The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Champs: Former Dawgs On Title-Winning Teams

120 days ago
John Frierson
Photo: Georgia Athletics

Not only did former Georgia baseball player Alex Wood help the Los Angeles Dodgers win the 2020 World Series on Tuesday night, pitching two perfect innings with three strikeouts, he also kept alive a streak every Bulldogs fan will love.

In February, former Georgia football receiver Mecole Hardman capped off an excellent rookie season in the NFL by helping the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV, beating San Francisco 31-20 in Miami. Hardman had three kickoff returns, a 2-yard reception and a rush in the Chiefs' victory.

Earlier this month, from the NBA's bubble at Disney World in Orlando, former Bulldog basketball standout Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 17 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA title-clinching victory, 106-93, over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

When the Dodgers got the final out of their 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series, playing in Arlington, Texas, that meant that a former Georgia Bulldog was one of the champions in each of the big three American team sports - no other school in the country had a former player on all three title winners in 2020.

Georgia is the latest SEC school to be represented on all three championship teams. According to the SEC, among the other schools to do it recently are Vanderbilt in 2017 and 2018, and Florida in 2013.

For Wood, who played under former coach David Perno from 2010-12, Tuesday's relief effort was his seventh appearance in a World Series game. The Dodgers were playing in their third Series in the past four years. Wood pitched a total of 4.0 innings in the World Series and allowed two hits and no runs.

Scott Stricklin, Georgia's Ike Cousins Baseball Coach, said Wednesday that Wood "is very active" with the program to this day. And having a former Bulldog playing on the biggest stage is both great to see and helps the program in numerous ways.

"He's connected with our players, he's connected with everyone here still, he loves Athens, and it's not rare to see him in an interview and he's wearing something Georgia," Stricklin said. "It's visibility. Everybody in the baseball world was watching last night in Game 6 and he throws a gem, he throws two great innings.

"It's great for recruits, it's great for our alums to see it and our fans to see it."

Georgia has now had six former players win World Series championships.

"Getting to see Georgia guys succeed at the highest level, our recruits watch that stuff and it's a big deal," Stricklin said. "Kids like shiny things and shiny things are guys that win championships. It certainly helps when you've got guys in the spotlight like that."

In a video posted on the Georgia football Twitter page back on Feb. 19, a couple of weeks after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, Hardman, who also ran sprints on the track team, talked about how being at Georgia and playing for coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs' coaches prepared him for the NFL.

"When Coach Smart came in and the program he developed, it definitely prepares you a lot," Hardman said in the video. "The preparation we did here is the same way we do it in the league. The hard practices and especially playing in the SEC, it's kind of like a mini NFL.

"You're playing in front of big crowds in big games, in big situations; you're training your mind to be mentally prepared for things and keyed in on details because a lot of the game is mental. When he brought in what he did, he definitely prepared me, for sure."

Hardman's play on the Super Bowl-winning side extended another great Georgia streak, making it 19 straight years that there has been a Bulldog on the Super Bowl champion's roster.

Caldwell-Pope, who played at Georgia under former coach Mark Fox from 2012-13 and was the 2013 SEC Player of the Year, is in his third season with the Lakers and started all 21 games in the playoffs. In the final three games of the NBA Finals, Caldwell-Pope scored 15, 16 and 17 points.

The only other former Bulldog to win an NBA title was Shandon Anderson (1993-96), who was a member of the Heat's championship team in 2006.

Assistant Sports Communications Director John Frierson is the staff writer for the UGA Athletic Association and curator of the ITA Men's Tennis Hall of Fame. You can find his work at: Frierson Files. He's also on Twitter: @FriersonFiles and @ITAHallofFame.