When We Were Dawgs

by Corey Knapp

Everybody loves the things you do

From the way you talk

To the way you move

Growing up, I always heard good things about the University of Georgia. Some of my teachers, friends and their parents and siblings, and coaches had gone here.

Every story I heard was a great one. But I had no direct connection to UGA at all.  My mom didn’t go here; no one in my family did. After listening to so many of these stories as a young kid, I started to gravitate toward and become a fan of Georgia’s football team.

Once into high school, I learned that UGA was more than a football team—it was a great university in all aspects. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, a chance to earn a walk-on spot on the baseball team, the Zell Miller Scholarship and the close proximity to my hometown of Atlanta made UGA a perfect fit.

I was very high on being a Bulldog, but I wasn’t at the same level as a lot of my friends whose lives seemingly depended on getting in. I was confident I would be accepted; I was, and I was thrilled, maybe more so for my mom than for me.  However, I still hadn’t reached that point of sheer excitement about attending college here.

Up to this moment, I had never visited UGA’s campus in Athens. I thought maybe that would put me over the top.  It didn’t. Mom and I spent a couple hours going through the Visitor’s Center tour on a nice morning.

We really liked everything we saw, but I just didn’t have that wow moment.  UGA was just this big place with a bunch of kids.  I knew all of the reasons why I should be here; I just needed to feel one for why I wanted to be.

Everybody here is watching you

‘Cause you feel like home

You’re like a dream come true

Orientation bridged the gap. During the last session, a week before classes started, Moose, the greatest orientation leader of all time, dissected this big place with a bunch of kids for me.  He perfectly guided our group through the campus layout, life as freshmen, and any other concerns on our minds.  He put me at ease.

This process must have felt like business as usual for Moose, but I felt so much better about my future at UGA after spending two days learning from him, for whom I’ve been grateful ever since.

It took about a month after school started, but I finally got my wow moment.  South Carolina at Georgia. My first UGA football game ever. From tailgating with friends from all over to the Dawg Walk to cheering in the end zone student section, UGA finally felt like home.

My friends and I watched from our perfect view first as the Dawgs made a goal-line stand on fourth down and then as Aaron Murray threw and Justin Scott-Wesley caught and sprinted down the sideline for the touchdown that iced the win. There were 93,000 of us there, and we were all celebrating the same thing.  Like a dream come true.

But if by chance you’re here alone

Can I have a moment, before I go

‘Cause I been by myself all night long

Hopin’ you’re someone, I used to know

That game was almost four full years ago.  It feels like it was four days ago yet at the same time a lifetime ago.  I, along with the rest of UGA 2017, graduate in less than a month.

“These are the best times of your life,” my roommate’s dad told me a few weeks ago. It would be hard to better describe in such a simple phrase my UGA career and hopefully those of my friends. I’d like to reflect on and remember these times and thank everyone on this campus who helped make them happen.

You look like a movie

You sound like a song

My God this reminds me

Of when we were young

The South Carolina game held the wow moment crown for all of three weeks.  Of my whole four years, my best and favorite day at UGA was the day of the LSU game. From 7 a.m. onward, Athens was electric.

College GameDay was here.  Coach Mark Richt called for a red out of Sanford Stadium.  My friends and I spent the morning and early afternoon at Myers Quad, where the crowd howled with happiness when Lee Corso picked the Tigers.

UGA and LSU played a thriller. After Murray to Scott-Wesley Part II with nearly two minutes left, everyone standing in red in Sanford knew but didn’t want to say: too much time left.  But not on this day. Leonard Floyd monster sack—loud. Huge third down stop—LOUD, deafening noise. Fourth down incompletion—eruption.

Joy and relief poured out of everyone in the stadium. A season-defining, a career-defining, day. We all felt so good for and proud of our team, its leaders, and our school.  Georgia deserved that win. Sanford Stadium has never been louder.

After going out in downtown Athens for my first time that night and then returning to my dorm room in Myers, walking through GameDay signs left behind, I knew that day would be one that would live in our minds forever.  It looked like a movie.

Let me photograph you in this light

In case it is the last time that we might

Be exactly like we were

Before we realized

cknapp3.jpg

We were sad of getting old

It made us restless

It was just like a movie

It was just like a song

One of the coolest parts of college revealed itself when I started classes for my Digital and Broadcast Journalism major.

