ATHENS — When it came time to vote on which senior would represent them by speaking at Saturday’s gala, all eyes turned to receiver Malcolm Mitchell. It required a speech in front of a ballroom full of people, so Mitchell was reluctant. Or at least that’s what Mitchell said Saturday night as he began his speech.
“But my dear friend Kolton Houston said – and I quote: ‘You should’ve thought about that before you wrote a children’s book,'” Mitchell said.
That brought a laugh, but the rest of Mitchell’s speech was used as a going-away present to Mark Richt, who flew in from Miami to appear at Georgia’s gala at the invitation of the seniors. Here was what Mitchell said:
“You know we all came in as freshmen with our own thoughts and mentalities, and through our experience here our relationships shaped the outcome. Our relationships with our professors, classmates, teammates, of course the UGA and Athens community. But there’s one thing that we do have in common, and that’s the undeniable heart to compete at the highest level for a university with such great tradition. And be permanent members of the Bulldog family. It’s Saturday in Athens will forever be in our heart, no matter where the next chapter takes us. We’re entrusted to carry on the UGA Bulldog tradition and to the best of our abilities represent the state of Georgia.
“Tonight is a bittersweet night for the seniors. As we prepare for the Taxslayer Bowl we do so with the noticeable absence of the one individual we owe the most thanks to, coach Mark Richt. He taught us how to deal with adversity and change.
“For me personally, the kid from Valdosta, Ga., an immature kid, and helped transform me into a Division I athlete, a self-published author (laughter from the audience) and a college graduate. (Applause.) The relationship we’ve built with coach Richt is worth more than any championship we could have won, and something that we’ll forever cherish.
“Coach Richt, we do know things change. We wish you the best of luck in the ACC. But we know you’ll always be a Bulldog and forever us seniors, our head coach.
“I want to thank everybody for believing in us. I want to thank everybody for giving us the opportunity to play. But most important, I want to thank everybody for helping us create the memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you.”