A fall not forgotten...

Me and Loran Smith on Saturday in Athens. "I want to get a picture, Miss America!" :)

Many of you may know Loran Smith as the sideline reporter from the days of Larry Munson and his famous "Whatcha got, Loran" directives. Or you may know him today as the legendary voice on the UGA radio pre-game show, the Tailgate Show. Or as the longtime fundraiser for UGA Athletics. Or even from his many columns and books that have reached thousands and thousands of readers over the years.

For me, Loran is a friend, mentor, cheerleader and inspiration. For a man who writes so many stories about so many other people, he is rarely written about himself, mostly because of his humble nature and desire to place the spotlight on others. 

Cobb Life Magazine gave me the chance to change that, and I wrote about my days working for Loran and his incredible spirit in the October issue, which just hit stands yesterday. I was able to give Loran some advanced copies in Athens on Saturday before the Dawgs met the 'Dores between the hedges and, of course, he insisted on a picture. :) 

If you get a moment, please read the story below that I wrote about Loran and pick up an issue of Cobb Life around town. His story deserves to be heard, even if it is told by a non-famous, young and still-learning writer.

A fall not forgotten...

By Katy Ruth Camp

Most people know Loran Smith as “the voice.” For decades, his distinct, melodic, Southern cadence has lit up radio airwaves on those Saturdays between the hedges. His books and columns have given life and permanence to the history of Athens and its people and he is easily included in the definition of University of Georgia football nostalgia.

But for one, never-to-be-forgotten year, a bubbly, naive college senior learning to transition from writing to becoming a writer found a lifelong friend, mentor and the greatest storyteller to ever live in the man behind the voice.

When I first met Loran, I could hear him coming from two rooms past our tiny student worker office at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, the home of UGA athletics. I didn’t have to see him to know it was the infamous Loran Smith approaching. I grew up on that voice, paired with Larry Munson’s, and to this day, just two of their spoken words bring me back to my grandparents’ house on Lake Weiss, running barefoot with my cousins through the grass and listening to the Dawgs play through their tiny black radio. As he entered the room, he had a few jokes for the sports information employees he knew and reached his hand out to those of us he didn’t.  He was jovial, charming and everything you would expect Loran Smith to be.

As my job as a student writer and media coordinator for the UGA Athletic Association progressed, I found myself entering his office door more and more. Upon my request, he often would critique my next article for the Red and Black or my next sports piece for the university.  I knew he was a busy man and I knew he didn’t have much time to spend on a college student’s article when his own columns and books were being read by thousands each week, so a part of me was always pleasantly surprised and appreciative when he would hand me back my printed words, now covered in Loran’s red ink.

I was underpaid and overworked but I so loved that job, and Loran was a great part of that. If I ever needed a pick-me-up or just a little dose of sunshine for the day, a visit to Loran’s office – with his big smile, hearty laugh and crazy stories – would always do the trick.

He is the keeper of so many tales, legends and memories that it is equally heartbreaking and perfect that many of those will probably never be told, except perhaps to his many friends in Heaven. I often tried to test the keeper and his memory of steel, but it would usually only result in his sharing another wildly entertaining story I had never heard before and a long laugh. One day in particular, I decided to take a break from my research on the history of UGA baseball. I was working on a long feature piece about the program and was digging deep into names and games that people probably hadn’t thought of in years. I randomly picked a baseball player from a 1970s team of no real stardom or importance – so much so that I forgot the name a week later - and marched into Loran’s office. I was sure I would finally have him stumped and playfully demanded, “Alright, Loran. Tell me: who is –“ and read out the name. Immediately, Loran spun around in his chair and said, “Oh, don’t you know, his Daddy was a longtime athletic director in south Georgia,” and he went on to tell about the player, the position he played and all of the great things this baseball player had done in the business community since he graduated. “Do you need to reach him? I think I have his phone number, or I can at least find it for you,” he said with a big smile. I simply laughed, spun on my heels and jokingly yelled as I walked back to my office, “One of these days, Loran!”

