John Shearer: Cherishing Georgia’s Win And Remembering Student Days Cheering From Dorm

Thursday, January 13, 2022 - by John Shearer

Like countless Georgia football alumni and fans, I was quite ecstatic when I watched the championship game against Alabama unfold Monday night, and I realized the Dawgs would finally come out on top.
 
After 40-plus years of occasionally being close to the pinnacle but always coming up a little short, often against the great Crimson Tide, Georgia indeed won the national championship.
 
After jumping up and down in our den and fist pumping a few times in the fourth quarter when realizing my beloved alma mater was going to win after all, I mimicked Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV and briefly started crying when the game went final.
 
It was basically the same feeling I had two months earlier when the Atlanta Braves finally won the World Series. 
 
How long do sports fans wait for such moments and wonder if they will ever come? Just as I had until the Braves and Georgia won, Tennessee Vol football fans and Tennessee Lady Vol basketball fans are dreaming, too, while also being pleased with the direction both programs are headed.
 
Countless other fans, including those rooting for the Tennessee Titans or even the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL playoffs, are also trying to wait patiently for their moment of getting to enjoy a post championship celebration for the first time or after a long hiatus.
 
I feel truly blessed as a sports fan that two of my teams have won it all within a short period, and I am not taking the championships for granted.
While I try not to be an overly picky fan, probably because both Georgia and the Braves have had plenty of up-and-down seasons over the years, I am certainly cherishing the recent moments. I am also feeling thankful that I have gotten to experience a second championship for each team in my lifetime, especially now that I am in my early 60s and have been on the AARP’s mailing list for more than 10 years.
 
Even if neither team wins big again over the next few years, I will still have a sense of contentment and completeness as a sports fan.
 
When Georgia beat Notre Dame, 17-10, in the 1981 Sugar Bowl to win its first consensus national championship after the 1980 season, I was sitting in the endzone of the Superdome as a junior at Georgia. It was exciting to see the win come after such a spine-tingling regular season, which included memorable and come-from-behind wins over Tennessee and Florida.
 
I had played football at Georgia as a walk-on the previous two years, so it was also meaningful that year in that I knew many of the players, at least casually.
 
The 1980 team had a lot of players with only slightly above-average talent and one transcendent player named Herschel Walker, who was then a freshman. The 2021 Georgia team had a lot of very talented players, particularly on defense, and one slightly above average quarterback with plenty of transcending intangibles in Mr. Bennett.
 
I was always proud to say I was a student during the 1980 championship season, as well as the 1981 and ’82 years, when Herschel also was on the team and Georgia came close to winning national championships again. 
 
And I have not forgotten sitting in the lobby of my dorm, Myers Hall, in the fall of 1982 with some other students and hearing the announcement that Herschel had won that year’s Heisman Trophy. We all broke into a big applause that was so collective and unified.
 
Colleges should obviously always be about academics first, but sports can certainly enhance the student life experience and bring everyone together. I have noticed this in having had the honor of teaching some adjunct journalism classes at the University of Tennessee in recent years. 
 
The current students say they are patiently waiting for the football and basketball programs to break through, but they still love UT just for the school spirit that manages to emanate throughout the campus. Most say they would not want to be enrolled anywhere else.
 
Perhaps in part due to my teaching, I often think back to my college years with similar fondness. And as I was reminiscing recently even before Georgia won its second football championship, I realized that 40 years ago this month, I moved into the previously mentioned Myers Hall.
 
I was in the middle of my fourth year at Georgia and moving back into a dorm was an unorthodox step. But it ended up being about the best choice I made at a time when not all my choices were great, as is the case for many college students. And because of my experiences in Myers, I will be forever grateful.
 
I had lived the first two years in the then all-male athletic dorm, the now-razed and original McWhorter Hall. While it was fun becoming acquainted with well-known athletes, it was not a great fit for me socially. 
 
At that time in my life, I was probably shy and naïve, and many of the scholarship athletes had plenty of self-confidence and worldly experience, including around girls. Or at least many of them bragged like they did.
 
While I slowly came out of my shell at Georgia after having attended all-boys Baylor and after enjoying my second year in the dorm a little more, I decided to move into an apartment off Baxter Street a mile or so from campus beginning my third year.
 
It was certainly an OK experience. I had a friendly roommate, Steve Denham, and enjoyed it overall, although I got tired of opening canned vegetables and went back on a campus meal plan almost as fast as Herschel could get to the endzone.
 
