Jason Deal

Coach Vince Dooley was made for the role he held.

He was a true southern gentleman in every sense of the word.

While other coaches are cocky, bombastic and love attention, Coach Dooley was almost soft spoken, steady as a rock and could have easily blended in with a crowd.

Hearing the news of his death Friday afternoon was like the loss of a dear, kind friend.

I had the opportunity to meet him on a couple of occasions at book signings.

I have a collection of Vince Dooley signed books at my house thanks to my Aunt Margaret who loves me. When Coach Dooley would come down for book signings at PrimeSouth Bank in recent years, he would use Aunt Margaret’s desk. He was always so gracious and talked with me about the magic of that year — 1980.

 I sat in front of him at Sanford for several Saturdays in Athens over the last 10 years or so. He was looking over my shoulder. He was in his personal box behind plexiglass, but  that minor detail doesn’t make any difference. He was there just a few weeks ago when my sister, Kristie, and I saw the Dawgs play Kent State. I told Kristie then that Coach Dooley looked like he didn’t feel good.  

If you have had amnesia or been under a rock for the past five decades, you may not know just what Vince Dooley means to the Dawg faithful.

He was the head football coach at the University of Georgia from 1964-1988 and was athletic director from 1979-2004.

During his 25-year coaching career at UGA, he compiled a 201–77–10 record. His teams won six Southeastern Conference titles and the 1980 national championship.

The last part of the previous sentence is majorly important.

A few years ago, I was taking in a game at Sanford. A young man and his Dad were also enjoying a Saturday in Athens.

Coach Dooley was in box, but the young man had no idea who he was.

His Dad told the young man about the most famous Dawg in the whole wide world. I jumped in and explained to the lad that when you say Coach Dooley’s name, it is synonymous not only with championship, but with honor and class. I also explained to the fellow that Coach Dooley could probably have been Governor if he wanted to. I’ve been tempted to write in his name for President of the United States in recent years.

The important thing to remember here is National Championship.

Prior to last year, and new Bulldawg heroes Stetson Bennett IV and Kirby Smart, there was a 40 year long dry spell.

1980 was a long time ago. And, I suppose, it was actually early 1981 before the Dawgs could officially claim the National Championship title in that sweet, old, long ago.

I was all of about six years old and was in the first grade at Fourth District Elementary School in Appling County.

Vincent J. Dooley was the coach, Lindsay Scott had made the run. Buck Belue was the QB. Herschel Walker was a freshman.

The late, great, Larry Munson was calling the Dawgs national champions on the radio in the kitchen of the big Haire farm house we once called home. The house is gone now. It was the last time — until last season and this year — that the Bulldogs were anywhere close to a national championship.

Vince Dooley shaped my growing up years.

From the time I was about 12 on, I have been a really big fan. Dooley and his teams of that era made Saturday afternoons in our pecan orchard bearable.

My Uncle Vann would pull his Chevy S-10 pick-up alongside the tree we were under and, for a little while, we could via the radio escape the monotony of crawling down rows, picking up pecans.

For that, I will always be thankful to him.

Coach Dooley was a great example of character, grace and class.

And for that, he will always be top Dawg.

• Jason Deal is the news editor for The Blackshear Times. Reach him at jdeal@blacksheartimes.news.