I also learned that, for a man who has spent almost his entire life in the spotlight, Loran is not always one to seek it. During the 2007 signing day, Butts-Mehre was a madhouse and was filled with local and national journalists, football players, coaches and fans wanting to get a peek at the next class of Bulldogs. I shuffled through the crowd between my office and his with some work I had done for him in hand. When I reached his door, I thought it was odd that it was closed, as it was almost always open and I knew he was there. I knocked and he yelled, “Who is it?” “It’s me, Loran.” “Oh, Miss America. Come in.”

When I opened the door, he was in his usual routine, talking to someone on speakerphone, motioning to me as he spoke and his computer screen filled with his next column, half-written. Once he got off the phone, I handed him the papers. “There are all kinds of people out there, Loran. Don’t you want to be out there?” “No, I don’t want to talk to those people. I have work to do. Hopefully once lunchtime comes around, they’ll be gone so I can go, too.” It would have been easy and understandable for Loran to put himself out there, soak in adoration from fans and fellow journalists, maybe get some screen time and his name in ink, but he wanted no part of it.

Loran, does, however, wish the spotlight upon those he loves and has always been the first to offer support and help if it is needed. When I told him upon graduation that I was applying for an internship in Governor Sonny Perdue’s Press Office, he was excited for me and wished me luck. On my second day of the job, Governor Perdue walked up to my desk, smiled and placed a letter in front of me. Immediately, I noticed Loran’s handwriting and signature. He had written the Governor a letter, telling him shining things about me and encouraging him to give me the job. It was just an internship and I was probably dead last on the Governor’s list of personnel priorities, but I almost cried, right then and there. I never asked him to do that and he never told me he was going to, but that’s Loran.

I still make it a point to hug his neck at the radio booth before each home game, to call him and Myrna to catch up and to have lunch with him when he’s in town. Every time, it’s like that bit of sunshine in my day, all over again. I know I am not the first person nor certainly the last to have her life changed simply by knowing him but, for one, wonderful year, and for many years since, I can say, “whatcha got, Loran,” and know I will hear the man behind the voice in return.

Glory, Glory to Ole' Georgia

Glory, Glory to Ole’ Georgia.

On the night of Nov. 12, 2005, under the lights of Sanford Stadium that suddenly seemed so harsh and glaring, I punched an Auburn fan.

OK, not really. I mean, no one really believes that, right? I’m 5’2” on a good day and have hands that barely cover the laces of a football – not to mention I was barely 21 and looked like I was 18. But I did give him a good, scary, Southern girl earful. You see, on that night, after the Deep South’s oldest rivalry ended with Auburn beating Georgia 31-30, this Auburn coed (as my beloved Loran Smith calls students) was happily, drunkenly and brutally kicking the beautiful green hedges lining our beloved field as I walked by. No one kicks our hedges. No one. And he was no longer kicking them after that talking-to, either.

Glory, Glory to Ole’ Georgia.

Every good Dawg knows that, like “between the hedges,” our symbols of Georgia – our songs, our landmarks, our traditions, our cheers, our voices, our characters, our reminders of history – are so close to our hearts, disrespecting them is like disrespecting our Mama’s. You just don’t do that at Georgia.

There’s the trumpet solo from the upper deck corner of the south side of the stadium that plays the first seven notes of the “Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation.” Luckily for me, this is played right above the seats holding the same four season tickets that my grandparents have unwaveringly owned for more than 50 years. It is played so slowly, clearly and proudly that nary a Dawg gets chills, nor maybe even watery eyes. That is followed by cheers, then the nostalgic, wonderful, can’t-be-beat voice of Larry Munson ringing over the crowd and ending with those “two, simple words: GO DAWGS” but beginning with five:

Glory, Glory to Ole’ Georgia.

There are so many other symbols of Georgia Bulldog football pride, creating their places in history since the first UGA football game in 1892, against Mercer. There's the ringing of the old bell after each Georgia win (and even some proud losses) on North Campus near Herty Field, where many of those first games were played.There's the Dawg Walk before the game, where the players excitedly load off their busses and walk into the stadium to the sounds of the Red Coat Marching Band playing and the crowd of fans cheering from every crevice of the Tate Student Center. The many, many lyricized chants that echo loudly across the most beautiful college town on Earth. The silver britches. The cute, real and aptly-ferocious bulldog, Uga. (And if you don’t believe that, just ask Auburn’s Robert Baker.)

