It was a familiar setting for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.
Sitting at a long table on top of a stage at The Methodist’s Home for Children’s bottom-floor gymnasium, Smart once again served as the keynote speaker at the Macon Touchdown Club’s annual jamboree.
Smart, along with a crowded room of Touchdown Club members and Georgia fans who paid to see him speak, enjoyed the common and locally-renowned dinner of fried pork chops and assorted vegetables.
Last year, Smart enjoyed the fruits of being on the so-called coaching honeymoon, considering he was a new hire who had yet to appear in a college football game as a head coach. This time, however, Smart had a full football season to reflect on when speaking to the crowd.
"It means a lot for me to come back and speak at the Macon Touchdown Club," Smart said. "Although I do notice it’s not as full this year. We’re going to have to win some more games to bring more people back."
The Bulldogs completed an 8-5 campaign in Smart’s first year, which included going 4-1 over the final month of November and a win against TCU in the Liberty Bowl.
Smart arrived to the jamboree a few minutes before the 6:30 p.m. start time via a university aircraft, which took off from Athens at 5:43 p.m. and landed only 21 minutes later at Macon’s Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
When Smart spoke last year, he said he didn’t know much about his team, and therefore didn’t know what topics to broach. This year, he knew there more than enough content to talk about – his first season on the job, the team’s No. 3-ranked recruiting class and what to expect out of certain position battles in spring practice.
But more than anything, Smart said he was thankful to simply be in the position he is in as a head football coach at his alma mater. Using a couple of examples, Smart stated what could be considered a mantra for what he ultimately wants to accomplish at Georgia.
"All of you are good but the difference between good and great is so small that it’s so hard to measure how hard it is to be great," Smart said.
Smart was in good company when it came to football talent in attendance for the jamboree. The only player he could talk to per NCAA rules, however, was Mary Persons defensive lineman Malik Herring, who signed his National Letter of Intent to Georgia on Feb. 1.
Herring sat at the same table Smart did and was recognized as the Touchdown Club’s Elmo A. Richardson Player of the Year. But a slew of rising seniors named to the Macon Touchdown Club’s Super Seven were off limits to Smart on a person-to-person basis, although his presence surely went a long way in the recruits’ minds.
Stockbridge defensive end Brenton Cox, Stockbridge athlete Marquez Ezzard, Houston County offensive lineman Deontrey Hill and Peach County receiver Kearis Jackson are all undecided in-state prospects, and members of the Super Seven, Smart would surely like to land in the class of 2018.
Another Super Seven member in attendance was Heard County quarterback Emory Jones, a 6-foot-3 dual-threat quarterback who is committed to Ohio State. Smart offered Jones, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, a scholarship last February.
Smart spoke briefly about Georgia’s quarterback room and reiterated that he expects both Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm to vie for the starting job. Eason started 12 of Georgia’s 13 games in 2016.
Smart said he hopes to continue to bring in top prospects to have similar competitions at other spots in the long term.
"Competition is the hallmark of a great program," Smart said.