Kirby Smart reached out to Georgia Southern after tragedy

When Kirby Smart learned about the suicide of Georgia Southern football player Jordan Wiggins, he reached coach Chad Lunsford.

Smart did that first with a message on Twitter, then on the phone. Lunsford said he also heard from Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins. Lunsford expressed his appreciation for that this week.

“(Smart) was just talking about some of the things that (UGA) has gone through with mental health up there in Athens and some of the ways they’ve gone about things,” Lunsford told the Savannah Morning News. “… Really, it has been unbelievable how many coaches actually thought to reach out to me during this time. I think that’s the one thing that is really awesome about coaching college football, and just coaching in general.”

Wiggins, a freshman offensive lineman, was found dead Oct. 28. An autopsy concluded his death was the result of an intentional overdose.

Smart said dealing with mental health issues is one of the unseen challenges facing modern college coaches and administrators.

“It’s hard,” Smart said. “It has affected me more in the last two years than it had the previous 12, 13 of my coaching career. When I was first into coaching, I didn’t even know what that was. Now, it’s way more prevalent. We talk about it in SEC meetings, we talk about it all the time. We’ve hired two people in the field.

“These kids today are dealing with a lot more pressure, anxiety, issues, social media, pressure on themselves to perform, whatever it may be. I’m not just talking about student-athletes, we’re talking about students.”

Smart said he’s had to deal with it on his team more than once in his four seasons with the Bulldogs.

“So when (Lunsford) had his situation, I just reached out to say, ‘hey, we’re all going through it,’” Smart said. “… We have to reach out and get help on how to manage those kinds of situations.”