Glory, Glory to Ole’ Georgia.

Then there are the characters. So many quirky, distinct and statuesque characters that even the greatest novelist to ever live could not create them and be met with believing readers. These names, faces and voices have held loyalty of steel to the university for more decades than most of us have been alive.

I would be remiss to mention “the greatest bulldog of them all,” Dan Magill, after that sentence. Coach Magill held many positions with UGA Athletics but was best known for creating, building and championing UGA’s successful tennis program (John Isner, anyone?) before passing away at the age of 93 on Saturday. I remember sitting in his office as a student worker for UGA Athletics many times and he would tell me stories of growing up in Athens, one in particular that had me in stitches: a long, drawn out, animated story of how, as a boy, he got himself into a snake fighting ring, thinking he had the most ferocious snake around and would surely win his betting money back and then some. That is, until he threw the snake into his buddies’ makeshift, dirt ring and the other snake hissed and writhed while his fell asleep with disinterest. He had a passion for UGA and Athens so strong it would sometimes make him cuss, and he was a damned good Dawg.

Vince Dooley. Frank Sinkwich. Loran Smith. Larry Munson. Herschel Walker. Mark Richt. Erk Russell. David Pollack. So, so many DGD’s that they could never all be listed here without leaving someone out.

Oh, yes. This season may not bring championships, but it may. This Saturday may not bring a win, but it may. And no matter what, you can bet that on Saturday in Athens, and to the day I die, I will be singing:

Glory, Glory to Ole’ Georgia.

It's Game Time: Five things to know going into the weekend, Sept. 6 edition

1.The big game: South Carolina v. UGA. Georgia faced a pumped-up, talented, lightning-fast team in Clemson last Saturday, and this Saturday should be another big test. South Carolina has been able to get Georgia’s number over the past few years but the Dawgs have something to prove after losing by 3 to Clemson and definitely does not want to lose to basically the whole state of South Carolina. But South Carolina is STRONG, y’all. Spurrier has a special hatred in his heart for Georgia and Clowney has something to prove after being built up higher than a sky scraper by the media last Saturday and doing next to nothing to earn it. This will be an exciting one between the hedges in Athens with a kickoff time of 4:30.

 2.ESPN Gameday is at Notre Dame vs. Michigan. And that’s about all there is to say. I think Notre Lame pretty much proved how great and wonderful they are after the embarassing showing they had at the National Championship in January. But I guess Gameday can’t cover a Southern game EVERY week. Let’s just hope it’s at least a good game.

3.Manziel fever. Johnny Manziel, the omnipresent, Lindsay Lohan of college football, made a showing of himself last week when Texas A&M took on Rice on the Aggies’ home turf. His off-season antics have been enough for his Mama to cover her face in her hands daily by doing mature things like partying too much and getting kicked out of the Manning camp, so you would think he would have played it cool on Saturday. Not to mention, he had to sit out the first half of the game because of his involvement in a pay-for-autograph deal that went down this year. (Seriously, NCAA? You suspend him half a game against RICE so he obviously was knowingly involved in some sort of autograph scandal worth thousands of dollars but yet you suspend A.J. Green four games for coming clean from the beginning about selling his jersey and donating the money to charity, not knowing he was doing anything wrong? C’mon…) But – I digress. Last week, Manziel proved everyone wrong and right by getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, was pulled out of the game and benched by his coach because of his attitude and showed hand gestures to his opponents of him SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS and “show me the money.” This guy’s a real treat. We’ll see if he comes out alive when they play Alabama next week.

4.Get to know Jameis Winston. This kid came out flying on Monday in his first appearance as the starting quarterback of Florida State. In fact, this was the redshirt freshman’s first start in college football ever. Not only does the media love him because of his sense of humor in press conferences and infectious personality, but Winston's pretty good on the field, too. He’s already provided plenty of quotes for fodder (including his request to the media to hit him over the head with their microphones if he ever gets “Manziel Fever”), so I’m sure there are many more highlights to come from him this season, both on and off the field. Oh – and it’s pronounced Jame – is, not Jame –eee – is.

