Rest in peace Devin Willock. Rest in peace, Chandler Lecroy. We at DawgNation extend the DEEPEST sympathies to their families, loved ones and the entire Georgia football and University of Georgia community today.
Impact of Vince Dooley still very apparent on Georgia football program
Even if Vince Dooley wasn’t physically at Georgia’s trophy celebration on Saturday, it was hard to ignore the presence of the Georgia icon as the Bulldogs celebrated their second-consecutive national championship.
For one, the celebration was held on Vince Dooley Field, with Kirby Smart, Greg Sankey, Brian Kemp and many other important figures taking the time to recognize the impact Dooley had not just on the Georgia football program but the University of Georgia as a whole.
Athletic director Josh Brooks said it best.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Dooley is Georgia athletics and Georgia athletics is coach Dooley,” Brooks said.
Dooley passed away at the age of 90 on Oct. 28, prior to Georgia’s game against Florida. The former Georgia coach and athletic director was a fixture around the program, even in his later years.
One of the more special moments Smart had after winning Georgia’s first championship was finding Dooley at the team hotel prior to Georgia’s win over Alabama. The two met once again on the field in Indianapolis afterward to celebrate Georgia’s first national championship win since Dooley was the program’s head coach in 1980.
“I got off the elevator the other night and I thought it was a sign when the elevator opened on the 15th floor and Vince Dooley was sitting on a bench locked out of his room,” Smart said in January of 2022. “I thought, God put him there for me to see him the night before his game, and he was waiting on his key to come up to his room. I just knew that meant something.”
Vince Dooley, seen here with Kirby Smart after the national championship win over Bama, is a favorite past coach. (Tony Walsh/UGA)
Dooley wasn’t on hand to congratulate the Bulldogs after going back-to-back, but his fingerprints were all over this team. Almost literally, as the Bulldogs wore a special patch honoring Dooley during the closing stretch of the season. Smart also dressed up as Dooley for a post-game press conference after the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech.
Georgia also honored Dooley, and fellow Georgia icon Charley Trippi, prior to the team’s game against Tennessee. That contest proved to be seminal during Georgia’s season. The Bulldogs were very publicly doubted in the run-up to that game, only to come out and lay the smackdown on the Volunteers.
Related: Vince Dooley’s impact celebrated, warm memories stirred at UGA memorial service
The Bulldogs played for Dooley that day and carried the swagger from that game throughout the rest of the season. The public doubt about this Georgia team gave them enough mental and physical toughness to finish out Georgia’s first unbeaten season since Dooley was the program’s head coach in 1980.
Of course, Dooley wasn’t just a great head coach but also an athletic director for the school. He hired multiple championship-winning head coaches, turning Georgia into one of the best athletic departments in the country.
That is what Brooks is aiming to build. He pointed out in his speech on Saturday that in addition to the continued on-field football success that the volleyball and soccer teams had impressive seasons, as both made and won games in their respective NCAA tournaments.
“Coach Dooley, the entire Dooley family means so much to me. I just love them so much,” Brooks said. “I’m so honored Mrs. Barabra and their family were able to be a part of this journey with us over these last few weeks, accompanying us to the Peach Bowl and to the National Championship Game.”
Brooks admitted there have been times when he could pick up the phone and ask Dooley for advice. No doubt Dooley would’ve been able to play some role in helping guide Georgia through difficult coming weeks following the tragic loss of offensive lineman Devin Willock and staffer Chandler LeCroy. Brooks, Smart and president Jere Morehead will now have to help Georgia heal, as the triumvirate did in 2022 following the passing of Dooley.
Related: Remembering the gone-far-too-soon-life of Devin Willock: ‘He was my favorite OL’
Brooks added that the school was going to continue to honor Dooley in every way possible, as Dooley an unquantifiable impact on the school. You can bet Willock and LeCroy will be honored throughout the coming weeks and months.
Georgia did so once again for Dooley and the members of his family on Saturday. Not just with the mentions during the trophy celebration but with actions as well. To conclude the festivities, it was members of Dooley’s family who raised the 2022 Georgia football national championship banner into the sky.
It was a fitting end to the afternoon. Banners fly forever, as Dooley will have an everlasting impact on the University of Georgia.
Georgia football celebrates national championship in Sanford Stadium