The photograph that is pictured above is one that I grew up seeing every day of my life. It is of my Father Frank Ros, Captain of the 1980 National Championship Team, and Coach Dooley celebrating together after they defeated Notre Dame 17-10 on January 1st, 1981. The last time the University of Georgia has claimed the prestigious title of National Champions. It’s certainly fair to say that my brother Frank Jr. and I have grown up slightly different lives than most. Our childhood was filled with many exciting moments that most dream of. As young kids, Hershel Walker would stay at our house and watch my brother and myself while my parents would be away at dinner. When I was 17 I thought I would try to jokingly get the big #34 in a rear-naked choke when he wasn’t paying attention. I was 6’4 245 pounds, and a weight lifting champion. A 40 something-year-old Hershel tossed me over his shoulder like a rag doll. I never tried to do that again. On Saturdays, my family would get up early to drive up to Athens to watch the Bulldogs play. We always made it to Sanford Stadium before kickoff, though we would often stop at a beautiful house not far from campus. The house belongs to one of the greatest college football coaches ever to have stepped on the field, Vince Dooley. I have gotten to know Coach Dooley and his wonderful wife Mrs. Barbara Dooley over the years, from being 4 or 5 years old eating and running around his house with my brother, to stopping by his office when I was on the team just to say hello to a man I have known my whole life.
The FiveStripesMaven is dedicated to Atlanta United Soccer, but I would be remiss if I did not write about something very near and dear to my heart, UGA Football, Vince Dooley, and the effect it all has had on my life. Coach Dooley celebrated his birthday yesterday, and I wanted to say Happy Birthday in my own way, by thanking him for everything he has done for the University of Georgia and helping to shape a young boy into a man who wanted nothing more than to play for the greatest school in the SEC. I can remember when the 1980 team had a flag football rematch against the Georgia Tech Team of the same year. I was standing in the huddle at the age of 5 with the defense while the legendary Erk Russell was still giving out commands to my father Frank Ros Sr. and Scott Woerner like it was still 1980. I remember turning around and seeing Coach Dooley smile at me, a young child standing out on a football field, wanting nothing more than to be in the game. It’s safe to say that my blood runs red and black.
I grew up with stories about the 1980 team’s shenanigans, one of my personal favorites is a story of my father and 4 of his teammates, Scott Woerner, Hugh Nall, Nat Hudson, and Chris Welton, covertly sneaking in and shooting a giant hog with a bow at the university farm. It was not just for sport, they were getting the pig to eat for a celebration that all freshmen players got from their seniors. They were eventually caught and punished. My dad would always remember one fact about that summer of 1980’s punishment, having to repaint the white wall that runs around the practice field in Athens. After they had nearly finished painting the whole wall, which was a huge endeavor unto itself, “Coach Dooley pulled up in his Cadillac while we were all standing there in the blistering heat, he sitting in his air-conditioned car, Coach cracked the window, took a quick look and said paint it again.”, my father has told me this punishment although awful, helped bring them together. This is just one of the many stories I was lucky enough to hear growing up.
There was also a video that was made a decade or so after the team had won the 1980 National Championship. It was filled with all the highlights and interviews with the players and Coach Dooley. I probably watched that video over 1000 times. I would reenact every play I saw on the TV in my living room. From Hershel running over Bill Bates against Tennessee to my dad missing a point-blank interception against Clemson, only to have the tipped ball fall to Jeff Hipp, sealing the victory. It was so special that it lit a fire inside of me that said, “Someday I will run out of that tunnel in Sanford Stadium.” It helped me understand how great coaches create great teams, and how great leaders are expected to hold all the team accountable to give every ounce of energy they have on the field. Coach Dooley is a builder of character and a tough taskmaster on and off the field. He always expected the best from his players, but unlike many coaches, he had a way of getting it out of his teams. Some of this was done by repainting huge walls to bring men together, and other ways such as the hiring incredible coaches like Coach Russell. They are both coaches that my father had told me every young man should be able to play for at one point or another in their life. Not simply because what they teach you about the game, but how they help you grow into a man. That is what College Football is about for most players after all.
I can remember sitting in the Butts-Mehre my freshmen year and being told bluntly that, “Only 2% or less of you will play in the NFL, so take advantage of what you have in front of you.” That statement rang true for me, as my career was ended by a foot injury. Honestly, growing up you tell yourself that once you stop playing, and you will eventually stop playing, you won’t have any trouble moving on to something new. I can personally attest that it is much more difficult than you make it out to be in your head, but if I ever needed to go speak to someone, Coach Dooley’s door was always open.
Not only was Coach Dooley the Head Coach of the greatest team in UGA Football history, but he helped build the University’s Athletic Department until 2004. During and since that time the University of Georgia has held dominance in several sports, not just football. I have seen people stop in the middle of the street, forgetting about cars coming in their direction, only to catch a glimpse of the legend. When I was in High School my girlfriend at the time named her new puppy Dooley, and told Coach that when she met him. My face turned a bright red, but Coach Dooley just smiled and said thank you. When I declared my intent to sign with UGA he sent me a kind note in the mail congratulating me and letting me know I could always come by and say hello, or if I just needed to talk that his door was always open. Vince Dooley is a very special person, and very few can say they have accomplished so much during their lifetime. This weekend the University will be renaming the field at Sanford Stadium “Vincent J. Dooley Field.” An honor that is so well deserved and warranted that no name but his should grace the plot of grass between the hedges on which so many have played, and so many watched with splendor. Coach Dooley represents everything right about the University, and the evolution of its athletic department, and football team.
