Respecting The Swamp is OK, but lionizing it could be trouble
ATLANTA » Here's a little friendly advice for the Warriors when they venture to The Swamp for their walk-through tomorrow afternoon, especially the younger ones.
Leave the cameras at the hotel in Ocala. You're on a business trip, not part of a tour group.
It's a good sign that at least one team leader - a veteran of the wars against USC and at Michigan State, Alabama and the Sugar Bowl - realizes how important this is.
"We're not here to do anything but compete," senior linebacker Solomon Elimimian said after yesterday's practice at Georgia Tech. "We're not here to fraternize or take pictures. We're here to play football."
Yesterday's stop-off in Atlanta brought back memories of two years ago, when the Warriors also used the home of the Yellow Jackets as their staging area. It's south to Gainesville now, it was west to Tuscaloosa then.
In 2006 the Warriors performed like themselves in Atlanta, as they did last night, with a crisp, efficient practice. But at Bryant-Denny Stadium the day before the game, it was more like 10-year-olds on a field trip to a toy factory than a college football practice.
You could hear the ghost of Bear Bryant laughing as the Warriors forgot the difference between respect and awe (not to mention their shoes), and Jerry Glanville imitated the Bear's famous goalpost pose.
And it showed the next day as the most talented team in the program's history butterfingered its way through a sloppy first half against the mediocre Crimson Tide. If not for all the mistakes in the first 30 minutes, Hawaii would have pulled off a road victory to rival the 1955 upset at Nebraska.
This time, the Warriors need complete focus just to have a chance. You don't want them uptight, but you don't want them Sugar Bowl-loose either. A week in New Orleans softened UH, and the team spent just a few minutes in the Superdome on the eve of the game. Georgia practiced there every day.
Then there was the 2003 game at USC, when UH safety Leonard Peters - who had just given up a touchdown - spocked Marcus Allen and went over to shake his hand and say howzit.
Peters is one of the most likeable people you'll ever meet, but I prefer Khevin Peoples' perspective and approach in this situation.
"I've been there (The Swamp) plenty of times. Games, camps," said Peoples, who is from Tampa, Fla. "I've never been a Florida fan, more of a Florida State fan. Florida overlooked my dad (Auburn star and NFL running back George), so the Peoples family has never been big fans of Florida."
Peoples will play on special teams and possibly at running back Saturday. He was prepped for a similar role two years ago.
"The difference between this scenario and Alabama is I didn't have the mental maturity then. Now I've been out here a while and I've seen a couple of things. Now I'm ready. If I get in there I'm going to do exactly what I've been told to do."
While the Warriors have suffered staggering roster losses from the teams that went 23-4 the past two years, many players remain who have seen the elephant.
"We have a lot of guys who played in the Sugar Bowl, a lot of guys who played against Alabama. I don't see us being star-struck," Elimimian said. "We know what we're here for."
One more thing, young Warriors: If you see Emmitt Smith during the game, wait for a more appropriate time to introduce yourself.