5.Take note of conference games. Last weekend marked the start of college football season, but not the start of the conference season for all. Many teams played other teams outside of their conferences that, win or lose, only really affect their current national rankings. The conference games are what really count, at least until bowl season, because they determine who plays for their conference championships and who has the best chance to get into BCS bowls, or even the National Championship. So this Saturday, it really begins!

It's Game Time: Five things to know going into the weekend, Aug. 30 edition

For most Pigskin Peaches, tomorrow is the big day: OPENING DAY 2013!!! Can I get a "woot woot!"?

To help you prepare accordingly and be able to hang with the talk this weekend, here are five things you need to know:

Thursday night revelries

1. Although Thursday night games are usually reserved for ACC teams (at least in the South), three SEC teams took the field last night in some late-night, exciting match-ups. South Carolina played North Carolina in Columbia, S.C. to kick off their seasons at 6 p.m. That game was delayed due to lightning halfway through the fourth quarter, but the Gamecocks were able to clinch the win, 27-10. They go on to play No. 5 Georgia next week, who faces a tough battle against No. 8 Clemson at Clemson on Saturday. Jadeveon Clowney is one of South Carolina's most formidable players who the media seems to really have taken a liking to, so become familiar with his name.

2. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt is not a normal SEC matchup, as the former is in the SEC West and the latter is in the SEC East. But each team in the SEC has to face two teams from the other division each year, with the teams rotating out every two years. This was one of those match-ups. The game was a late one, especially for a school night, with a start time of 9:15 p.m. This was a wild game, with each team seeming to win then lose then win then lose the game on every play. I mean, six touchdowns were scored in the last 25 minutes of the game! There are probably lots of Rebs and 'Dores feeling sleepy at work today after that showdown. After a hard fight by both teams, Ole Miss went on to win the game, 39-35.

ESPN College Gameday is in Clemson for the Clemson-Georgia game

3. If you aren't familiar with ESPN College Gameday, this is the all-day football special that runs every Saturday during the college football season (although most of the action happens a few hours before kickoff for the game they are covering). The officials at ESPN pick the game of the week, essentially, and make that campus the location and main topic for the broadcast. This is also where commentator Lee Corso dons the fuzzy head of the mascot for the team he picks to win, which I'm sure you've seen in commercials and recaps. This week, the College Gameday team will be in Clemson, S.C. as the No. 8 Clemson Tigers (ACC) take on the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs (SEC).

Speaking of Clemson-Georgia...

4. Clemson and Georgia agreed to a two-year deal, so the Tigers will be in Sanford Stadium next year to open the season. Death Valley (Clemson's stadium) is no easy place to play and Georgia is coming off a season where they were just five yards short of beating Alabama and playing in the National Championship, so this will be a big game for both. However, because this is not a conference game, a win or a loss by either will not dictate their standings in the ACC/SEC, respectively. And with it being the first game of the season, the loser will have plenty of time to catch back up in the rankings. Still, this is a huge game. Both teams have explosive offenses and young, unproven defenses so the winner will likely be the team that keeps the most points off the opponent's board.

It's opening day!

5. Today is like Christmas Eve for most college football fans, so you'll likely see lots of team polos and school colors along with ear-to-ear grins spotting the crowds today and tomorrow. YEAH! This is the time all of us have finally been waiting for...to see the sun shining on the stadiums, the opening day of permissible day drinking, to finally sing the songs and chant the chants that so many of us have been missing, to get with friends and spend a whole day watching, booing, cheering and coming just short of losing our minds (while remaining the lovely Southern ladies that we are :)). Are you ready???

It's Game Time!

Heartbreaks, history and a screen porch in the rain

University of Georgia's first football team, 1892

So, there’s a little thing kicking off tomorrow night called college football. Are you ready? Lord knows I am.

I just hope my heart is ready, too.

After a night of bluegrass and brews last Friday, I was sitting on the screen porch of my boyfriend Jake’s apartment with his roommate and one of his best friends, who was in town from Charlotte. The air was thick and damp, with the rain tapping on the trees surrounding us and the tunes coming out of Jake’s phone just low enough to let us have a deep, passionate and pensive conversation about most true Southerners’ favorite topic: college football.

