Coach Kirby Smart waves at the parade celebrating the national champion Georgia Bulldogs in Athens on Saturday, January 14, 2023. (Arvin Temkar /

Coach Kirby Smart celebrates, Georgia Bulldogs National Championship Saturday draws thousands

ATHENS — Kirby Smart and his Georgia Bulldogs gathered on Vince Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium one final time to recognize history on Saturday.

It was “Georgia Bulldogs National Championship Saturday,” as designated by Gov. Brian Kemp, and all of the UGA stars and college football dignitaries turned out.

“There is only nine of these,” College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said, “and you have two of them.”

A crowd of approximately 30,000 roared as Smart held the championship trophy high above his head, allowing himself a rare smile and moment of satisfaction.

“This is a special group, most of them sat on this stage last year,” Smart said. “They took advantage of the opportunity in front of them to prove people wrong.”

When asked what he was most proud of as a Bulldog, Quarterback Stetson Bennett provided a curious answer.

“I keep trying to tell people I just did what I thought was right every day,” Bennett said. “The thing I’m going to be most proud of .... y’all burned us, y’all kept telling us how bad we were, and y’all couldn’t understand, and we kept winning, and we kept embarrassing people.

“Y’all had other storylines, and it was 49-3 and 65-7, and you didn’t want to believe it. It makes no sense to me. Screw it, we got two rings, man.”

Smart praised the individual efforts of Kenny McIntosh and Jalen Carter, revealing that McIntosh was injured as he “carried the offense on his shoulders making plays” in the comeback win at Missouri.

Carter, Smart pointed out, is a highly projected draft pick who risked his draft stock by coming back from a sprained knee.

“But he elected to come back and play,” Smart noted, pointing to Carter’s dominant effort in the 27-13 win over then-No. 1 Tennessee. “It was because of the love he has for his brothers.”

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey shared his enthusiasm for the future of the conference, as it will soon expand with the pending additions of Texas and Oklahoma.

“What has happened on the field has me excited about the expansion of our conference to 16 teams,” Sankey said. “And, even with the change to the college football championship (expanding to 12 teams in 2024), we know that we will be in the lead.”

The Bulldogs players emerged from smoke in the northwest tunnel one final time moments earlier.

The voice of the late Vince Dooley provided an introductory narrative that played on the JumboTron, culminating with the iconic phrase: “It’s time to release the Junkyard Dawgs!”

Defensive tackle Warren Brinson, among those in the trucks, took it upon himself to “Call the Dawgs,”keeping the fans fired up amid cool temperatures in the 40s.

The sun continued to shine as the weather warmed into the 50s, fans taking in the glory of Georgia football like never before.

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