ATHENS — Nolan Smith came out of his Georgia football pads for the final time in the 42-20 win over Florida.
But the UGA team captain persevered as a leader, proving valuable guidance as the Bulldogs completed a perfect 15-0 season culminating with a 65-7 CFP Championship Game win over TCU last Monday night in Los Angeles.
“As a kid growing up, watching Georgia, I just wanted to be a part of something that’s bigger than myself and that’s what you allowed me to be a part of,” Smith said in his video.
“To DawgNation, there’s no more thank you than [what] I can give to you all.”
Smith was among the team captains that went to midfield for the coin toss, representing the “G” one final time.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp singled out Smith, who is from Savannah, for praise at the team’s CFP Championship celebration on Saturday.
“It was a tremendous defense at every level, with some incredible leadership from Nolan Smith,” Kemp said. “He was injured and went through the everlasting (grind), but he continued to serve as a captain and as an inspiration to this team.”
Coach Kirby Smart spoke at length about Smith at the CFP Championship Game press conference on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“Nolan is one of those rare guys that saw the value in being from Georgia, committing to Georgia, never wavering from Georgia, and leading the class,” Smart said of Smith, who came to the Bulldogs as the No. 1 ranked player in the 2018 class.
“Of our captains, he was the leading vote-getter. It tells you that everybody respected him. And he was not playing. And he was going to check out and go train and go work out.”
Smart, however, sat Smith down and told him his value to the team was not finished.
“I said, ‘Nolan, it will be the greatest mistake of your life if you leave right now and don’t finish this, because people will remember how you finished,’” Smart said. “Whether we win or lose is irrelevant. But the rest of your life you will be remembered, were you a captain, were you there for everybody? Did you stand by this team? Did you impact them in a way without being on the field? Because NFL teams will value someone who can impact their team when they’re not playing.
“I told him, the Ohio State win, about 20 percent of that win goes to him because he was over on that sideline never doubting, and just kept preaching. It’s little things like that that make a difference in a team.”
Smith’s farewell video came out on Saturday after the team’s CFP Championship celebration at Sanford Stadium.
“This program was built on four things and it’s in the locker room, and you would see them every day: connection, composure, discipline and toughness,” Smith said. “As long as we have those thing, and I say ‘we’ because I’ll be a dawg for life, we’re going to be all right.”