In the third quarter of an intense Rose Bowl Game, Anna Parks burst into tears as she sat behind the Sooners’ end zone amongst thousands of Georgia fans and alongside four of her close friends.
After “Calling the Dawgs” before kickoff and experiencing the ebbs-and-flows of what was an eventual 54-48 win over Oklahoma, it started to set in.
“We’re actually in the Rose Bowl with a chance to go to the National Championships,” thought Parks, a UGA junior who majors in sport management, as the crying ensued once more.
As Georgia hasn’t seen a national title game in 37 years, the emotions of Parks may have mimicked those of many who have long-awaited such a moment. But it’s special for this die-hard Bulldogs’ fan carries on a family tradition.
It started in 1976 when Lindsey Greeson, Parks’ grandfather, obtained season tickets. Greeson knew one of the donors for the athletic association in the 1960s and would be invited to games on occasion, but then the fandom became full-fledged.
Greeson isn’t an alumnus of the University of Georgia, but his dedication to the football program suggests that he essentially fits that mold. After obtaining the tickets, he got to see some intriguing moments as he didn’t miss a single game from 1976-98.
“I worked in the housing manufacturing business, and we would get some pretty big trips each year,” Greeson said. “I would end up giving them to my employees, because I wasn’t going to miss a Georgia game – home, away or both. Then my wife said that she was going on the trips with or without me.”
Some of those intriguing moments included Georgia’s 1981 Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame, which gave the Bulldogs the 1980 national championship. Greeson also endured the heartbreaking moments of the 1982 and 1983 Sugar Bowl losses to Penn State and Pittsburgh.
“I saw every footstep that (running back) Herschel (Walker) took,” Greeson said, who now travels to games on a motor home and a party bus.”
But since his wife made the remark, Greeson is a bit more lenient on skipping games – although it’s still of importance to him. Now, it is passed down to his son, Brent, who has followed the tradition of attending games, and Anna joins in on that, as well.
Since her junior year of high school, Parks has missed only two games at Sanford Stadium – including Kentucky this season due to conflict with her job as a recreational referee – and has traveled to an assortment of away games, including completing the trifecta of Notre Dame, the Rose Bowl and now the national title.
Parks takes her seat at Sanford Stadium or any other location across the country with never-fading support and excitement, and the third-year student has built some personal connections with some players – including sophomore wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr. and freshman defensive back Richard LeCounte III.
“Her passion is described by the experiences to attend these games, whether it be 14-hour car rides or flight delays,” said Kendall Scott, a senior biology major from Warner Robins who attends a fair share of games alongside Parks. “She will either jump, cry, yell or lose her voice. She’s a true die-hard fan.”
The passion was best showed in the captivating series of plays in the Rose Bowl: Lorenzo Carter’s block and Sony Michel’s game-winning 27-yard run that followed. At that moment, Parks recalled that “the world stopped” and to little surprise, more crying took place.
Now, the tradition of attending games comes full-circle on the biggest stage.
Greeson has joined in on the fun full-time throughout Georgia’s 13-1 campaign, and will get to finish it off as a spectator Monday night alongside his son and granddaughter. After keenly watching the days of Vince Dooley, this moment in the early stages of Kirby Smart’s tenure is “special” to the long-time ticket holder and his attendees.
“It’s such a weird feeling,” Parks said. “I start crying randomly when I think about it. We’re actually going, it’s unreal and it feels like a dream.”
While Parks’ path to obtain tickets to the national title game was nearly seamless, the same can’t be said for other Georgia students that didn’t win the ticket lottery hosted by Taco Bell’s Live Más program – 90 credit hours were required to be completed and only 500 students from Georgia and Alabama were awarded.
Instead, students were unafraid to spend significant money to attend the game. The Telegraph spoke with three different underclassmen and they all purchased seats (around $2,000 each) before the Jan. 1 matchup with Oklahoma with anticipation that the Bulldogs would walk out of Pasadena victorious.
Needless to say, it made for some stressful moments for those fans.
But the Bulldogs did what ticket holders needed, which creates a unique situation for the UGA academic schedule – which called for classes to begin Thursday, Jan. 4. After Georgia clinched its berth in the title game, many were hopeful that classes would be canceled for Monday and Tuesday, however senior vice president Pamela Whitten issued a letter that called for classes to remain in session while professors “incorporate flexibility in class plans.”
A number of professors have canceled their individual courses for Monday and Tuesday as many will be traveling to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Many of the students would’ve liked to have seen campus-wide action.
“I think they should’ve canceled them, because most people like me aren’t going,” said Patrick Sapp, a sophomore from Hawkinsville, who is set to attend with his dad. “This opportunity doesn’t come around very often.”
Whether classes are in session or not, it won’t stop students who have followed the program throughout the season. Parks will be joined by a horde of fellow Bulldogs’ fans once more, and wouldn’t trade the experiences that have taken place as a Bulldogs’ fan since the age of two.
A similar story could likely be told for many others who are experiencing this high-stakes opportunity for the first time.
“The sports environment is what I love, and going to Georgia games is my favorite thing to do,” Parks said. “This is sort of like my team. Kirby brought the new energy, and he makes it fun. I would probably trust him with my life.”