I went ahead and lived by myself in that apartment building in the fall of my fourth year – 1981, but I started to feel like something in my college career was missing, even though I still had plenty of friends and social opportunities. 
 
I had become friends with a couple of girls and used to visit them at Reed Hall just behind the north side of Sanford Stadium. I was amazed at how they knew a lot of other students in that smaller dorm, which was coed, and that there seemed to be a lot of camaraderie and close friendships that formed among all of them.
 
So, I decided to try and move beginning winter quarter 1982 into either Reed or possibly the similar Myers Hall, where good Chattanooga friend Don McGonagil lived. I certainly did not want to move into a high-rise all male dorm full of freshmen, but I craved the experiences found in living in the smaller dorms.
 
Somewhat to my satisfaction, I learned about the time I headed home for Christmas and the holidays that I had been given a room in Myers Hall for the next quarter.
 
As soon as I moved into it, I immediately felt at home. I had gotten to know a small number of people in Myers through Don, and I started hanging around a student named Kevin Cook. He was naturally outgoing and worked at the lobby desk. Through him, I quickly met all kinds of students and residents, including lifelong friend George Weske, now of Memphis.
 
Myers was a Georgian-style dorm built in the early 1950s as a girls’ dorm and named for the longtime house mother at Soule Hall across its quad. By 1982, Myers had long since become a coed dorm, with two wings for male students and one – North Myers – for females. I lived in room 266 in Center Myers.
 
The term coed dorm had its own connotations in the late 1960s or early 1970s when they started appearing on campuses. But to me, Myers Hall was simply a place where both male and female students could easily get to know each other in a mostly innocent way and forge deep friendships.
 
Living there, I felt a sense of camaraderie that I might have felt if I had attended a small liberal arts school like Sewanee or Maryville College.
 
Especially after having attended Baylor when it was all male and having felt a little cheated socially during my high school years, even though I loved everything else about the secondary school, I thought I was making up for lost times at Myers simply in casual social interaction.
 
I stayed there four quarters – through March 1983 – and developed several close and casual friendships with numerous male and female students. Many of us would also go to the football and men’s basketball games together.
 
Myers also had a neat and relaxing lobby, and countless students would sit there and socialize with other students. Some, like me, probably spent as much time there as they should have at the library or their dorm room desk, 
 
In fact, I enjoyed it so much that one or two people called me a lobby lizard. But at least I was a proud one.
 
I also took note of the history of the dorm and learned that Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first black female undergraduate student, had lived in a special room there during those tense early days of integration.
 
I also became acquainted with Dr. Joe Snow, a Spanish and Portuguese professor, who lived in a faculty apartment there and had a good rapport with the student residents. I also had a nice roommate, the easy-going Lewis Whited from Trenton, Ga.
 
I enjoyed living in Myers Hall so much that I almost felt like crying when I had to pack up my car and leave after winter quarter of 1983 when I was scheduled to have completed my schooling. I ended up having to come back and finish that summer – probably due to spending too much time in the Myers lobby – but I lived elsewhere.
 
My life also went elsewhere after graduation. An interest in writing that had blossomed when I used to paste notes on my Myers dorm room that students thought were funny or clever led to pursuing a job at the Chattanooga Free Press. And editor Lee Anderson kindly took a chance on me and hired me nine long months after graduation, despite not having a journalism degree or any internships, the prerequisites needed today.
 
And many of the stories I wrote were on local history. They were inspired after both working at the historic Chattanooga Golf and Country Club during the summers and spending time in the Georgia Room of the Georgia library looking up information on Coca-Cola history while in Myers.
 
I have since also taught and done freelance journalism work. I also met Laura and got married in 1994. 
 
But I have never forgotten living in beautiful old Myers Hall on Lumpkin Street. It was later remodeled slightly and made into a dorm for honors students, which would have probably excluded me.
 
But whenever I make it back to Athens, I drive by Myers or occasionally walk into the lobby when it is open. A warm glow always comes to mind thinking about all the fun socializing I enjoyed before I had to face the real world of trying to support myself.
 
Along with memories of cheering on the Dawgs’ football team and even the men’s basketball team when they made a miraculous run to the Final Four in 1983, my time in Myers will always be remembered with a warm glow and as one of my college highlights.
 
Recalling the experience even makes me want to shout out a loud “How ‘Bout Them Dawgs!”
 
* * *
 
Jcshearer2@comcast.net

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