UGA athletes and coaches urge elementary students to study hard, follow their dreams

ATLANTA — School’s out at Georgia for the semester.

UGA athletes and coaches urge elementary students to study hard, follow their dreams
Marc Weiszer

While many Bulldog athletes headed home for some downtime, more than 20 current and former Georgia players from 12 sports woke up early Wednesday morning and rode a bus to Atlanta.

They took part in the “UGA Day — Learn, Play, Excel” assembly for second through fifth graders from Drew Charter School in the East Lake community. The event, held in an adjoining YMCA, marked the third straight year that Georgia’s Athletic Association partnered with a metro Atlanta area school.

“This is an area that’s struggled a little bit,” receiver Chris Conley said. “Downtown Atlanta schools in troubled areas with troubled kids specifically. These kids are pushing those boundaries and pushing those limits. They’re showing those kids aren’t lost causes.”

Aaron Murray handed out T-shirts to kids instead of handing the ball to a tailback.

The quarterback got a big round of applause when introduced, but not quite as big as the one given to Georgia swimmer Shannon Vreeland when the students were told she is as an Olympic gold medal winner. Former Bulldogs gymnast Courtney Kupets brought her two Olympic medals with her to show.

The message from speakers, who included football coach Mark Richt and basketball coaches Mark Fox and Andy Landers, was less about winning games and more about ways to succeed in the classroom and in life.

“It really doesn’t matter how hard I worked in basketball to earn that scholarship, if I had not worked as hard in the classroom, I could not have gone to Georgia,” Carla Green Williams, the Georgia executive associate athletic director who played for Landers, told the audience. “It’s not too early. … It’s important to do your very best right now.”

Fox clapped his hands when it was announced that the Drew students got good news on recent test scores. “I think that’s awesome,” he told them later.

“It’s just a blessing to be here and show these little kids that no matter what background you come from — rich or poor — as long as you’ve got your education and you’re making good grades, you can go as far as you want to go,” defensive end Garrison Smith, who grew up in Atlanta 10 minutes away, said afterwards.

Georgia athletes ate lunch with students following the assembly in which Kupets told the students to set goals for themselves to try to achieve.

Others spoke out against bullying of classmates and urged them to treat each other with kindness and respect authority.

Offensive lineman Chris Burnette told them his favorite pastime is sleeping because he loves to dream. Specifically, about being Superman.

He told them not to be afraid to follow their dreams.

Richt warned the students about making sure they don’t do things to keep dreams from coming true.

“There’s a lot of guys over the years that were good enough to play football but didn’t get to come to Georgia because they didn’t have the grades, they didn’t care enough about school and they didn’t behave the way they should behave,” Richt said. “And there’s been some guys who have come to Georgia and didn’t behave like they should or didn’t do well in school like they should. And they had to go. They had to lose their dream because they didn’t do it right. Make sure y’all take care of business, OK?”

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Defensive newcomers in big roles as #UGA opens practice to students (with practice observations) http://t.co/iOWvpcSg7j #UGA

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