We talked about everything from Ohio State's laughable schedule to the SEC to what we expected for our teams this year. But at one point, as the fellas from Florida State sat back and spoke calmly about their new players and games they would play this season, I felt my blood pressure rising, my heart thumping and that pit in my stomach start to grow into the volleyball-size it felt the morning of Dec. 1, 2012, all over again.

Because while they, like anyone else, would love nothing more than to see Jimbo raise that glass football in January, I would argue that there is no group of fans wanting to claim the title "National Champs" more than the Dawgs.

“It truly is the most glorious and the most heartbreaking thing, all in one, to be a Georgia fan,” I told them. Just saying those words made me sigh, and made me sigh again as I wrote them because of the weight of truth that they carry.

Georgia has been playing football for well over a century, since it took the field in the first game ever played in the Deep South against Mercer University on Jan. 30, 1892. In 121 years of pigskin play, Georgia has won one National Championship, beating Notre Dame in 1980 with the almighty Herschel. (Although, we were given the title of National Champions four more times, dating back to 1927, but the designation was much less decisive and formal than it is now.)

In my 28 years of being a Dawg, I have never seen the Dawgs go “all the way.” My love for everything Athens and UGA has never faltered, but my heart seems to be worn out by the end of every season. Still, there's no doubt we’ve been damn good Dawgs. We've won coveted SEC Championships, BCS bowls, have a chart-topping 46 Dawgs in the NFL right now and pretty much would have killed Notre Lame in the National Championship, too, if it wasn’t for those flippin’ five yards. Damn it’s hard on the heart to be a Dawg. But it’s the best thing in the world to be a Dawg, too.

So as the men talked about the dreams they had for their Noles this season, I thought to myself that they have experienced multiple national championships in their lifetimes. They have felt the glorious feeling it must be to spend those nine months in the offseason knowing you won everything that everyone else wanted. And to have at least one night where you can watch your guys dance in confetti on the field and know you finally won it all.

I haven't. The guys taking the field in the red and black on Saturday haven't, either. That's why it matters (and hurts) so much.

But after hearing, seeing and reliving “five yards from the National Championship” for far too long, I am leaving the crushing blows and overall pride of last season behind me. I will be barking at the television in my red and black on Saturday as we take on Dabo and the Clemson Tigers. (We WOULD have to play the No. 8 team in the country right off the bat. Lord, I need a fan.) This is a big year for us and we very well could be five yards closer to the National Championship come December. I would put my heart on the line any day for that.

Because, no matter what, there’s still no better feeling than when someone asks me if I went to a certain school and I can smile and say, “No. I’m a Georgia girl.”

Pigskin Style Peach Wendy: All tied up in red, white and blue

The election is over, and with it likely goes a year chock full of images conjuring up the ol' red, white and blue. But you know who is also red, white and blue and is having a big year? Ole Miss! This week, I'm paying homage to the Rebels...er, Black Bears...as well as the must-have accessory of the season - the scarf.

Technically, it's fall. But if you are in the South, it's cool in the morning, warm during the day and chilly in the evening. Dressing for this crazy weather can prove challenging, especially on game day! The perfect accessory to keep you looking stylish while seasons transition is the scarf.

There are so many different ways to wear a scarf. Plus, it's the perfect addition to almost any outfit because it's timeless, chic and oh-so-wearable.

Hands down, one of my favorite types of scarves is the pashmina. Taking a cue from some of our favorite starlets, I think every woman should own one....or two! They will never go out of style. From dinner with your beau to tailgating with the girls, the pashmina is the perfect accessory to every outfit!

It's no secret that OLE MISS gals go all out on game day. Adorned in gorgeous blue and red, this is a color match made in heaven. 

This outfit is a casual option for game day, but it needs a little something extra. Give this ensemble an instant boost with a scarf!

The scarf is versatile, chic and an easy affordable way to update your game day look.

Have fun with this great accessory!

B. Blessed!


To learn more about Wendy, our Pigskin Style Peach, visit her PP bio here.

CF in She-cah-goh

Go Dawgs and Go Noles from Joe's Bar in Chicago!