ATLANTA — Kirby Smart was lured from Alabama to take over his alma-mater in Athens less than two years ago for one purpose: To win championships.
Most coaches speak of “five-year plans” and “rebuilding recruiting bases.” Few have the ability to turn around programs in less than two years.
And no one really expected Smart, who had never been a head coach before, to be able mold a group that had shown mediocre success at best into one of the nation’s elite that fast.
But that’s exactly what Smart and his Bulldogs staff accomplished after Saturday night’s 28-7 thrashing of Auburn in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The symbolism of the moment also wasn’t lost on Smart, who starred for the Bulldogs in the 90s.
“I'll tell you what's special to me -- bringing it back to my alma mater is great,” he said afterwards. “To see Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Roquan Smith, hugging on the stage in tears because they care about each other so much. That's why I do this. It's great to bring it back to Georgia, and the Bulldog Nation is certainly starved, but these young men deserve a ton of credit.”
Georgia fans not only now have their long-awaited title -- the first since 2005 -- but they will forever be able to boast of winning the first SEC title game staged at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I think for our fan base and the state and the people around the university it is certainly a prideful thing to be in this beautiful stadium,” he said. “(Atlanta Falcons coach) Dan Quinn called me and said he already painted all the seats red and black for us. So he had it loosened up.”
Smart already may be in contact with Quinn and the Falcons about seeing if they can add a few of their own creature comforts.
“Yeah, I think the first one here, that’s neat,” he said. “We certainly hope to be able to get back to this place and make this a home for us.”