ATHENS — Trent Woods has a problem. He doesn’t know what to wear to Georgia games this fall.
Oh, he knows he’ll be wearing the face of a Bulldog painted atop his bald head. He really has no choice in that. It’s what ensemble to wear with it that has him perplexed.
“It won’t be overalls, I can tell you that,” said Woods, aka Big Dawg III, who will succeed his late father, Mike “Big Dawg” Woods, in carrying on the head-painting tradition this fall. “My wife already said, ‘You’re not wearing overalls.’”
Actually, Big Dawg III’s favorite outfit is his red-and-black kilt. He said he plans to wear it to Notre Dame when Georgia plays the Fighting Irish in South Bend on Sept. 9 — provided he gets tickets. The only problem with that, Woods says, is he plans to be a family-friendly human mascot for the Bulldogs.
“With the kilt, I’d wear it all the time because I get great response from people when I do,” Woods said. “However, I want to be approachable for little kids, and a child looking at a man with a kilt on, to them it’s a skirt. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable.”
Mike ‘Big Dawg’ Woods was well known to most Georgia fans. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)
Ah, these are the problems that face those burdened with carrying on the Big Dawg legacy. And Trent Woods fully intends to do that.
Most UGA fans are familiar with Trent’s father, Mike Woods. He was the one who made the “Big Dawg” superfan tradition famous. He was the man who TV cameras always seemed to find in the stands at Sanford Stadium the last 20 years or so, with his bald head painted with a Bulldog face, his black overalls covered in UGA patches and pins, his rally-the-Dawgs walking stick in hand.
Mike Woods passed away on Jan. 4 because of a chronic heart condition. He was 65.
Everybody knew who Mike Woods was. But UGA fans might be less familiar with the story of how the Big Dawg legacy started.
Lonnie Woods (left) started the family’s head-painting tradition back in the 1980s, when his son Mike still had lots of hair. (Woods Family/courtesy)
Mike Woods was actually Big Dawg II. His father and Trent’s grandfather, Lonnie Woods, was the original Big Dawg. He started the tradition during Georgia’s 1980 national championship season.
Lonnie Woods worked for UGA in the transportation department. In that role, he ended up driving the defensive team’s bus during that magical season. That meant he was, of course, befriended by Georgia’s beloved defensive coordinator, Erk Russell.
Legend has it that Lonnie decided to paint the top of his head with UGA’s trademarked Bulldog face on the occasion of the title game against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Of course, Georgia won, so Russell had Lonnie Woods assure him that he’d paint his head accordingly every week when he drove the bus.
Lonnie Woods did that faithfully until he retired a few years later. He passed away in 1986.
It took Mike Woods a while before he decided to continue the tradition. Trent Woods said it was “sometime in the early 1990s” that his father resumed the practice. Interestingly, Mike Woods never was naturally bald, so he had to shave his head smooth before his wife, Diane, could apply the paint.
That’s something Trent Woods has on his dad.
“Oh, I’m bald,” Trent Woods said with a laugh. “I don’t have to shave the top at all. I still have to shave the sides if I don’t want to look like Larry on The Three Stooges. On top, there’s nothing there. Dad had more hair than I do. People were shocked when they saw Dad at the grocery store out of season.”
Trent Woods (left) is having his mother Diane teach his wife Mandy how to paint the Bulldog face. (Family photo)
Given God’s decision to bless Trent with a blank slate for a pate, Trent has known for a while he would carry on this quirky tradition. He and his father often discussed it. In case there was any question, he made sure fans knew for the G-Day Game in April. He had his mom paint his head for the annual spring intrasquad game, though he went only with the outline of the Bulldog face.
Inside the face, Woods had his mom write a message: “Family tradition to be continued 9/2/2017.”
“The reason I put a coming soon message was my father and grandfather both started it during the season,” Woods said. “I felt it wasn’t right for me to start the new tradition until football season. That’s why I didn’t fill in the face. That was my acknowledgement to the fans that it will be carried on.”
The Woods men take this legacy serious. They are planning a fairly officious ceremony for the actual “passing of the paint” on the morning of Georgia’s season opener against Appalachian State on Sept. 2. The hope is that a good number of fans will gather with them at their usual tailgate spot at Boggs Hall around 9 a.m. as Diane officially paints the Bulldog face on the head of her son. Trent’s wife Mandy will assist. She’s learning how to paint the Bulldog so she can help carry on the tradition in the future.
“We’re going to try to make that day one to honor Dad and officially passing on the Big Dawg tradition,” Trent Woods said of Sept. 2. “It’s going to be hard on my mother. But I always told Dad I was going to make it a legacy. We’d joke around about it. Now it’s happening.”
Trent Woods is 38 and works in building services on UGA’s health and sciences campus. So he plans to carry on the tradition for a good long while. But there’s some question about where it will go from there.
Woods’ only child is a grown stepdaughter, Chrissy Robinson. She is married to a U.S. Marine, Aaron Robinson, and they have a daughter. There is no word on hair-to-skin ratio on Aaron Robinson’s head or his willingness to adorn it with paint — red, black or any color. But that’s an issue for another day.
For now, Trent Woods still has decide what to wear as Big Dawg III. It’s an important decision because it might be one he could be stuck with for up to a half-century.
“My grandfather always wore a suit and tie, a red jacket with a white shirt and a black tie,” Trent Woods said. “I sweat too much for that. Overalls aren’t for me. I’m thinking I’m going to wear red pants. I think that’s what my thing is going to be. That or the kilt. Maybe I’ll switch between the two.”
It’s a tough call, for sure, but I’d go with the kilt.
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