The Georgia Bulldogs post-season fate is on the line in Saturday afternoon’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta: the Dogs take on the LSU Tigers, with a spot in the college football playoffs at stake. The game kicks at 4 o’clock in Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, with television on CBS. The Bulldogs are 7-point underdogs to the undefeated Tigers. From John Frierson, UGA Sports Communications… All around Vince Dooley's study, there are plaques and paintings and other items from a life spent coaching, leading and learning. There's one honoring the former Georgia football coach and director of athletics' College Football Hall of Fame induction in 1994. There's one marking the start of the Dooley Distinguished Fellows program at UGA in 2018. There are, it seems, dozens more. The most abundant things in the large and comfortable room, already decorated for Christmas — Barbara Dooley has been busy on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving — are bulldogs. There are bulldogs all over the room, particularly in a pair of bookcases that are overflowing with them, as well as other Georgia knickknacks. The bulldogs range from life-sized Uga lookalikes to thimble-sized pieces. 'Somebody kept asking me, 'How many? How many?' So I had two of my grandsons over here and I said, 'You count this side and you count that side,' and there were close to 300 of them,' said Dooley, Georgia's head coach from 1964-1988 and director of athletics from 1979-2004. On Saturday, the beloved Bulldog, a Mobile, Ala., native and former Auburn player and assistant, will be recognized as a member of the 2019 SEC Legends class at the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It's a fitting honor, one of so many that he's received over the years, for a Georgia legend in every sense of the word. During a post-Thanksgiving Quick Chat, Dooley talked about some other SEC legends, making Athens home for more than 50 years, what's happening in his garden and much more. Here's some of what he had to say: Frierson: Is there one thing in this room that means the most to you? Dooley: I hadn't thought about that, they're all special in some ways. Of course, the national championship. To have a team that's undefeated, undisputed national champions is special, because it's special to that bunch and special to Frank Ros, who was the captain — the best captain we've ever had. Not only during the season, but he's kept that group together. He's been a real leader with that group and they have remained very close. Frierson: What is a Thanksgiving like at the Dooley household these days? Dooley: Thanksgiving every year, we have been going out to the farm in Madison County. I've got about 300 acres out there and a lake, so I was envisioning spending time out there in retirement. I did for a while, cut paths and got to know the place, but what it has served now is, on two occasions each year, Barbara gets about 60 relatives, kin in some way, I'd say about 55 are hers and five are mine ... and every year we got out there for Thanksgiving lunch. And then we do it for Easter, so those are the two times we get out there. I keep saying this is the time I'm going to spend some more time out there, but I'll take a lap around (the property) and that's about it. Then I'll watch football games. Frierson: You're being recognized as one of the SEC Legends at the championship game. How does that feel? Dooley: I was involved in the start of that, and the idea was that it was supposed to be for the players. I think our first one might have been Billy Payne or Fran Tarkenton, and that was the idea, to recognize those type people. That's what we did for a long time, and all of a sudden they started recognizing coaches, so I think because somebody else was recognizing coaches they thought they ought to recognize me. It's a nice honor and it'll be good. Frierson: When you think about SEC legends in your lifetime, who immediately comes to mind? Besides Herschel Walker, of course. Dooley: Well, you'd have to go back to people you've never heard of [laughs], that was almost two generations ago now, when I was growing up. There was a fellow named Travis Tidwell, who was an Auburn freshman quarterback and I think he made All-American. As a youngster in high school, that was someone I remember. I remember Harry Gilmer, an Alabama All-American I used to listen to on the radio. I had a scrapbook with guys like Frank Sinkwich and Charley Trippi, like a lot of young kids I kept a scrapbook with the All-Americans in the SEC, so those were some of the ones from when I was younger. Then there were a lot of my own players: Terry Hoage is certainly one; Billy Payne, not only for what he did as a player but a player that has also continued to have a positive influence, he's definitely one of them; Herschel is definitely one of them. There are a lot of them out there. There were also coaches growing up, I had heroes: Bud Wilkinson, John Wooden, as a young coach I studied Coach (Shug) Jordan, who was my coach (at Auburn), but also Bear Bryant and Bobby Dodd. Anybody that's done well, and they all did it in different ways, in different styles, but you studied them and learned from them. And as you get older your heroes expand and