Here’s my new story for the great magazine Garden & Gun on Vince Dooley, the former football coach at the University of Georgia, who has found a new obsession late in life: Gardening. As in, botanical gardening. (He’s not so great at vegetable gardening, as you’ll see if you read the story.)
Dooley was the coach at UGA during my years there, 1982-86. My freshman year was the final season for Herschel Walker, the greatest college football player of all time (I will broker no arguments on this). Dooley coached a conservative style — play defense, run the ball, always have a great kicker if you need a field goal. It worked, a lot. He was a star on campus when I was there, and for many years before and after. At a place where football meant more than anything, he was everything. But I met him once at a baseball game and he was as nice as he could be. At 84, he’s still that way.
Between those Georgia teams and R.E.M., I couldn’t have been more lucky to be in that place at that time. I wrote a long piece about my history with R.E.M. a few years ago, so it was nice to close the UGA loop, so to speak. I often daydream about moving back to Athens. Those daydreams tend to end with the scene where I’m the creepy old guy at the bar. But I sure enjoy going back from time to time. This time was one of the best.