ESPN sideline reporter and SECNation host Laura Rutledge has encountered quite a few intriguing experiences surrounding the Georgia football program over the last several weeks. On Thursday, DawgNation received an opportunity to chat with Rutledge on all of those subjects.
She also weighed in on Georgia’s chances of making the College Football Playoffs and the best place to get tailgate supplies for the SEC Championship.
Without a doubt, Rutledge has received the most attention off air this season for two players nailing her along the sideline during the Georgia-UMass game on Nov. 17. But on the same day prior to her sideline encounter, Rutledge experienced another blooper reel moment.
Georgia’s mascot, Uga X, appeared on ESPN’s “SEC Nation”, and Rutledge was holding his leash when suddenly, the 62-pound bulldog decided he had experienced enough of the show and tried to leave the set. Apparently his departure was coming at all costs because Uga X dragged Rutledge along the ground with him.
“I love Uga. Uga does not love me as much as I love him,” she said.
Rutledge hilariously described the moment during our conversation. She explained that she interacted with Uga prior to the show, hoping he would grow comfortable with her. But all bets were off when the cameras started.
“I got down to try to get him to give me a kiss or something, and he totally denies me (on air), which earlier on in the day, he hadn’t been doing that. He was all in. We were really vibing with each other,” Rutledge said. “But then I guess the camera lights hit him, and all the sudden, he just wasn’t feeling it anymore.
“But then he started to sort of run away and pull me. I thought ‘I cannot let go of this dog because if Uga goes on the loose, and if I lose him, I will never be forgiven.’ It would just be the worst thing in the world.”
She does own a dog at home named Remmy, but he is a miniature long-haired dachshund and weighs no more than 13 pounds. Of those two dogs, Uga is clearly more the offensive linemen-type.
So Rutledge saved Uga at her own expense. Maybe as a way to say thank you, the University of Georgia made sure the ESPN reporter was alright after two players nailed her on the sideline during that day’s game.
Rutledge said before the hit (shown below), she made sure to watch the play and listen for the whistle as she always does before preparing for her sideline report. The whistle did blow, and she had two security guards standing next to her, and yet still, she met Georgia running back Prather Hudson in the most unusual way.
— Laura Rutledge (@LauraMRutledge) November 18, 2018
“Honestly, it probably should have been a penalty,” she joked. “It was a little late hit after the play there.
“It hurt pretty bad in the moment. I honestly did not even know what had happened, which I think was probably a good thing for me in the long run.”
As an athlete on the field would do, Rutledge got up, dusted herself off and did her sideline report. At halftime, the University of Georgia took her in for x-rays, which she was extremely thankful for afterwards. She says the players’ cleats hit her foot, and she received bruises on her back, neck and shoulder, but nothing was broken.
Now almost two weeks later, she still isn’t fully recovered, but she can wear normal shoes again. And just like a player at the end of the football season, she’s not sitting out. Rutledge hasn’t missed a day of work since the hit.
“I’m playing hurt a little bit, but I’m on the mend.”
It probably helped that the hit led to a very funny Twitter interaction with Hudson and UMass player Josiah Johnson.
— Prather Hudson (@PRAYHUD) November 20, 2018
I wanna take credit for being your wing man, I mean I did help y’all meet 😉 https://t.co/jGicwDvnSv
— Josiah Johnson (@JosiahJohnsonQB) November 20, 2018
Rutledge is married, but she made sure to let Hudson down easy.
“I didn’t want to tweet back, ‘Hey, man. I’m married’ right away because I didn’t want to make him feel stupid,” she said. “But my husband and I were actually laughing about it, and then, we eventually had to sort of break the news there. But I admire his boldness and cleverness, and I thought the whole thing ended up being hilarious.”
It may end up being a once-in-a-career moment too. Rutledge says she’s been on the sidelines as a reporter for around 1,000 games and nothing has ever happened to her like that. Previously, the closest she came to receiving an injury as a reporter was innocently tripping over a camera cord.
Rutledge didn’t have any more luck with Georgia back in October either. She made what she now calls an “ill-advised” bet with fellow ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor, who is a Georgia graduate, that Florida would beat Georgia on Oct. 27. As Bulldogs fans know, Georgia mostly dominated, 36-17.
As part of her bet, Rutledge had to record herself doing a Georgia chant wearing a Bulldogs jersey.
— Laura Rutledge (@LauraMRutledge) October 28, 2018
Her father helped pay her debt. He held the camera, and ironically enough, he is a Georgia Tech fan.
“I’m not sure, as a Georgia Tech guy, he has recovered yet,” she joked. “I think that’s another fun kicker for Georgia fans — to know that a Georgia Tech grad had to film that video.”
The end of our conversation with Rutledge switched to the SEC Championship and Pilot Flying J as one of the best places to get tailgate supplies.
“I think the biggest thing with Pilot is that when you’re in the SEC or just around the country and you may be on the road and kind of figuring out ‘Ok, at the last minute, I’ve got to grab some tailgating stuff.’ They really are a one-stop shop for all of that.”
Rutledge picked Alabama to win this weekend, but she says the Bulldogs still have a chance to get into the College Football Playoffs because of the eye test.
“Georgia, to me, no matter what happens against Alabama, is deserving to be in the College Football Playoffs,” she stated. “I get it, they do have the one loss to LSU. They would have another loss to Alabama, but it’s not apples to apples because Alabama is the No. 1 team, and Georgia has to play them to try and get into the College Football Playoffs.
“I don’t think you can watch the way that Georgia plays in comparison to Oklahoma and Ohio State and say that Georgia is not better than them. They just are. They are a more complete team.”