For the first time in most of our lives, we’re actually in class doing something that we want to be doing. And we don’t know it at the beginning, but we’re about to spend a lot of time and get very close with a group of people who all have similar goals.

Both in DBJ and the Sports Media Certificate, Grady brought me together with some of the most kind and talented people and professors who I have ever met. We worked, we edited, we went out to eat, we argued, we fought, we SWEFFed, we laughed, we drove all over Northeast Georgia to get a story, we challenged each other, we took over press boxes, we went to each other’s apartments late at night desperate for help on a story due the next day, we battled deadlines and technology and factual errors, and by some miracle we made it through Newsource alive.

Y’all made me better, and I am so proud to be included among this incredible cohort of Grady grads. I cannot wait to read, watch, and listen to all of your professional work.

I was so scared to face my fears

Nobody told me, that you’d be here

I am a major homebody.  There are times I have to be physically dragged off of my couch to go somewhere. I love my routine. As an only child who played sports, I would finish school, go to practices and games, and go home and relax with my mom.

When I started at UGA, I had to find a routine in order to help with the adjustment of being away from home. Since classes end so much earlier in college than in high school, I had a lot of time with which to work, but because I was so used to being by myself, I didn’t put forth the greatest effort to make new friends.

My best friends went here, but they worked a lot and lived off campus, so we mostly hung out on weekends. The Atlanta Braves were my friends during my first fall semester. Every night there was a game, I had something familiar I could do for three hours. And that was all I needed—something familiar.

Eventually, my best friends and then my new Grady friends and then just the sheer realization of being in college brought me out of my shell. They helped me see that yes there are days and nights to be a couch potato, but there are also many days and nights to go out and experience everything about Athens and meet new people.

This adjustment is still a work in progress, but it has helped me become a better friend and appreciate all of my friends even more.

And I swear you moved overseas

That’s what you said, when you left me

The best month of my life came from mid-May to mid-June between my junior and senior years. Having never been out of the country and not knowing a single person who would be on the trip with me, I studied abroad in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain.

With my Spanish minor here and even going back to high school, I had always said going to Spain would be amazing, but I said it kind of with the mindset that it wasn’t something that was realistic.  I never saw myself following through on it.

Boy am I glad I did.  As a Real Madrid soccer fan, almost on a whim, I checked to see if UGA had any Spain study abroad offerings. First thing on the screen: Madrid-Barcelona Maymester. Perfect—four weeks but not the whole summer.  Cost: $3,000 plus tuition.  Less than perfect.  Somehow I convinced my mother to fund the trip, and then somehow I convinced myself, very scared of flying, to ride in a plane across the Atlantic Ocean.

I don’t have nearly enough room to delve too far into our adventure in Spain, but I will offer this one piece of advice: If you have the chance to study abroad during college, whether in Spain or anywhere else, GO!

The amount of breathtaking and once in a lifetime experiences we had in only one month combined with how close our group became made this trip worth the money and then some.

I could not have imagined having a better time.  We toured cathedrals and soccer stadiums and castles and palaces, we ate at all kinds of restaurants, and we spent hours walking around plazas and beaches talking to locals and each other in Spanish. Spain was truly wonderful, and I will be going back as soon as I possibly can!

You still look like a movie

You still sound like a song

My God this reminds me

Of when we were young

 

Even when the football seasons inevitably went bad, they still provided some of the best examples of the togetherness of the UGA community. Todd Gurley’s play unified us first with #Gurley4Heisman then with #FreeGurley during his suspension.

We can only imagine the scene inside Sanford had his opening kickoff return touchdown against Auburn counted in his first game back. When he hurt his knee, this kid received support and messages even more special than the plays he made on field.

He smiled through it all, and I smiled every time I watched him play.  The generation before us told us about getting to watch Herschel Walker play in person. We’re going to get to tell our kids that we watched Todd Gurley play live Between the Hedges.

Let me photograph you in this light

In case it is the last time that we might

Be exactly like we were

Before we realized

cknapp.jpg

We were sad of getting old

It made us restless

It was just like a movie

It was just like a song

UGA is a family. No greater example exists than last April’s tragic car accident. Losing some of our own could have broken us. We could have crumbled in sadness and asked why.  But we didn’t. UGA came together, led by the incredibly brave family and friends of the girls who died.

