Alright, I’m buying in. Give me that shot of Kool-Aid - in fact, make it a double. I have seen enough to know that Kirby Smart is going to do very well as coach at Georgia (if UGA will get and stay out of the way - I’m sure I will touch on that in the weeks and months ahead).
Just like Elsa, the princess from the movie Frozen, I am letting go of what happened in the past, and drinking the Kool-Aid that is Kirby. Drinking the Kool-Aid is the easy part. Perhaps letting go of the dysfunction and disappointment of the past is more difficult.
But I press on, and here’s why.
24 hours away from the first Signing Day of his term as head coach, Smart has reinvigorated the Bulldog football program with promise and perhaps process. His cult-like following at the basketball game two weeks ago tells you all you need to about the faith the people of this great institution have in him. It should be noted, too, that while this might seem like the typical superficial reaction you get with any new head coach, there is something more than that going on here.
That moment at the basketball game wasn’t by accident. It was quite clearly scripted - just like him wearing blazers for recruiting events, playing with prospects on social media and the fact that he wants his players and prospects to call him “Kirby” rather than Coach Smart.
He gets it, and that’s going to ruffle some feathers at UGA. But as I have laid out in the past - there is alway going to be a segment of an institution that doesn’t get it, or fears losing out on what they want to protect.
Smart, who spent nearly a decade at Alabama seeing behind the curtain, will bring passion and drive to those in Silver Britches. Trust me when I tell you that you have to have both to succeed at the highest levels of this sport. He will have to sign E.J. Price, Mecole Hardman and others, but he's on the path to doing just that.
And Smart has a personal touch. He has always been able to easily communicate with people - young or old.
“He has the ability to talk with the kids, man - its amazing,” a close friend of mine who is in the recruiting game said to me a long time ago when Smart was at Alabama. “It doesn’t matter their background. Rich. Poor. Black. White. City. Suburbs. Country. He can talk with anyone.”
Not much has changed on that front - and that will be a vital part of Smart’s success at Georgia: He can quickly relate to people in a way that others can’t. Maybe that’s because he’s from a small town. Maybe that’s because he’s a coach’s son. Maybe that’s because he was raised correctly. Maybe that’s because even though he wasn’t at Georgia he was from and of Georgia. Privately he talked with his confidants about the heights he really felt like UGA could reach… and now he gets that chance.
“Kirby’s got an edge,” one old friend of mine, who played with Smart in the 1990s, told me. "That's something that will be different."
As great as Mark Richt was, and anyone who did what he did over 15 years is great - don’t fool yourself - UGA needs elite. That’s something Richt was never able to accomplish in Athens. Why? Because he didn’t recruit at an elite level. The last time UGA signed the top recruiting class in the SEC was never. UGA only signed the second-best class in the SEC once in this decade 2011, and yet expectations continue to be through the roof. Yes, Georgia is talented - every in this conference is talented.
Ignore the know-nothing reporters, commentators and fans on that - the facts show that UGA simply didn’t recruit at a championship level over the last 15 years. Period. End of story.
But Kirby has and will, and I think that’s what you will see tomorrow - and perhaps even more with the class of 2017.
In the movie Frozen, Elsa tries to cover up her true self in order to protect her younger sister. She’s too scared be her true self until she’s banished from the kingdom she’s set to rule. Only then does she understand how powerful she can be when she is what she is. Only then does she take her gloves off - literally and figuratively - allowing her powers to take hold.
She lets go. She, for a lack of a better term, goes for it. She tries to become the best version of herself - even if she is “flawed”. UGA could learn a thing or two about taking the gloves off and going for it.
Its really an inspiring message, and one UGA partisans can learn from over these next few months. Because what has been is over. What will be is limitless, and that starts with Signing Day each year.
“It's time to see what I can do. To test the limits and break through,” she sings. “I'm never going back. The past is in the past.”
Damn right, Elsa.
Nothing will be the same now that Kirby Smart has taken over. Will he be perfect? No. But I’ve seen up close and from a distance that he’s changed the way folks react to the future of Georgia football.
Curious personnel decisions?
Let it go.
The 2014 and 2015 losses to Florida?
Let it go.
Brian… you know what? I’m not even going to finish his name.
Let it go, Dean. LET IT GO.
Pass me another shot of that Kool-Aid please.