Why UGA Head Coach Kirby Smart Is Glad to Be Back in Athens

For UGA Head Coach Kirby Smart, it’s good to be home. Since returning to Athens, Coach Smart has brought a renewed excitement to the Bulldog Nation.


SOUTH MAGAZINE: How did it feel to walk into Sanford Stadium at the 2016 Spring Game?

KIRBY SMART: It was a very different feeling. It was unique because of the number of people that attended. I had no idea we would achieve it but I’m glad we did. We threw the challenge out there and I wanted to get more than we’d been getting in the past. I knew the people of Georgia were hungry and excited. Plus, we had a great TV time, so we had a lot of people who could travel and get there for the game. When I walked out there I was a little awestruck. Even the stairwells and rafters were packed.


SM: Did it feel different to be ‘between the hedges’ as head coach rather than a player?

KS: For me, it’s about making the kids better, making the team better. I don’t want to get caught up in the moment of “it’s about me”. It’s about what I can do to make these players better. It’s a teaching opportunity and hopefully some kid will learn a lesson about how to play better down the road.


SM: It seems like a brand new day at Georgia… new coach, new dog, new players. 

KS: It is an exciting time. Being an alumnus, I’ve had a lot people that I’ve known throughout the years reach out to me and they’re excited about the opportunities in front of us. I think sometimes when there is change, it brings about new energy and that’s good for all parties involved. I know Coach Richt is going through that same rejuvenation at Miami. That’s where he played and so it’s special to him. Rejuvenation and change can bring about that energy.


SM: Mark Richt left quite a footprint on Georgia football. 

KS: I worked with him for a year in 2000. I think the world of him. I learned from Coach Richt that you can only control certain things. There are certain things you can’t control, but you can’t get consumed by that and let it eat away at you. I think what Coach Richt did here was tremendous. He honored his family and I will work to keep my wife and kids in the forefront. I understand this is a job but I’m also a father and husband.


SM: What do you think is unique about Georgia football? 

KS: There’s a spirit of oneness of great competitiveness. And there’s state pride. It’s serious here. It starts at the high school level and it’s so unique in Georgia. There’s such passion and energy. A lot of other states may have that but they don’t have the same community support. The high schools players carry that pride up to the University of Georgia. Many of our great players come from these great programs. 


Catch Kirby Smart's Show Thursday Nights at 8 p.m. during the season on ESPN radio WSEG 104.3 or AM 1400.


To read the rest of Kirby Smart's interview, subscribe now or pick up the August/September issue of South magazine.