When Loran Smith accompanies the Georgia football team to Nashville for the Bulldogs meeting with the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday, it will mark the 408th consecutive Bulldogs game that he will have witnessed in person and the 509th of 510 possible games. His only miss was the 1971 New Years Eve Gator Bowl tie with North Carolina, when he was working briefly with a real estate firm in Atlanta and business commitments prevented him from attending that game.
Smith has no trouble in naming the 1980 national championship team as, in his opinion, the best to ever wear the Red and Black. He couldnt, however, single out a best game but had several to consider, among them the Dogs 14-13 win over Auburn in 1959 that gave them the SEC championship, their 29-28 win over Georgia Tech in 1978 after trailing 20-0, the unveiling of Herschel Walker in the come-from-behind 16-15 win over Tennessee in Walkers freshman season, the 1980 win over Florida highlighted by the 93-yard touchdown pass from Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott, and, even though it was a loss for the Dogs, last years SEC championship game with Alabama.
Smith has almost a 60-year association with the university, having entered the school as a student-athlete in 1956 on a track and field scholarship. He was a low hurdler and also ran the mile relay and the mile run for longtime Bulldogs track and field head coach Forest Spec Towns. He was both team captain and MVP his senior season.
In addition to his athletic exploits while in school, he served as editor and circulation manager for the Red and Black student newspaper, was a student assistant in the sports information department and was sports editor of the Athens Banner-Herald.
After graduation and following military service with the U.S. Coast Guard, he returned to Georgia and was hired by athletics director Joel Eaves as assistant sports information director. That is one of numerous positions he has held in the Georgia athletics department He also has had the titles of business manager, executive director of the Bulldog Club and currently serves as associate director of sports communications and development.
Smiths greatest statewide recognition came as a result of his work on the Georgia football radio network, which began in 1972. He served as the Bulldogs sideline reporter, a position he originated in 1974, for 36 seasons. He was immortalized by the legendary Larry Munson with his intro, Whatcha got, Loran? After giving up that role in 2010, he continues today as co-host of the Georgia pregame show and also contributes postgame commentary. Smith originated the tailgate show in 1984 and the locker room show in 1972, which was the first of its kind in the SEC.
Smith is one of two UGA icons from Wrightsville. The other, of course, is Walker, who first came to the attention of Smith as a sophomore in 1976 at a high school banquet in the Middle Georgia town. A family friend pointed him out and said, You go back and tell Coach (Vince) Dooley that boy is going to be one hell of a football player.
At the time, Georgia did not know about Walker. But after he ran a 9.8-second 100 in a track meet in the spring of 1977, he had all their attention. Smith and Walker have a special relationship, and Smith spent an afternoon with Walker at his home in Dallas last December.
The multi-talented Smith is probably as busy today as ever in his life. In addition to his duties at Georgia, he writes two columns weekly for the Banner-Herald, is working on two books (he has already written or co-written 15), has a syndicated radio show on 50 stations around the state and attends the worlds top sporting events. In July, he was at Muirfield in Scotland for the British Open, an event he has missed only twice since 1978 (once because of health issues and the other because of an accident in France en route to the Open), and last April he was in Augusta for the Masters for the 54th consecutive year.
Smith has an uncanny ability to remember names. If he met you and you dont see him for a year, he most likely will call you by your name the next time he sees you.
Bobby Pope hosts the Saturday Scoreboard on Fox Sports 1670 each Saturday during the football season.