A rural Bainbridge boy, raised on the religion of football, grew to become one of the nation’s leading influencers in college athletics. Meet Kirby Smart, head coach of the University of Georgia football team, whose fierce passion for the game is coupled with a love for family and an affinity for the Peach State.
Q + A
What was it like growing up in South Georgia and how did you spend your time as a child?
I spent most of my childhood on the ball field. It seemed like each season brought a different sport, so most of my childhood memories came from playing various sports.
How did your rural, South Georgia lifestyle prepare you to be a player and a coach?
I’ll take a line from our league’s mantra, “It Just Means More.” That was certainly true growing up in South Georgia. The passion and the energy of the community certainly influenced my aspirations to coach.
What’s a lesson your parents taught you that has found its way between the hedges and at home with your children?
My parents were both educators, so I certainly appreciated how they integrated family into their day-to-day. Teaching and coaching weren’t just jobs for my parents, it was a lifestyle decision for our whole family. I try to do the same thing my parents did, and that’s keep family at the center of the program.
What’s something you admire about Georgia?
Georgia is a unique state in the fact that you can go from the mountains to the coast in a fairly quick drive. I admire how diverse our ag community is here in Georgia.
What have you found to be the best way to balance time on the field versus time at home?
It’s certainly not easy, I’ll say that, but I’m lucky to have a wife who not only understands what I do but is a part of it every single day. Our staff’s families get together often — even during the season. It’s important to have a family environment because we’re all in this together and need each other.
Your career has primarily been spent in the South, however what did you miss most about Georgia when you were not living here?
You can’t beat the high school football in Georgia, so I’ll say that I appreciate being close to our high school coaches and programs within the state.
Agriculture is important to Georgia and we work with farmers who grow the food we consume. It must be a challenge to feed all the football players on your team. Will you share some details?
They can put down some food, there’s no doubt about it. We have a nutrition staff that does an unbelievable job with our guys. We have to adapt to the needs of every player, so one player’s diet might look completely different from the next. At the end of the day, it’s important it tastes good, so I’ll give credit to Sidney Roberts, director of football performance nutrition, and her staff for the job they do.
There is no better feeling than tailgating in Athens following a win on Saturday. What is it like as a coach?
We have a 24-hour rule, then it’s on to the next opponent.
What type of milk do you drink? I’m good as long as it’s cold.
Georgia coast or Georgia mountains? How about the lake?
Favorite Georgia specialty crop? Since we’re the Peach State, I’ll go with peaches.
Boiled peanuts or roasted peanuts? It’s hard to beat a good boiled peanut stand.