When Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart spoke this summer at SEC Media Days, he said connection would be at the forefront of everything his football team worked toward during the 2021 season.
The 2020 season will always be marked by COVID’s impact upon it, but the effects weren’t all negative. It provided some valuable teaching points, and the main takeaway for Kirby Smart was the importance of unity and togetherness as a football team.
"We’ve taken a very introspective look this year after the season last year. We did a lot of surveys, a lot of talking to our players, and one of the key words, the biggest thing came out is connection. When you’re on a Zoom with somebody, it’s hard to have a connection. When you’re not allowed to sit within six feet of somebody, it’s hard to have a connection. We had some players that didn’t get to meet and know everybody on the team throughout the season because so much was done through Zoom and different methods of communication.So connection is one of the key ingredients for this team. We have been very intentional about it. We’ve given up football time. We’ve given up workout time to spend more time with each other, and that’s beginning to pay off as we see it here in the summer with guys leading, guys getting in front of the group and leading skill sessions and being very active."
Watching the Dawgs thus far this season, it’s become crystal clear that connection is at the core of Georgia football’s early-season success.
The entire roster is invested in each other. Everybody eats. and if you watch the Georgia sideline when you’re attending the game in person, or on the TV broadcast, you can just see that this team likes each other.
They enthusiastically support their teammates successes, and encourage them when things go a bit sideways.
So, it was appropriate that during the 11 am hour of ESPN’s College GameDay, Kirk Herbstreit led a segment that was aimed to highlight the success of Georgia’s ferocious defense.
And while it certainly did that, what it truly highlighted was this Georgia football team’s cohesive bond.
The piece featured safety Lewis Cine, and linebackers Channing Tindall, Nolan Smith, Nakobe Dean, and Adam Anderson.
Herbstreit opened the interview by asking the group to give him one word to describe the Georgia defense. Almost in unison, the group replied, “Connected.”
Channing Tindall expanded, saying, “We’re like family. Even outside of football, we’re always together.”
Sensing a larger theme, Herbstreit wondered if that connection was every season, or if this season was different.
Nakobe Dean provided further context explaining, “This whole team is just connected more. I know if I call guys, day or night, they’ll be there.”
Nolan Smith immediately picked up on what Dean was describing and continued, “We took things to a whole ‘nother level off the field . . . we’ve just built connection. Then, when we get on the field, we’re thinking the same thing already.”
Dean closed out the thought with, “Everybody’s on the same page, the right page – there’s no ego.”
There’s something special going on in the Classic City this season. There’s a bond between this group of Dawgs that seems rare.
By continuing to focus on and foster their connection, they may do something else that’s rare – win a national championship.
Whether that ends up happening or not, Georgia football fans should enjoy every second of not just a special season, but a special group of young men.