ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has an undeniable connection with his teams, and the 2020 group was certainly no different.
Smart said before the season he had gotten closer to this team as a result of the extra time he spent around them on account of the Covid-19-related recruiting restrictions that enabled him to spend more time on campus.
Smart was a strong and certain voice in college football at the start of the pandemic, displaying his leadership skills at a time of uncertainty.
After an at-times tumultuous summer across the country, Smart brought his team back together and took aim at another championship run.
Luck was not on the Bulldogs’ side, however, as a myriad of injuries led to an 8-2 season, albeit one that ended with the biggest comeback of Smart’s five years as head coach.
Georgia rallied to beat Cincinnati 24-21 in a battle of Top 10 teams after trailing 21-10 entering the fourth quarter.
Smart, who surely secured his fourth-straight Top 10 finish with the victory, delivered a heart-warming speech to his seniors in the locker room at Mercedes-Benz Stadium following the win last Friday:
“If you’re a senior, stand up.
“I want to look you in the eye and tell you, you have just tied — and I count it as you are the winningest group to ever come through here. Y’all are the winningest senior group to ever come through here!
“I appreciate what you’ve done. This will be the last time this group of men will be assembled in here together. Thank the guys you’ve been with. You may not play guys in this group ever again.
“I appreciate your effort, I applaud your effort.
“We didn’t get as many opportunities only 10 games, we won 8 of them.
“Best senior class to ever come through, I love you and I appreciate you, you understand, I love you and I appreciate you.”
@GeorgiaFootball Twitter screenshot
Smart also thanked his seniors publicly in his opening remarks after the victory over the Bearcats improved his record to 10-6 against Top 10 teams.
“These seniors, they tied the winningest record of any senior class to come through,” Smart said. “They really got slighted. We’re going to remove the asterisk and erase it. Because with the (postponed, and then canceled) Vanderbilt game, they would have been able to get that done.
“I just appreciate the guys never quitting and continuing to fight.”
It’s a talented group to be sure with a record seven Georgia football players believed to be headed for the Senior Bowl game in Mobile, Ala., and then likely to the NFL combine.
To the winningest senior class in Georgia Football history…
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) January 4, 2021