The 2023 Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame class included Joe Haden and Earnest Graham from the University of Florida and Mark Richt and Terrence Edwards representing the University of Georgia.
They each had their chance during the induction ceremony on Oct. 27 to stand up at the podium in front of a room full of Gators and Bulldogs fans at Everbank Stadium and talk about some of the memories they had from one of college football’s greatest rivalries.
Each story was unique and brought a smile to their face and in some cases laughs from those on stage and the crowd looking on.
Former Georgia head coach Mark Richt opened his speech by telling the crowd how he was trying to figure out why he was even invited to be a part of the hall of fame because his record was 5-10 against the Gators.
“I really don’t have a clue why I’m here, but I’m thankful, because you know when you’re a coach that if you get any type of accolade, it’s because of the team,” Richt said. “The coaches, players, administration and fanbase, all share a role in any success that I’ve had.”
Richt gave the “true” story behind the famous touchdown celebration during the 2007 contest, when the entire Bulldogs’ team ran onto the field, resulting in several excessive celebration penalties, but instantly took its spot in Bulldog lore.
According to Richt, he felt like his team needed some life put into them following a close victory against Vanderbilt the week before the Florida game, in which they needed a last-second field goal to win.
“I knew in two weeks we had the Gators, so I told the offensive players that I wanted them to celebrate hard enough after the first touchdown to get a penalty,” Richt said. “But as we’re going through practices everything was pretty much an individual celebration, so the I was talking to the team the night before the game, and I told them I wanted it to be a team celebration.”
It turned out Richt and his players had different views of the kind of celebration he was asking for.
“When I said team celebration, I’m thinking the 11 guys on the field, but they were thinking that meant everybody, the team, but I didn’t know that,” Richt chuckled. “So, we get to the game and the ref throws his hands up to signal touchdown and I see the guys start to celebrate, which is what I expected, but then all of a sudden I felt this ‘woosh’ and it was the rest of the guys running by me to run out onto the field.”
The emotional moment of the ceremony was when Richt, who has Parkinson’s disease, finished his speech and as he walked away from the podium was given a standing ovation by everyone in attendance, both Georgia and Florida fans alike.
Joe Haden played in that game as a defensive back for the Gators and remembers that play well and how crazy the moment was.
“I was out on the field when they scored that touchdown, and it seemed like 3,000 Georgia players ran onto the field,” Haden chuckled. “That was the one time on a football field when I was actually scared because I didn’t know what was going on, and it is definitely a memory I will never forget.”
Terrence Edwards was a wide receiver at Georgia from 1999 to 2002 and spoke about how he and his older brother Robert Edwards, who was a running back for the Bulldogs and joined the hall of fame in 2001, have had a competitive relationship their entire lives.
“We had this healthy competition growing up and everything that he did, I tried to do better,” Edwards said. “Well now he can’t say that he’s the only one in the Georgia-Florida Hall of Fame.”
For Earnest Graham, he mentioned how important it has been for he and his wife to strive to maintain a strong family unit and he was honored that his daughter, who is a junior at the University of Florida was in the crowd to witness the moment, and his son will be attending the university next year.
He mentioned how he was proud to be considered among the best in the rivalry’s history.
“That’s the mark of this game,” Graham said. “Great players have to stand up and shine and be part of some of the biggest moments in SEC football. There’s a story like that every year.”