ATHENS — Georgia players gradually filed into the Butts-Mehre building on Sunday night for a meeting that had long been planned, but now was about something else: Mark Richt talking to them in person about being fired after 15 years as head coach.
Most players declined comment as they walked in. But a couple did stop, with one of them – senior fullback Quayvon Hicks – issuing an unsolicited message to five-star quarterback recruit Jacob Eason.
It came when Hicks was asked what the message was to incoming recruits.
“Still be here,” Hicks said. “I encourage every recruit not to let this discourage your decision. The program is always gonna be great. I know it’s a big thing especially when you build a relationship with a head coach. Especially Jacob Eason. That kid should keep his head on straight. Enjoy the process. But if you want to make a difference come here and win some ballgames. That’s what you do. That’s what the business is about. When money is involved, it is what it is, that’s how it goes.”
Hicks said he was surprised by the news on Sunday morning. He called Richt “a great man, as we all know,” but said he understood it was a business.
“I guess it’s not my place to say a lot, but it’s a part of it. I’ve enjoyed my four years having him as a head coach. Thankful to be in this place. This G was here before me and will be with me after it. I guess you’ve just gotta understand it’s a part of the business. Do what you can to help the program. I think he’s done everything he can do. Obviously that decision is out of his hands, it’s out of our hands. As a team we’ve gotta make sure we stay together. Make sure that our minds are right. We understand it’s bigger than us.”
Senior offensive lineman Kolton Houston was among many who said they would prefer to talk after the meeting.
“I wanna go to the meeting, get some more facts, and then we can talk,” Houston said.
Senior defensive end Josh Dawson at first didn’t want to talk but changed his mind to say a few words about his coach.
“Yeah I was (surprised). Coach Richt’s a good guy. But Georgia’s doing what’s best for them,” Dawson said. “The guys will miss him. That’s the one thing. The guys will all miss him. He was a great coach to us.”
Richt will be coaching Georgia one final time, in its bowl game. Dawson was asked what that would be like for the underclassmen who will be playing for a coach who won’t be around after the game.
“I feel like they will fight, like they’ve always done. The older guys, the younger guys, we all love coach Richt,” Dawson said. “So I feel like we’ll fight for him.”
What do the players love about Richt?
“Just his heart,” Dawson said. “And how much he loves everybody. All the same: Walk-ons, scholarship athletes. He loves all of us. He just teaches us all to be a good man, and that’s one thing I liked about him.”
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