Fans come, some as far as Singapore, come to watch Georgia and Alabama

Take a walk around National Championship field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Graham Jones watched every Georgia game this phenomenal season from the living room of his home in Singapore – until Monday night, when the dedicated fan watched Georgia compete in the National Championship live near the 20-yard-line at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Jones was back with his people – those who don red and black and scream “Sic ‘em!” at anyone who will listen.

A sea of red and black filed into their seats and proudly shook pompoms once they got there. Fans were euphoric with Georgia facing an opportunity to win a national championship for the first time in 37 years.

For those fans, it’s easy to believe a new day is here for Bulldog football when watching UGA play for college football supremacy inside a $1.5 billion stadium.

Jones arrived in Atlanta Friday after 30 hours of traveling from the other side of the globe.

“Before the Rose Bowl, I decided if Georgia won, I would go,” said Jones, who works as reinsurance broker in Singapore and grew up in the Savannah area. “After the game, I told my wife ‘you know I am going,’ and thankfully she nodded (yes).”

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A 13-hour time difference means the 2004 UGA grad had to set his alarm for 4:30 a.m. Sunday mornings to watch games playing at 3:30 p.m. Saturday here. For Jones, football has remained a constant tie to family and friends back home, a fun way to stay connected.

“For me,” said Jones, before borrowing a quote from coach Kirby Smart’s favorite saying:

“I keep going you have to keep the main thing the main thing, which for me is to be there, and to be part of it.”

Those who are less likely to commit Smart quotes to memory, Alabama fans, appeared to be far outnumbered in and around the stadium.

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Alabama fan and alumnus Eric Hummel was unconcerned.

“We will play the competition anywhere, anytime. It just happens to be here,” said Hummel, who lives in Connecticut. His son, Sam, a senior at Alabama, joined him for the big game.

“At home, we text each other after every play,” said Eric Hummel.

Before kickoff, Hummel felt confident about Alabama’s chances.

“They just have to play with intensity, do their job,” he said.

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As far as Georgia, Hummel added, “Kirby Smart is doing an excellent job and you can tell he’s learned a lot from (Nick) Saban.”

With a T-shirt bedazzled by the mother of former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and sporting custom red and black Nikes, you don’t get more UGA than J.T. Ricketson – known as “Superdawg” to all.

He and his wife waited in a chilly, soggy line but were some of the first to enter Gate 1 as the doors opened. Ricketson, a 1964 graduate, paid the school $1,165 for two tickets to Monday’s game.

“When I was a student, I couldn’t afford a student pass,” said the retired Fort Valley pharmacist.

J.T. "Superdawg" Ricketson graduated from the University of Georgia in 1964. He's a staple at UGA games.
J.T. "Superdawg" Ricketson graduated from the University of Georgia in 1964. He's a staple at UGA games.

Since 1982, Ricketson said, he has waited before and after the game to salute the team as they drive by.

“It’s just something I can do to pay tribute to the boys,” Ricketson said.

Apparently, it made an impact because as he was detailing his saluting tradition out of nowhere appears Steven Herndon, former UGA linebacker who played with the Falcons in 2004, with a hug for Superdawg.

“That’s what Georgia is all about,” Herndon, 40, said while pointing his meaty finger at the Bulldog on Ricketson’s chest.

The older man’s grin stretched wide.

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Ricketson was in New Orleans on Jan. 1, 1981, when the Bulldogs beat the Fighting Irish and completed that season with a title – the last time a UGA football team was considered the best. (For reference: Kirby Smart had been alive five years and nine days.)

“Destiny was on their side that that game, and I think it’s on their side for this game,” he said.

If not?

“I’ll still love my Bulldogs.”

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