Without Coach Dooley, I am not sure that the school’s Athletic Department would have gotten to where it is today. UGA is a perennially dominant force in the toughest conference in the country, undefeated in the SEC-East for 2 years running. Coach Smart deserves a lot of credit for how great the Bulldogs have been over the past four years. Coach Smart recruited me as a Defensive End when he was the Defensive Coordinator at Alabama. I can say without a doubt he was the best recruiter I had the privilege of being approached by and made me seriously think about Alabama. Coach Smart was extremely loyal to Alabama, but I always knew that deep down no matter where he was, he would someday end up back at his Alma-mater. The day I committed to UGA, my first task was to call every other team that offered me a scholarship and thank them for giving me the opportunity. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but one coach sent me a note in the mail a week later. The note said that he understood why I made the decision that I did, and that UGA was a great school, an amazing place to play, and that I would do great things there. The signature at the bottom was none other than Coach Smart's. After that day, whenever I was asked who would take Coach Richt’s place if he left, my answer was instantly the same, “Kirby Smart, and we will play for a National Championship in 3 years or less.”
He was the man that made the most sense to be the Head Coach of the Bulldogs. Coach Smart is so tenacious, gritty, and expects so much from his young players that he brings out the best in all of them. Coach Dooley was much the same way. They are the only two coaches to have taken UGA to National Championships, and claimed 7 SEC Titles between them. They both recruited some of the best running backs ever to step onto a football field. Hershel I believe is THE greatest running back ever to play. Whenever someone says Bo Jackson, Archie Griffin, or Eric Dickerson, there is only one argument to be made, if Hershel had played his senior year the rushing record would be untouchable. That’s a fact, not an opinion.
The main force behind naming the field after Coach Dooley was from the same men that painted that fence in that hot 1980 summer. Men like my father who has always led from the front, and men like Scott Woerner, Uncle of Charlie Woerner's current Tight End for UGA, and the man whom my parents gave me my middle name. This came as no surprise to me, as growing up my father always told me about how much respect they held for their Head Coach. He certainly has differences from Coach Smart, but many subtle similarities as well. Coach Dooley was always tough on his players. He has a calmer sideline demeanor and ran the team like the Marine Corps. He expected much from you, and in return, his players gave him everything that they had. He was respected by all of his players, and it showed with how his teams performed. His temperament is different than that of Coach Smart, who wears his emotions on his shoulders, or visor, during every game. Dooley was different. He would sometimes scuff the ground with his foot or put his hands on his head during a moment of frustration, but rarely if ever was there an outburst of emotion. He led his teams to become the most successful Head Coach UGA Football has ever had sporting a record of 201–77–10.
Sports helped shape me into the man I am today. Sitting here there is no doubt that Vince Dooley was one of the instruments that helped the molding. He coached my father, who then coached me through life. As with so many, sports come and go so quickly that we take it for granted. It tells you something about life; that is life moves quickly whether you want it to or not, and sometimes there are plans for you that don’t play out quite as you wanted it to. Afterward, I concluded that it is OK. There are other endeavors in life that we are free to go off and conquer, and regardless of my injury I still made my goal of running out of the tunnel and hearing 92,746 screaming fans, something hard to describe. One of our Captains my Freshmen year, a walk-on who earned a scholarship Andrew Williams told me before the first game that when you hear that trumpet start, the hair stands up on the back of your neck, and your heart starts pumping so fast with excitement it feels almost unreal. As you run out of the tunnel the deafening sound of the crowd feels like you just walked into the Roman Coliseum. The hallowed ground that I and many others have run out to face another team in battle will now carry a name befitting all of those who have stepped on that grass before. Vincent J. Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium will now be the name of that legendary ground between the hedges. It is a place that many hold so close that it almost feels like home sitting in the stands, or standing on the field.
Coach Dooley means so much too so many people. He has been a central figure in my life, and the life of my family. Never has a man deserved to have a grand honor given to him. He helped shape UGA to win our only National Championship and led the Athletic department to become poised to do the same for decades after his retirement. Thank you for everything you have done for the University of Georgia Coach Dooley. Now your name will live on forever etched on the ground of 90,000 of your closest admirers. You have accomplished more in your life than most men would in two, and every alumni, player, coach, and student owes you for all of the wonderful scenes your teams, and those under your guidance as Athletic Director have given us. From Bill Bates getting smashed, Lindsay Scott running away from every Gator defender, the sugar falling out of the sky, Hershel Walker blowing past Carolina Defenders who mistakenly thought they could catch the beast, stepping on faces with hob-nailed boots, and the deafening sound of our Bulldogs running out in their black jerseys against Auburn. You have had a hand in all of it, from shaping the Athletics at the University to shaping young men. Congratulations on every achievement and honor you have brought to UGA and the amazing life you have led and helped give to so many.
To this day your life has made the words we hear every Saturday ring true: Glory, Glory, to Old Georgia.