Richt Raves about Honduras Trip

MACON - For one week earlier this month, Mark Richt got to remember what it feels like to be anonymous.

Georgia's seventh-year football coach spent his family vacation on a religious mission in Guaimaca, Honduras. No one knew he was, and no one cared.

"It was pretty refreshing," Richt said.

Not since he took the Georgia job has he been somewhere where he wasn't eventually recognized, Richt said.

"If you're in the States, sooner or later somebody is going to come up and say something, which is fine," he said. "I'm not saying I don't like it, but in the state of Georgia, they'll look and say, ‘Oh that's Coach.'"

But in Honduras, "it just mattered that you were there and that you were helping."

All the Richts – Mark, his wife Katharyn, sons Jon, David and Zach and daughter Anya – traveled to Honduras for a World Baptist Missions trip.

"It was awesome," Richt said. "We were trying to spread the gospel. We were trying to let our children see how the rest of the world lives, and we were also trying to grow closer as a family. It was all that and more."

In the morning, the Richts performed manual labor to help residents of the mountain town. In the afternoon, they traveled to surrounding villages as part of a soccer team that played teams from other towns. The trip is something the 47-year-old Richt had wanted for his family for years, and this was the last summer before his oldest son Jon left for college.

Richt's team won just once, he said, and he was quickly relieved of his job as goalie by Jon.

"I got scored on rapidly," he said. "(Jon) tried to fire me after the first goal, but I was like, ‘I'm just getting warmed up.' After the second one, I just pulled off my jersey and gave it to him."

The games were quite a change of pace for a man who oversees a team with only the finest facilities.

"The field was maybe 20 percent grass, 70 percent dirt and 10 percent cow pies," he said. "You'd be in the middle of the game and there might be an ox pulling a big tree across the middle of the field, and you'd have to wait until they were done."

Still, Richt was struck by the beauty of the country, he said.

"You'd have a house that would maybe cost $50 American to build and maybe less than that because you probably found the wood on the side of the road, and it would be sitting above a valley that was a couple million dollar view," he said.

After the soccer games, Richt would share his personal testimony, and that was the only time he missed his name recognition, he said. He has developed a rhythm to the testimony he gives in places all over the state that centers around his time playing behind some of football's best quarterbacks.

"I had to revise it quite a bit because nobody knew who Jim Kelly is or John Elway or (Dan) Marino," he said. "Nobody knew who Bobby Bowden was. I had to make it a little more bland."

When he retires from coaching, Richt will go into missions work of some kind, he said, and the whole family may be making another trip to Honduras soon.

"Everybody wants to go back," he said.

Richt plans to share his experience with his players when they all reconvene for the start of the 2007 season, and he'd love for some of them to make the trip next year, he said.

"I'd love to fill those bunks with those guys and let them see what it's like," he said.

He would also like to see how a group of his players would fare against local Honduran teams in the game known as football in most of the world.

"We'd probably get the crud kicked out of us," Richt said.

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