Thousands of Georgia Bulldogs football fans jammed a victory parade route and packed Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday for a glorious celebration of Monday’s national championship win.

Ken Simmons, 68, came to Athens from Toccoa with family members to celebrate four decades after cheering for the Dawgs the last time they won it all.

“Oh, we’re just so happy to be here. It’s been 41 years, but I was in New Orleans when they won the last one,” said Simmons, who was sporting a gray UGA sweatshirt signed by that team’s coach, Georgia legend Vince Dooley. “I wore this to the 1980 national championship,” Simmons said, smiling.

After waiting four decades for another championship, the Dawgs ultra fan, who attended UGA “about 50 years ago” was ecstatic as he witnessed the outcome of Monday’s College Football Playoff big game.

Ken Simmons, 68, from Toccoa, Georgia (Photo: Holland Mowry for the AJC)

Credit: Holland Mowry for the AJC

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Credit: Holland Mowry for the AJC

“Oh, it was great,” Simmons said while standing outside Sanford Stadium, when a family member interjected, “Tell her how you tore the couch up!” Ken looked down and grinned, “Yeah … I tore the couch up.”

The enthusiastic Dawg Nation — made up of veteran fans who remembered the last time, tiny kids who just learned to bark like a Dawg and plenty of elated UGA students — created a sea of red and black as they turned Athens into a giant, joyful celebration.

Coach Kirby Smart and his family greeted fans from the back of a pickup truck near the start of the parade as fans roared and waved as the coach passed by. The Bulldogs players cruised by in the beds of pickup trucks and convertibles, with fans cheering, waving pom-poms and trying to capture the team’s stars on their smartphone cameras.

The midday parade was followed by an official celebration inside Sanford Stadium. Free tickets were swiftly claimed this past week for the stadium’s 92,746 seats.

It was like a college game day with no risk of disappointment: Georgia had already won it all. Chants of various Dawg cheers echoed through the streets as excitement built while the parade rolled through the streets and fans made their way into the football stadium.

Natasha Martinez and her fiancé, Vick Yankowski, both grew up in the Northeast but became Bulldogs fans after living in Georgia. Martinez moved to Athens five years while her daughter was in veterinary school and Yankowski has lived in metro Atlanta for years.

“I’ve only been a fan since I moved here, but Athens will do that to you,” Martinez said.

Yankowski said he was impressed with Georgia’s defensive lineman Jordan Davis and couldn’t wait to see him during the celebration. “He’s really just amazing,” Yankowski said.

Along the parade route, Atlantan Mamie Hedd, 48, stood atop a brick wall overlooking the streets and rallied the crowd.

“I haven’t been a Dawgs fan for thaaat long … only twenty-plus years,” she said. Hedd said she had grown up an Alabama fan until she came to Athens to visit a cousin who was living there. “It changed my life!” She watched the championship game with her two daughters. “It was amazing,” she recalled, saying “Something was different about this game. I could feel it from the start.”

“I’m excited to see everyone,” she said. “This is 41 years in the making.”

Derrick Booker, 51, and Timothy Foster, 52, from Gainesville, Florida, were among those celebrating in Athens. They said they have waited their entire lives as fans for this moment.

“(Timothy) has watched the game 12 times,” his wife said.

Booker chimed in saying “and that’s lowballing it.”

Foster responded to the good-natured ribbing, saying, “I’m going to keep watching it until the next season starts against Oregon.”

Foster talked about the surprise that he feels in the midst of the victory. “I can’t even believe that we’re here,” he said.