ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia coach Kirby Smart had a good-natured complaint to fans when celebrating the Bulldogs’ back-to-back national championships with a parade and ceremony for the second straight year on Saturday.
“You didn’t tell me last year we were going back to back. Wow!” said a smiling Smart.
Smart referenced a quote from legendary UCLA coach John Wooden when he said winning the second straight national title for the first time in school history was more difficult than ending the Bulldogs’ 41-year title drought in 2021.
“Winning takes talent,” Smart said before adding, “but to repeat takes character.”
Saturday’s parade led the team to Sanford Stadium, where many fans held up three fingers as they looked ahead to the goal of a threepeat. No team has won three consecutive national championships in the AP poll era, which dates to 1936.
“We can’t wait to see what lies ahead for this team,” Smart said. “This team will have to be hungry because a lot of this team is coming back.”
Georgia won its second straight national championship despite having a record 15 players selected from their 2021 team in last year’s NFL draft. The Bulldogs clinched the 2022 championship with their runaway 65-7 win over TCU in Monday night’s national championship game.
Georgia will face more heavy losses this offseason. On Saturday, wide receiver and return specialist Kearis Jackson announced on his Twitter account his plans to enter the NFL draft. Jackson had 21 catches for 320 yards this season.
Tight end Darnell Washington and cornerback Kelee Ringo previously announced they are leaving school early to enter the NFL draft. Defensive tackle Jalen Carter, offensive tackle Broderick Jones, edge rusher Nolan Smith and safety Chris Smith are among other prominent Georgia players in the draft.
Perhaps Georgia’s biggest loss, however, will be quarterback Stetson Bennett, even though Bennett is projected to be only a possible late-rounds pick in the NFL draft. The focus will shift to the competition to replace Bennett, who passed for four touchdowns and ran for two scores in the rout of TCU.
Bennett wore a red sweatshirt with the words “Them Dawgs Is Hell.”
Bennett said Georgia’s players were motivated by those who “kept telling us how bad we were” and said the Bulldogs couldn’t have another championship season after losing so many players to the NFL.
“We kept winning,” Bennett said. “Y’all didn’t want to believe it. … We got two rings, you know?”
Bennett was named offensive MVP in each of his four CFP games in the two championship runs and was 28-3 as a starter.
Georgia’s 2022 Southeastern Conference and national championship banners were raised at the stadium. College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock presented Smart the national championship trophy.
“There’s only nine of these and you have two of them,” Hancock said.
Among others speaking at the ceremony were SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
University of Georgia president Jere Morehead called the celebration of back-to-back championships “an unimaginable moment.”
“Enjoy what has been created and be a part of what is coming in the future as this dynasty continues to develop,” Morehead said.