Georgia defensive back Javon Bullard (22) poses with the Defensive MVP trophy after Georgia’s 42-41 win against Ohio State in the Peach Bowl Playoff Semifinal, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Sat., Dec. 31, 2022, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

2023 Georgia football identity emerging: ‘It’s an honor for us to wear this G’

ATHENS — Spring football fever is in the air at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall with returning Georgia players setting the tone on the field through two practices.

Fifteen minutes of open practice on Thursday was plenty of time to observe that Kirby Smart has yet another loaded roster of Bulldogs that pass the eye test.

Inside the football building — and within the hearts of many of the returning players — a healing process is underway.

Smart talked about it at the opening spring football press conference on Tuesday, and on Thursday night, Georgia took another step by privately honoring a fallen teammate.

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Senior captain Sedrick Van Pran shared that a portrait of teammate Devin Willock, who was killed in a well-documented Jan. 15 crash, has been hung up in the offensive line meeting room.

Van Pran was among those at the scene in those tragic early morning hours after the vehicle recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy was diving crashed into a brick residential building, killing her along with Willock.

Van Pran was clearly touched by Willock’s memory when asked about the team’s approach to “Do It For Dev.”

“It’s a guy that I came in with,” Van Pran, “so you know it’s tough …. "

The Bulldogs and their head coach have owned up to their challenging offseason.

Smart, the preeminent football program builder in the nation, likely recognizes acknowledgment is an important part of the process of moving forward.

A former Georgia All-SEC football player himself, Smart has always emphasized the importance of maintaining championship standards on and off the field.

Junior defensive back Javon Bullard shared how he has learned under the leadership of former players like Lewis Cine, Nakobe Dean and Chris Smith, along with current players like Van Pran.

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Bullard, now in a leadership position himself, explained on Thursday how there’s much more to Georgia football than winning football games.

“Just wearing this ‘G,’ like we say in the room, this G is just as important as your last name,” Bullard said. “This G is very important and people love and respect the G, and it’s an honor for us to wear this G.

“You are to respect it whether you are on the field or off the field, you have to do what you got to do in order to not bring a bad name to the G and to your last name, so you have to watch your surroundings and keep your head straight.”

Smart likes to say that the spring football season is when team’s form their identity, and this 2023 stretch is no different.

Each of the first five Georgia players who have met with the media — Ladd McConkey, Zion Logue, Kendall Milton, Bullard and Van Pran — have touched on character and high standards.

Smart’s messages inside the football building have clearly resonated, while the team remains every bit as determined on the field.

“One of the things that Coach Smart has been trying to instill in us is understanding that a lot of things have been inherited,” Van Pran said. “So far, we haven’t earned anything with this team in particular, so what are we going to do to earn it?”

Bullard, the Defensive MVP of the CFP Championship Game, echoed that sentiment.

“I’m still eating off the floor,” Bullard said. “Like Coach Smart preaches, there’s no entitlement.”

The Bulldogs will hold their third of 15 spring practices on Saturday.

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