As I waited for the red light to change at the intersection of Mitchell Bridge Road and Atlanta Highway on Monday night, I cried tears of joy.
I was at that intersection because I went to Academy Sports to be among the first people to obtain Georgia Bulldogs national championship gear. I left my apartment as soon as Stetson Bennett connected with Brock Bowers for a touchdown during Monday’s game.
Though I was feeling good after that score, it was still just a one-possession game. And this was Georgia we’re talking about, and we had seen the Bulldogs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory so many times before.
But not this time.
I drove toward Academy and, as the red light stopped me before I could cross Atlanta Highway to the Academy parking lot, I heard Scott Howard on the Georgia radio broadcast tell the world that Kelee Ringo had picked off a pass by Alabama’s Bryce Young.
The excitement in Howard’s voice grew as my eyes welled up. All I could do was scream “Yes!” over and over. Then the tears began streaming.
I said to myself, “Georgia just won the championship,” almost as if I needed to convince myself that my ears weren’t deceiving me.
There was no one else in the car with me. There were no other cars at that intersection. On the surface, it was a lonely moment on a dark, frigid night in Athens, Georgia.
That didn’t matter to me. I could have been locked in a prison cell somewhere for all I cared. As long as the Bulldogs had finally broken through and won it all, I was content regardless of the circumstances.
Ringo’s 79-yard dash for the pick-six chased away more than 41 years’ worth of Bulldog misery. All the crushing defeats and missed opportunities rode on Ringo’s shoulders as he bolted down the field and ensured a Georgia victory.
With all due respect to the Beatles, that was the greatest “get back” involving a Ringo that I will ever experience.
And what about Stetson Bennett? I’ll admit I’ve had my doubts about him, and they crept back up during the early stages of Monday’s game, but his last few drives enshrined him in Bulldogs history.
Bennett’s story is one of the most miraculous things we’ve seen in college football. A former walk-on emerges as QB1 in a room filled with five-stars and leads his team to a national championship.
Not since Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star have we seen such an unlikely hero.
There are so many things to say about this game, and I could write about it for hours. My column space is limited, though, so I best be closing things out.
Monday was the happiest night of my life. The Atlanta Braves’ World Series championship was an amazing experience, of course, but there’s something extra special about seeing your alma mater’s team go all the way.
All the disappointment and heartbreak we experienced as fans over the last several years made this win even sweeter. Like Kirby Smart, however, I hope we don’t have to wait nearly as long before we see a Georgia championship again.
But for now, I don’t care about the future of the program. I just want to revel in the fact the Dawgs are truly on top.