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Fans, Bulldogs mingle at 'Countdown to Kickoff'.


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Fans, Bulldogs mingle at 'Countdown to Kickoff'

By JENNA MARINA

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 07/19/08

Athens Wayne Parker took no chances when it came to claiming the first spot in line Georgia's "Countdown to Kickoff" not this year. Not for this season.

He arrived at 10 a.m. for the fan day, which started at 3 p.m., ready to lead the stampede seeking autographs and photos with their favorite players.

Along with roughly 2,000 other fans, Parker, who is from Jackson, vibrated with the buzz of the potential for one of the greatest seasons of Georgia football.

"We're going to win a national championship, no doubt," Parker said. "You can underline that."

Junior Geno Atkins gave his cramping hand a brief break from autographs to pose for a photo at the request of quite possibly his No. 1 fan, Enon Hopkins, a medical student in Augusta.

"You won't believe how much I scream for you. I love watching you knock some helmets off," Hopkins told the defensive tackle. "I'll take you out for steak and lobster if you knock [Tim] Tebow's helmet off this year. That's a promise."

Atkins is hoping to build upon his All-SEC first-team sophomore season. He finished with 41 tackes, 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.

"I want to be disruptive. I want to be a playmaker," Atkins said. "I want to win a championship. That's what I came here for."

Hopkins, 31, has been a Bulldogs fan all his life, though he was too young to remember Georgia's 1980 national championship season.

"Since then, this is the most buzz that I can remember," he said.

He and his girlfriend, Stacy Gray, are particularly looking forward to the Georgia-Florida game this season.

"I'd like to see a blackout for that game," Gray said, referring to Georgia's wardrobe choice against Auburn last season. "I think black is the appropriate dress for an outdoor cocktail party."

Former All-American defensive tackle Bill Stanfill decided to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his senior season by appearing for autographs.

Stanfill played for the Miami Dolphins for eight seasons, including their 17-0 Super Bowl season in 1972.

The five-time Pro Bowler doesn't see why the Bulldogs couldn't pull off an undefeated season this year.

"With some breaks and not having some key injuries, they could do it," he said. "The level of coaching is there. The talent level is there."

One member of the Bulldogs family noticeable missing was Uga.

The majorette squad performed a routine in front of a poster-made white-and-red doghouse. The lettering read, "In Memory of Uga VI" and a photo of Uga in a black jersey adorned the front.

Stacy Bennett and her husband, Donald, chose not to break the news about Uga's death to their 2-year-old daughter, Chloe.

"We're just going to let her see the new one," Stacy Bennett said. "She's tenderhearted. She would squall. We'll just tell her when she's older."

Fans are usually invited to bring their dogs to the event, but this year, the event's coordinators decided it was best not to.

Robert Brumbelow, 60, of Cumming, purchased a photo of "the legend" in downtown Athens earlier Saturday.

He hoped to have the current players sign it as a tribute to the dog.

"I usually bring my grandchildren, and they like to take a picture with him," he said. "It's like one of the family is missing."

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article on this on friday.

When Matt and Jon Stinchcomb first hatched the idea for Georgia's Countdown to Kickoff, they had no idea it would turn into the event it is today.

The former Georgia football players talked about getting together with their former teammates and current players four years ago. Then the brothers devised a plan to give back to the fans and raise money for charities they cared about.

The third annual Countdown to Kickoff is from 3-6 p.m. today at Georgia's Woodruff practice fields.

It signifies that the Georgia football season is just 42 days away, but for Matt Stinchcomb there's a deeper meaning.

The former NFL player likes that the event is helping out several charities - Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Georgia Transplant Foundation, the Children's Tumor Foundation and the Georgia's Pediatric Exercise Motor Development Clinic.

"We all have a heart for children," said Matt Stinchcomb, whose brother, Jon, is an offensive tackle with the New Orleans Saints. "These charities mean something to us. It worked out great to achieve all of those things - to see the guys you played with, see the guys on the team now and be able to benefit causes that are important to our hearts."

Matt and Jon Stinchcomb's cousin, Drew Leathers, suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease where tumors grow on nerves. And their father, Gary Stinchcomb, suffers from heart disease and is on a heart transplant list.

"He is not a viable candidate because of the other health issues he has," Matt Stinchcomb said of his father. "Part of our intent is to raise awareness for organ donation so that it wouldn't be an issue and there would be enough supply."

Last year, the event raised $121,000 for the charities and this year, Matt Stinchcomb is expecting to top that. The event was sold out this year and is expected to today, too. Tickets are $30 each and are available at the gate. A family pack is $100 and includes four tickets and a pennant for player autographs.

There were 30 former Georgia football players invited to attend the event. Current Georgia players will be in attendance, too.

"They are guys that have played through the years that every age Bulldog fan will know," Matt Stinchcomb said.

There will be activities and games for children, who can catch a pass from former Bulldog and current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback David Greene. Fans will have a chance to play a college football video game against their favorite players.

"I know that each year fans ask us if we're going to continue it the next year," Matt Stinchcomb said. "That's the most positive feedback we get. We're happy that they're willing to support year in and year out."

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 071908

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Fans, players huddle at Countdown to Kickoff..

Kids on Saturday had their pick of exciting games at the far end of the University of Georgia Bulldogs' Woodruff practice field.

But many young Georgia football fans didn't make it that far during Saturday's Countdown to Kickoff, instead waiting patiently for autographs from their favorite Bulldogs, past and present.

Donald Jackson of Murfreesboro, Tenn., drove 500 miles Saturday with his friend and his friend's two sons, Tyler and Tayler.

In an hour, Tyler had 10 autographs on a poster-size photo of late Bulldog mascot Uga VI and was just getting started.

"He's been on a mission," Jackson said.

With anticipation building for the Bulldogs' 2008 season, which begins in a little more than a month, about 2,000 people gathered Saturday for the third annual Countdown event - part fan appreciation day, part charity fundraiser.

Terri Stoker, her husband, Scott, and their two sons, Jordan and Taylor, are big Georgia fans who said they're looking forward to the new season.

The family from Flintstone, near the Tennessee border, came "mainly for the kids," Stoker said as they queued up for autographs from former Bulldogs Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin.

"They just like to see the football players and interact with them," she said.

And the feeling's mutual, said Dennis Roland, a Georgia player from 2001 to 2005 and now a tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A smiling Roland towered over fans Saturday as he posed for photos and signed the footballs, helmets and pennants they thrust his way.

"It's a great event," said Roland, one of 50 current and former Georgia players invited to the Countdown. "Any time you can help the foundations we're helping and give back to the fans, it's a win-win."

Brothers and fellow Bulldog veterans Matt and Jon Stinchcomb started the Countdown to Kickoff in 2006 as a "thank-you" to fans and a way to raise money for charity.

Several charities benefit from the Countdown: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Georgia Transplant Foundation, the Children's Tumor Foundation and UGA's Pediatric Exercise and Motor Development Clinic.

The 2,000 fans who came out Saturday nearly doubled attendance from last year, when the event raised $121,000, said Georgia Transplant Foundation spokeswoman Kristin Power.

Organizers likely will cap attendance at that number for next year's event so that lines don't become unbearable, Power said.

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 072008

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