have a tremendous amount of respect for and he got so close so many times,” Smart said. “There’s a lot of people that it means a lot to. And I, for one, am happy for them, that so many of them are also happy for me.”
Kirby Smart discusses 2022 National Championship win
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