I was with Grady Newsource trying in any way to help with that day’s show, and it was an honor to be associated with my classmates who did a phenomenal job covering the hardest story of their lives.

On its darkest day, the vigil at Tate Plaza exemplified UGA’s finest, joining together in support of every one of their own.  I’m going to miss my direct connection to my UGA family, but I’m happy to know I will always be apart of it.

When we were young

When we were young

When we were young

When we were young

A lot of what sticks out about college are the big moments, the major events.  However, what I’ll miss the most and have started to miss the most given that my two best friends graduated in December, are the little things that come with having all of my friends in the same place.

When our friends’ band had a show every other Thursday, we’d hang out at their apartment, go to the show, and hang out afterward. We’d rotate whose place we’d watch big games at.

We can walk or take a short drive to get food and bring it to our friends’ apartments to eat and watch TV or play FIFA. We can go straight from class to play basketball. We can all meet at a restaurant and stay for hours. That’s the best part about college: everything’s so simple; we’re all right here together.

 

It’s hard to admit that

Everything just takes me back

To when you were there

To when you were there

 

And a part of me keeps holding on

Just in case it hasn’t gone

I guess I still care

Do you still care?

After graduation, there will be countless instances when I will yearn to be back at UGA.  Any hills where I live will be a cakewalk compared to the ones on this campus, but I’ll still prefer these hills.

When I have to buy my lunch or make it myself, I’ll be wishing I could stroll on into Snelling and get a nice big hug from Miss Sandra before I eat.  A city bus will bring me back to being on a UGA bus, personal space be damned. For these last couple days, I’m holding on for dear life, trying to treasure the normal everyday things that help make UGA what it is.  Can I start my four years over?

It was just like a movie

It was just like a song

My God this reminds me

Of when we were young

Besides the games themselves, there were two other things I so much looked forward to every football weekend.  First, the hype videos, which Frank Martin and his crew absolutely crushed week in and week out.

They exquisitely captured the emotion and state of mind of DawgNation and put it onto our screens, and Autumn Fire was the perfect culmination to four years of these endeavors.  “Hey, have you seen the hype video yet?” became a weekly conversation starter.

The second thing I really looked forward to every Saturday in Athens, and I didn’t realize I was looking forward to it until after the 2016 season ended, is that every home Saturday, no matter what is going on, there’s going to be a football game. And my friends and I will be at that football game.

Once I realized I looked forward to this, I immediately appreciated it. No matter the schedules, the busy weeks, the weather, the jobs, the homework, the game times, everything cleared the way for football, which means everything made way for friendship and camaraderie.

Wherever we are on Saturdays in fall 2017, we’ll hopefully be surrounded by some fellow Dawgs, and we’ll surely remember where we were on Saturdays the four falls before.

When we were young

When we were young

When we were young

When we were young

Going to Waffle House at 2 a.m. or Mama’s Boy at noon after an hour wait. Commiserating over the ineptitude of PAWS-Secure. Not paying attention while walking toward the Arch and then having to hit the juke stick or B-button spin move to avoid walking under it. Watching How I Met Your Mother reruns and talking about girls with my friends and roommate all day and night. Mark Richt has lost control over X meme.  Ringing the Bell after a win or simply after finishing another semester.

Every single time I walk down Sanford Drive past the stadium, I pause and think about what a beautiful place UGA is and what an incredible journey we’ve been on.  I’ll do the same thing during Commencement, as the fireworks go off, coming full circle from the ones that went off on the admissions website four years ago.

Let me photograph you in this light

In case it is the last time that we might

Be exactly like we were

Before we realized

cknapp2.jpg

We were sad of getting old

It made us restless

Oh I’m so mad I’m getting old

It makes me reckless

Unfortunately, we have to graduate and move on to the next chapter of our lives. Senior year evolves from wanting to maximize the amount of fun being had to setting ourselves up to secure and start a job soon after we graduate.

It’s a balancing act between not wanting to jump away from college life too soon while also not waiting too long to hit the job market. I’m trying not to be restless while waiting to hear back from job applications. I’m trying not to be reckless while I spend my final collegiate semester enjoying everything I love about my friends and this great place we’ve called home for four years, the University of Georgia.

It was just like a movie

It was just like a song

 

When we were Dawgs.

 

 

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