It's a pivotal afternoon for the Bulldogs. A week ago they stunned defending national co-champion LSU here in Athens, 45--16. Georgia is ranked third in the country and is aiming higher than that. It has a brutal stretch later in the season when it plays four straight games on the road, including at Florida and Auburn, so beating Tennessee today is essential. The tents come out early along Lumpkin Street, which is raucous and jammed long before kickoff.
"Someday," Kedric Golston said earlier in the week, "I'll bring my grandchildren here and show them everything. I mean, 90,000 people. How can you not want to do this?" Golston, a 6'4", 300-pound junior, plays defensive tackle for the Bulldogs, as Seymour did. Garner is his position coach. Golston is broad-faced and soft-spoken, so he reminds everyone of Seymour. "They call me Little Mo," Golston says, "because I guess I favor him a little bit."
When he visited the university from Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Ga., Golston saw Seymour practice, along with Marcus Stroud and the rest of a formidable Georgia defense. "I'd go out and watch him do drills," Golston says. "I saw him work, and that's one of the main reasons I decided to come here. I hung out with him a few times. He was so much older than me, but even now me and a couple of DTs, we'll go in and watch his films, see if we can pick anything up."
Mainly, though, Golston came to Georgia to play on afternoons like this one and to learn from Garner. "Like they say, the proof's in the pudding," Golston says. "You got to listen to what he says when you see the success Richard's having up there in New England."
Garner, the father of six girls, looked at Richard Seymour as the son he never had, and Seymour looked at Garner as a big brother. "Every Thanksgiving that Richard was here," Garner says, "the Seymours came to my house. We'd always be around, because we play Georgia Tech that weekend every year."
Seymour's career at Georgia did not begin well. The week of his first game, against South Carolina, he discovered that the team had no game shoes that fit him. "I just figured, you know, this was college, and the trainers would have some," he recalls. "I'd been wearing some shoes from high school all during summer camp." The staff managed to borrow a pair from the South Carolina team, but those were the wrong shade of red. "They were more of a burgundy," Seymour says.
"He had such a big foot that we didn't have any that fit," says Jim Donnan, now an ESPN college football analyst, who coached Seymour at Georgia. "And he didn't want to wear a pair that didn't look like all the other players'." So they spray-painted the borrowed shoes Georgia red, and, at 17, Richard Seymour's college career began.
He took to college life almost as enthusiastically as he did to college football. He was still dating Tanya Winston, whom he'd met when they were juniors at Lower Richland, and he was becoming a star in a place where it is a very good thing to be a football star. He stayed the full four years, even though people told him that he could have been drafted as a junior.
"I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything," he says. "I even enjoyed going to class, and I enjoyed the atmosphere. You know, you're on your own, but you're not really on your own. It's not like 'Welcome to the real world,' but it's a good prep test."
He developed a coterie of friends including Demetric Evans, his roommate for four years, and an offensive lineman named Jonas Jennings, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills. (On Oct. 3, when Jennings was knocked cold in a game against the Patriots in Buffalo, Seymour stayed with him, talking to him, until Jennings left the field.)