Good morning. This is Leadoff, the early buzz in Atlanta sports.
The irony of Steve Spurrier, noted tormentor of the Georgia Bulldogs as an opposing coach, accepting an award in Georgia didn’t escape notice Thursday night.
Spurrier received an award for career-long contributions to the sport during the College Football Awards show, held at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta and televised nationally on ESPN.
Afterward, a reporter asked Spurrier if he had been tempted to mark the occasion and location by taking one more dig at the Dogs during his in-show remarks.
“I hope me and the Bulldogs are buddies a little bit,” Spurrier replied. “Can’t ever be too big a buddies, though. I’m back working at Florida.”
Which led Spurrier, 71, to talk about his new role as a consultant and ambassador for the Gators.
“Some people thought that ambassador title wasn’t all that important until the governor of South Carolina (Nikki Haley) gave up her job to be ambassador to the United Nations,” Spurrier said. “So those positions are a little more important than people thought.
“But it has been a little slow. Having a real good team in the thick of a conference race is certainly a lot more fun than what I’ve been doing. But I had 30 good years, and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.”
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Quarterbacks Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Deshaun Watson of Clemson split two major awards Thursday night. Jackson received the Maxwell Award as college football’s player of the year, while Watson won the Davey O’Brien Award as the best quarterback.
Only one of them can win Saturday, when the Heisman Trophy will be presented in New York. Both are among the finalists.
“He has done a lot of great things,” Jackson said of Watson. “If he does (win the Heisman), oh well. Best man.”
Watson, from Gainesville, said he expects to win the Heisman, because “I always expect to have success.” But either way, he is excited about another big victory: “Next Thursday at this time, I will have a degree in hand and be a graduate. That feels great.”
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If Alabama coach Nick Saban had a Heisman vote, he’d cast his ballot for Watson.
“After playing him last year (in the national championship game), I’m voting for him, but I don’t have a vote,” Saban said Thursday in Atlanta. “He’s a fantastic competitor and a great player and played a fantastic game against us. I don’t get to see him all that much during the season, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for the guy.”
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Ohio State coach Urban Meyer reflected on the Selection Sunday drama that surrounded the Buckeyes receiving a College Football Playoff berth despite not making the Big Ten Championship game.
“Like most everyone else, I just listened to the people who thought they knew, and I didn’t find out (in advance),” Meyer said. “I had a grandson born at 5:30 in the morning, and I watched (the selection show) from the maternity ward and watched Ohio State pop up on the screen.
“So it was a great day. That was a day you put in the win column.”
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