I grew up a Dawgs fan. My mom was from Athens. My grandfather got his Ph.D. in Parks and Rec at Georgia way back in the day. He was head of the Athens parks and rec department for years before moving to Carrollton. Football was all that mattered in my household. My mom would bark at the TV during the GA/FL game.
When my senior year rolled around, I only had one university on my list. I applied early and got accepted. A few months after getting in, I toured campus. The whole time mom and I chatted about what I would bring, what dorm I wanted to get into. Everything was final.
And then it wasn’t. Life got in the way. There were a lot of factors that played into me going to my local college for two years. Money played a big role, but as much as I would like to blame my decision on finances, it was largely a personal choice.
My boyfriend, Jeffrey, is two years younger than me; going to Athens meant leaving him behind. On top of that, Carrollton is a small town; Athens seemed huge in comparison, and frankly I was intimidated.
So I rented a cheap apartment from my grandparents and spent two years at West Georgia knocking out my core classes. I stayed close to home and grew closer to my boyfriend, my family, and myself. I matured a lot in those two years.
I used the summer to take a class and get acclimated to a school whose size still made me nervous. I’d spend afternoons riding buses or walking around campus just to familiarize myself with street names and landmarks. Jeffrey came up a month later for FreshCo and we started trying out the local restaurants. By the end of summer, Athens already felt like home.
At the beginning of Fall I moved into East Campus Village. I didn’t know my roommate; I didn’t know anyone, really. I was feeling a bit lost. I was at this amazing University full of people, but felt so isolated. How do you meet people as a transfer student? As a freshman everyone is so excited and ready to meet people. All the upperclassmen seemed so comfortable and settled. They already had their friends.
My roommate was on Spike Squad, a paint line that shows up to a variety of UGA sporting events, and suggested that I attend the interest meeting. Jeffrey was instantly sold, but I wasn’t sure.
It seemed so cool, but I wasn’t sure I was outgoing enough to be part of an organization like that.
At the interest meeting I kept scanning the room, which was about half current members and half interested students. I remember thinking that they didn’t look all that different from me, they looked just like every other student I’d passed on my way to MLC. I ultimately put my name on the interview sheet and decided to go for it.
The interview was a couple days later. I was so nervous going in, but the presidents made the whole interview feel like a casual conversation. We talked about everything from the past football season to our favorite tv shows. I left wondering if I’d shown enough of my enthusiasm for football.
When Jeffrey and I got our texts that we made it, we were over the moon. Each member gets to choose how they paint their face, so long as it’s in Georgia colors.
They told us to come up with our face paint schemes and we ultimately decided to be “the demon” and “star child” from KISS (my face paint drastically changed at the beginning of Spring when I fell in love with Fall Out Boy’s latest album cover).
We spent the next day hunting down everything we needed for our costumes: knee high red socks, black shorts, and other accessories to go with our paint scheme! We couldn’t wait to receive our football pads and spikes from leadership for our first game.
The Clemson game was upon us in what seemed like no time at all. We arrived at the gate hours in advance to stand with the rest of Spike Squad. We stood nervously as older members talked about our chances this season. Each hour more students would show up to stand in line, and each hour the atmosphere grew louder and more excited.
It was just a blur of one Spike Squad member painting another, seeking out bare stomachs and arms. I painted Jeffrey’s face design and another member volunteered to paint mine. In a matter of thirty minutes Spike Squad was painted up, spiked up, and ready to go.
The last thirty minutes of waiting were filled with cheers and chants, and as soon as the gates opened it was a mad rush of scanning IDs and sprinting to the bleachers. Soon enough we were standing in our spots as the seats behind us filled up. In what felt like five minutes, the game started.
I’d like to describe exactly what it felt like during my first ever Georgia football game as a member of Spike Squad, but it’s almost impossible to put into words. You change when you’re in paint.
I’m so much bolder, so much louder, and so much more confident in spikes. And that feeling doesn’t go away. Every home game since Clemson, I get the same butterflies in my stomach. I get the same rush of excitement every Saturday I get to spend between the hedges.
Athens is now my home. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, or attend any other University. Every piece of this town is beautiful. I love ringing the Chapel Bell to celebrate life’s small victories. I love walking by the Arch at night. I love all the rich traditions that are weaved into Athens’ history.
I can’t imagine attending a football game without being all painted up. It gave me a sense of belonging my first year in the Classic City. It gave me friends, and ultimately a family.
I have shared so many great memories with friends from Spike Squad:
Fall went by in a flash, but as soon as football season ended, we were already talking about our prospects for next season. We were already counting down the months.
Transferring from West Georgia put me behind as an engineering major, and while I’m disappointed that I won’t graduate on time, I don’t regret a thing.
And where am I now? I am in the city of my dreams going to the university of my dreams with an amazing boyfriend of four years and the best friends a girl could ask for!
My birthday is September 4th, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday weekend than in between the hedges in Athens on a Saturday screaming “GOOOOOOOOO DAWGS, SIC EM! WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF”.