Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp prepares to speak at the Peachtree Dekalb Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, July 1, 2020. Governor Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey will take part in a "Wear a Mask" Flyaround Tour of Georgia, encouraging Georgians to follow the guidance of public health officials to stop the spread of COVID-19 ahead of the 4th of July Weekend. (REBECCA WRIGHT FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)

Governor Kemp hopeful Georgia football ‘back to normal’ with full stadiums, tailgating

Georgia football fans had a tough fight to obtain tickets to the annual G-Day Game spring scrimmage,  which took place in front of a limited and socially-distanced crowd Saturday afternoon.

However, Georgia governor Brian Kemp believes those restrictions could be a thing of the past the next time UGA fans get together inside Sanford Stadium.

“I’m seeing a big light at the end of the tunnel, especially into the fall,” Gov. Kemp said Friday on DawgNation Daily. “I completely believe we can be back to 100 percent capacity, tailgating and really back to normal.”

There’s some evidence the rest of the SEC is also moving in that direction.

Alabama held its spring game last Saturday and allowed 47,218 fans, which was the largest crowd for an American sporting event since the pandemic began.

Likewise, Mississippi State hosted Ole Miss in baseball last weekend and drew crowds of more than 10,000 per game — attendance totals that would rival many Major League Baseball games thus far this season.

Kemp thinks Georgia is on its way to similar crowds for sporting events, but he wants more of the state’s residents vaccinated to ensure it happens.

“I want to continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” Kemp said. “That’s the best way for us to be able to do that.”

In particular, Kemp has a special message for those between the ages of 18-35.

“I know one thing the Bulldog Nation can help me with, and a lot of our public health and medical people with is to encourage [young people] to get vaccinated,” Kemp said. “There are still a lot of those folks who view themselves as invincible to Covid-19. It’s still best for them, in my opinion, to get vaccinated. I would encourage them to talk to their medical provider and consider doing that.

“And I certainly appreciate Coach [Kirby] Smart making that leap the other day and setting a great example for everyone.”

Smart was one of 42 UGA athletics staff members to be vaccinated at the beginning of April.

“I believe the most important people in my life in terms of shaping my life are my mother and father,” Smart said at the time. “I believe vaccinations [are] important. They both received theirs, and I’ll be receiving mine so they can continue to enjoy their grandkids.”

Kemp’s interest in Smart and the Bulldogs is about more than just official state business. He’s a big fan of the program and tries to follow the news about the team as closely as he can.

“I’m definitely very busy, but I’m a pretty religious, quick observer of DawgNation in the morning,” Kemp said. “I try to follow what’s going on.  If nothing else, at least the headlines. I try to follow recruiting.”

Kemp also believes that in addition to a more festive atmosphere around the stadium this fall, it can also be a special year on the field.

“Look, we’ve got the players, we’ve just got to keep people healthy,” Kemp said. “I think that’s one thing that hurt us last year in some of our bigger games is we had a lot of key people injured. So we need the Good Lord to look after us and keep people healthy this year. 

“We’ve got the team and the talent, I think, to compete with anybody in the country if we do that.”