Herschel Walker had a broken arm, Ronald Reagan was in his first term and I had never set foot in California. That was the situation in 1982, the last time I was in Sanford Stadium, the football stadium on the University of Georgia campus.
Again an Atlanta resident, I ventured Between The Hedges last weekend for G-day, the school’s spring football game. Both I and the storied stadium, which hosted its debut game in 1929, have changed much.
I’m now an AARP member and sporting a goatee that’s coming in in two hair tones. (Click here for a pic of the goatee and some Georgia girls.) The stadium now seats 92,000 and has a huge skybox structure above the south stands.
In 1982, Georgia and Clemson, the past two college football national champions, opened the season in Sanford Stadium on national television. The game was also notable for two other reasons: it was the first night game in stadium history, and Walker, the school’s star tailback, had broken his right wrist in preseason practice, and his game status was unknown. He did not even appear on the depth charts assembled for the media.
Naturally, Walker played in a cast, Georgia went on to win and finished the regular season ranked No. 1 before losing to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. That turned out to be Walker’s last college game, as he jumped to the USFL, though as the Heisman Trophy winner.
Now Georgia’s program is back in the big time. The school has won two SEC titles under coach Mark Richt, the first since Walker’s senior year. The team just lost two players, QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno, to NFL eligibility, where they likely will be No. 1 draft choices. Vince Dooley, the coach of that ’82 team, now is retired and relegated to two box seats for every home game.
And I speak Spanish after 22 years as a Southern California resident and own an iPhone and a webcam. How things have changed.