I could throw Nelson Mandela in there and a lot of others. Frierson: When did you know that Athens was going to be home forever? Was there ever any thought post-retirement of going down to Florida somewhere or moving anywhere else? Dooley: No, no. My hometown of Mobile would have been the only one that I would have considered. I grew up around the water in my hometown, so I always liked the water because I grew up around it, and if I'd ever thought about retiring somewhere that would have been it. Certainly, I've had a lot of opportunities to move to other places but I would never let it be known because I didn't want my name associated with every job opening. The only two that I ever considered were Oklahoma before you were born, and that's because Bud Wilkinson called me and told me I ought to take a look. And the other was Auburn where I went to school. But by then I'd been here so long, all of my children were here — when I told Derek I was going over to interview, he started crying. He said, 'I hate Auburn, I'm not going to Auburn.' So it made me realize, they're all Georgia, and we'd been here 17 years. I thought about all the players I'd coached and I'd just been here too long. My roots were deeper (here) and more recent, so I said, this is where we are. Barbara has mixed in with Georgia people all over the state and here in Athens, so there's no better place than right here. Frierson: It's amazing how much Athens and the University of Georgia have grown and changed in your time here. Dooley: I've spent most of my life around a university, 12 years at Auburn and the rest here, and there are certain things that are great benefits of growing up around a university. That is another big reason that we didn't want to go anywhere. The only other town I thought would be nice is Madison (30 miles outside of Athens). I wish we were about 30 minutes closer to the (Atlanta) airport) — that's about the only thing I could say that keeps this from being 100-percent perfect. It's a great town. Frierson: Do you have anything special going on in your garden these days? Dooley: There's something happening all the time, so I've got a garden for all seasons. Whenever you go out there, something is going on. And we're just now on the back end of what has been a great fall color. I've got so many Japanese maples that over a six-week period have got incredible color — some that turned colors early, some after those start to fade, a medium, and then the last of the Mohicans now. Frierson: Speaking of changes, the view of your house from the road has changed dramatically over the years. You used to see a long stretch of lawn and then the house and now there are so many things growing out front that you can't see much of anything. Dooley: Well, I enjoy going out in the garden — it's my golf. I don't have to have a tee time, I can just go out and I enjoy working outside. It's a get-away in that respect, and I enjoy learning. I've always said, the great thing about living around a university is if you've got a curiosity about anything (there are resources available), and that's how I first got into it, because I knew nothing. I tell people I'm an inspiration for anybody that wants to be a gardener late in life, particularly anybody that wants to write a book about something they don't know anything about — I've written a book about gardening as well. Gardening is a learning process, which is a joy, and that's what's great about the university, and then it's good physically. I enjoy working in the yard and I do most of the work — I just get one of my nephews to come help me, that's all — and then it's good for the soul, so I enjoy it. There's a satisfaction when you see it done and you're always looking for another plant to plant somewhere. You're going to run out of space — there are all these things you plant and they look good then, but then they grow. Barbara will look around and say, 'It's a jungle out there! You've got to do something.' Frierson: When you watch football now, how much of it are you still watching through the eyes of a coach and how much of it can you just watch as a fan of the game? Dooley: Well, I can watch in three ways: I can watch as a fan, particularly when I'm watching Georgia; I can also watch as an athletic director, and I also watch as a football coach. So, three ways, and I find myself shifting from one to the other based on what's happening. That ballgame last night (the Ole Miss-Mississippi State Egg Bowl) was entertaining but then I thought about that guy that did that (the Ole Miss player that now-infamously drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after scoring late to cut State's lead to 21-20). You just can't tolerate that, so I found myself watching as an athletic director and a coach and a fan. It was good to see Ole Miss come back and make a great game out of it. When they scored I thought, this is going to be good, going to overtime. Then the guy pulls that, so I immediately become an athletic director and coach that wouldn't tolerate that, and I wouldn't. ... That's what got us into putting in this (no excessive celebration) rule, because it was getting worse and worse. I was chairman of the rules committee when all that was happening and I am very much against it.