Georgia football-nakobe dean-channing tindall-national championship
Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker (44), Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean (17), Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith (4), Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88), Georgia inside linebacker Channing Tindall (41) during the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Ind., on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall recount memorable National Championship outburst: ‘He had some words for me’

When you think of the most important moment from Georgia’s 33-18 win over Alabama, maybe you think of Kelee Ringo’s pick-6. Or Stetson Bennett’s touchdown pass to Adoani Mitchell.

But if you want to know why Georgia finally exorcised its demons against the Crimson Tide, it starts with one teammate getting in the face of another and demanding more.

Related: The hidden Travon Walker play that shows why the 2021 Georgia football team became ‘legendary’

Channing Tindall readily admits that he messed up. On second and goal with 7:49 remaining in the second, Tindall was in coverage, guarding tight end Cameron Latu as he came underneath on a shallow cross. But he was also keeping an eye on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who burned Georgia with his legs multiple times in the SEC championship game.

“The person went under me, so he was my crosser but I was scared of the QB as well,” Tindall said while speaking at Georgia’s pro day. “I was indecisive and like, ‘what do I do?’”

Tindall collided with fellow linebacker Nakobe Dean, creating some separation for Latu in the endzone. Fortunately for Georgia, Dean recognized what was unfolding and recovered in time to break up the pass.

There was no celebrating or sigh of relief from Dean. The Georgia linebacker made a beeline to Tindall and did not hold back.

“He had some words for me,” Tindall said with a chuckle. “That’s all I’m going to say about that one.”

Dean acknowledged there was some miscommunication on the play. Emotions were running high, as Georgia was trying to keep Alabama within one score, as opposed to falling behind 13-3.

While Dean was screaming at him, Tindall can be seen waving Dean off, as a way of owning up to his mistake. Tindall was trying to move onto the next play, a critical third down.

On this play, there was no indecisiveness. Tindall attacked. As Young broke the pocket to scramble, the speedy linebacker took off and brought down the Alabama quarterback for a sack. It ended a promising Alabama drive.

“He just held me accountable for my mistake,” Tindall said of Dean. “Just the next play, made up for the mistake.”

Win or lose that Dean’s outburst was going to be a flashpoint in the discussion of the game. Had Georgia lost, critics would’ve pointed to that moment as the Bulldogs not being able to handle the enormity of the situation, fair or not.

Instead, it has since been praised as a shining example of player leadership. Kirby Smart said all season Georgia was a player-led team. Dean demanding more from Tindall at that moment is exactly what that looks like.

“It’s just knowing our guys. If we didn’t have that connection, if we weren’t so close, I wouldn’t have been able to do that to him,” Dean said. “He understood, he knew what we had to do to fix it.”

Georgia players and coaches spoke a lot about being more connected, both throughout the season and once again at Georgia’s pro day. Tindall and Dean were showcasing their talents to NFL evaluators. But there was still the desire to see teammates perform well, even if they’re prepping to move on as individuals.

There were once again multiple mentions of the offseason skull session, where players and coaches really got to know each other not just as players but as people. It created a bond between players that was able to withstand the pressure of the national championship game. To withstand the 41-year drought of Georgia and the parade of defeats against Alabama.

“I feel like we weren’t just teammates, we were friends,” Dean said. “I feel like that made it better for all of us.”

Now having time to reflect on his mistake and Dean’s reaction, Tindall can’t help but smile. He knows exactly what Dean wanted out of him.

“If he yells at me, it is what is,” Tindall said. “He’s yelling at me for a reason. He knows my why and I know his why.”

Both Dean and Tindall spoke about how bittersweet Wednesday was, as it was almost certainly the last time the two and fellow inside linebacker Quay Walker were all going to be on the field together in Georgia gear.

Related: ‘Frustrated’ Nakobe Dean slowed by injury during Georgia football Pro Day

But the trio will always have the memorable 2021 season. For Dean and Tindall, they’ll always be intertwined by that moment and the plays each made before and after.

And while there are many small moments or plays that helped the 2021 Georgia team become legendary, Dean yelling at Tindall and Tindall’s response might best exemplify why the Bulldogs were able to win it all for the first time in 41 years.

“When you want it for people in the room, it makes it a lot more special,” Smart said after the game.

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