With college football in season, many in our community are fired up and pulling for their favorite teams. Saturdays in the fall are made for college football.

This is true especially in the South. They have football up north too. I’m just not sure it’s the same as it is here. Some people even make comparisons to college football and religion. As little as I know, I can assure that there is no correlation between the two. We may love it. But it’s not a religion. It’s a sport. A sport that I and millions of others follow closely.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Cherokee County has as many Georgia Bulldog fans as Republicans. Despite this, my Daddy was a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fan until the day he died. If you were to ask me why, I wouldn’t be able to provide you with the answer. You see, that’s one of those things I never bothered to ask and now wish I had. For you who know me, you know that I have done some stupid things in my life. However, looking back, it’s some of things I didn’t do that caused me the most regret. I should have asked Daddy a lot more questions while having the chance. But I didn’t. And that ship has sailed. Maybe that’s why I bug Mama pretty much every day with at least a phone call. I don’t want to miss something.

Without knowing the source of Daddy’s love for Tech, I inherited the same love. There are few of us in comparison to the Dawg fans. We’re a resilient bunch. We’ve had to be. Many seasons have been lean ones. Nevertheless, I have been a solid Tech fan since birth and guess I will be to the day I die. At the same time, I have many Bulldog fans as friends. I love them all. When Daddy died and I asked his three life-long friends to carry his body, one of them, Frank Saxon is the biggest UGA fan I know. After telling Frank that this was an off week for Georgia, he said it didn’t matter who they were playing on that Saturday. He would be carrying my Daddy. I love Frank. And his words proved that football isn’t really a religion. Love trumps everything.

A great Georgia Bulldog, Donnie McMickens died today (Thursday). I had the privilege of going to elementary and high school With Donnie. He was a great man. He was a great North Canton Tiger, Cherokee Warrior, and a Georgia Bulldog. When Danny Tippens had us playing football at North Canton Elementary, Donnie and Charles “Too Mean” Martin were part of our games. Some of us didn’t weigh 100 pounds. It didn’t matter. Donnie and Charles were always careful not to hurt us smaller kids. They both had big hearts. That transcended to their play with us much smaller athletes. They would lose the game before hurting one of us. That, my friends, is character.

I’ve told you the story but it’s worth repeating. Donnie became the starting tailback at UGA. He was good. Really good. Then one game he was replaced by another freshman, Herschel Walker. If you know anything about college football, you know the rest of the story. Donnie had been considered the better running back in practice and was named the starter. After Herschel relieved Donnie, Donnie became a regular on special teams as he had lost his starting position to Walker. That wouldn’t change. Rather than whine like a weak human being, Donnie accepted his new role like a man of character and made the most of his opportunity. His Cherokee County raising had come to the forefront. Danny Tippens was a great influence on Donnie’s early life. I hope he knows that. He touched us all, but, with Donnie, he touched a star.

After all this misfortune Donnie had, he then gets cancer. Seems like one of the greatest athletes I’ve ever known couldn’t catch a break. It seems he got a raw deal every time he turned around. Yet he kept that same smile. He kept that same humble spirit. He turned adversity into success at every turn. He was an example for any athlete to follow. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I’ve never been a Bulldog fan. But I have always been a fan of Donnie McMickens. He was a gentleman. He’s now again first string.

Chris Collett is a longtime resident of Cherokee County.

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