ATHENS - Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity had just announced a raise for head coach Mark Richt on Tuesday night. McGarity was talking about his satisfaction with the direction of the football program, when he brought up how the team recovered from the debacle at South Carolina midway through last season.
"I think we had open week," McGarity was saying. "Then we played Kentucky. Kentucky was a tough, tough game. And then Shawn Williams stepped in, and made a few comments, and it just kind of seem to turn the tide."
By "stepped in," of course, McGarity meant that the senior safety went on a rant about the defense playing soft. Williams also stated which inside linebackers should be playing, thus alienating the others on the depth chart, and suggested the team needed the head coach of the bounty-plagued New Orleans Saints.
But that's neither here nor there. Williams' words are now credited with inspiring his teammates, who five days later beat Florida, and didn't lose again until the SEC championship. The defense turned itself around, and after a 12-win season, Richt received a raise and the good feelings are back.
A reporter half-jokingly asked McGarity if Williams would now be made an indefinite graduate assistant.
"He's one of my favorite players of all time, I can assure you of that," McGarity said. "I have so much respect for that young man, because you know what, he was never on the screen off the field. He went to class. He was never on the A.D.'s screen as far as: Here's someone you need to look at (for off-field problems). And he always played hard. Very soft-spoken, but he was the kind of kid that you have a lot of respect for and I hope he does great things."
Actually, not to nit-pick, but Williams was on Vanderbilt head coach's James Franklin's screen that one time, during the 2011 season.
"Yes. Yeah," McGarity said, smiling. "He's a passionate player. Two passionate people: James Franklin and Shawn Williams. Two passionate guys."
So athletes, take note: When they tell you not to air things out in public, remember that Williams did just that and the result was the team turning around its season, his coach getting a raise and Williams becoming an all-around hero.
The lesson? Don't be afraid to speak your mind! We media members will happily be there to pass along your thoughts.