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Travel Headlines

    Just one week after a billboard telling liberals to get out of Texas went viral, a new sign is offering a unifying message. >> Texas billboard urging liberals to leave state to be taken down According to KVII, Amarillo resident Roman Leal started a GoFundMe page Wednesday to put up a more welcoming sign after learning of a billboard near Vega that read, 'Liberals, please continue on I-40 until you have left our GREAT STATE OF TEXAS.' (That billboard has since been taken down.) >> See it here  >> Read more trending news  'We need a sign that represents the true, hospitable spirit of the great state of Texas,' Leal wrote in the fundraiser's description. ''Texas is for everyone – not for bigotry. Welcome, y'all!' will go up on the Lamar digital billboard at I40 and Coulter. It will be visible to travelers and commuters driving along the interstate in Amarillo, giving us a chance to put our best boot forward. Meeting the campaign goal will keep the billboard up for 4 weeks. Any contributions exceeding the goal will be used to pay for a longer duration.' >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  The campaign quickly met its $1,800 goal. By Monday morning, it had raised $3,075. The new billboard reportedly went up over the weekend and has already gone viral on Reddit. >> See the post here Read more here.
  • Southern Living recently polled its readers to discover their picks for the top places to visit in the South. Blackberry Farm, in Walland, Tennessee, south of Knoxville, took home the top prize. >> Florida beach named nation's best in TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards Southern Living noted, 'Blackberry Farm emanates hospitality, from its farm-to-table offerings to the porches on guest cottages.' Blackberry Farm is a luxury hotel and resort situated on a 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains. There is a spa, brewery and working farm on the property. The resort offers plenty of wine and dining options, musical entertainment, workshops and more.  Activities include horseback riding, archery, fly fishing, hiking and paintball. >> Read more trending news  One Facebook reviewer noted, 'Have traveled quite well in my 50+ years, but Blackberry Farm stands out as the BEST of all. They anticipate your every wish and deliver it with cordial efficiency. Understated, approachable elegance. Go there, go there, go there! It is transforming.' Southern Living honored The Barn at Blackberry Farm by awarding it the best restaurant in Tennessee, too.
  • No one likes being stuck in the middle seat, no matter where their flight may be going. With that in mind, Delta Airlines partnered up with Coca-Cola for a special treat specific to those stuck in the middle seat. The Atlanta-based companies are offering a a pop-up 'Middle Seat Lounge' at Boston Logan International on Monday for only one day. “From getting the VIP treatment with fellow middle seat travelers in the lounge to a surprise onboard, we wanted to recognize Boston middle seat customers in a unique way that will brighten their Monday,” said Julieta McCurry, Delta’s Managing Director Those with a Delta boarding pass showing a middle seat assignment can enter the lounge near Boston Logan’s gate A11, where there will be a Coke beverage station and an appearance by Celtics TV analyst and former NBA star Brian Scalabrine. Lucky Delta passengers flying out of Logan can even win a trip by posting a selfie with their seatmates. Middle seat passengers can also bring a 'three-pack' of Coke bottles to share with their seatmates. >> Read more trending news  “Coca-Cola is excited to partner with Delta to help celebrate middle seat travelers and provide them with a special beverage experience during their time at Boston-Logan International Airport and onboard,” said Lou Grill, Coca-Cola North America’s Vice President. “This unique opportunity to Share a Coke with fellow seatmates is another way to create meaningful moments and enhance our fans’ travel experience.” Delta is expanding its flights in Boston this summer, and Coca-Cola also has a large presence in the area. The two companies have been partners since 1927 through Delta’s serving of Coke products on flights. “From growing our Boston network to offering lie flat beds in Delta One on flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles to having two Delta Sky Clubs for guests to enjoy in Boston, we are investing in creating an unmatched experience for customers — one that’s right for every customer on every flight,” said Charlie Schewe, Delta’s Director of New England Sales. This isn't the first time the two companies have joined efforts to bring a special treat to their clients. Last year, the companies worked with 12 artists around the world to transform tray tables on a Boeing 767 into art. On that plane, the designs curated were all over the coach class seats for about a month. Advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy New York worked alongside Delta and Coca-Cola to create the art gallery. The tray table art was then displayed at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this story.
  • A truck struck a Southwest Airlines plane Monday morning at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, multiple news outlets are reporting. >> RELATED STORY: Southwest Airlines cancels dozens of flights amid inspections after deadly engine failure According to WJLA, none of the 172 passengers on Southwest Flight 6263 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were hurt when the pickup hit the plane, which was heading to its gate about 1:30 a.m. EDT. Those on board 'were being assisted off the plane,' WJLA reported. Officials did not say whether the truck driver was hurt, WTOP reported. >> Read more trending news  The airline apologized to passengers who took to social media to complain when the incident put a snag in their travel plans. 'We're so sorry for the trouble tonight in Baltimore,' the airline responded to one user who tweeted that it had been a 'crazy couple of weeks' for Southwest. 'We appreciate your patience, and our Team will do everything they can to get you all on your way as soon as possible.' >> RELATED STORY: Passenger killed in Southwest Airlines emergency landing identified The incident comes less than one month after a Southwest passenger died when a plane with a damaged engine and broken window made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Read more here or here.
  • Imagine leaving all cares behind and climbing on board a ship for a monthslong world cruise. Viking Cruises is offering a new itinerary that the company calls the “longest-ever continuous world cruise.” Those lucky enough to be able to take the time away from responsibilities and afford the trip, will embark on a 245-day trip from London on Aug. 31, 2019. After six continents, 59 countries and 113 ports, the ship will return to London after eight months, Forbes reported. The ship will be the Viking Sun, which has a capacity of 930 passengers. It is the newest of the Viking ocean-going fleet, having been built just last year. >> Read more trending news  Usually world cruises by other lines last 90-120 days, broken into 20- to 30-day chunks. This voyage will have two segments that will last 127 days and 119 days each. The long cruise comes with a large price tag -- $92,990 per person for the entire eight-month trip. Two shorter trips that correspond with the segments will set travelers back about half that cost, USA Today reported. According to Viking Cruises, those who book by the end of May will get free business class airfare, shore excursion credits, ship board credits, unlimited Wi-Fi and a beverage package.
  • The world’s tallest spinning ride, the Starflyer, will be opening soon in Orlando, Florida. >> Watch the news report here >> Read more trending news  The ride will be 450 feet tall and is set to open in June along International Drive. Developer Chuck Whittall has spent a lot of money to swing business into I-Drive. He has invested nearly a billion dollars between the Coca Cola Orlando Eye and the I-Drive 360. The Starflyer will be 50 feet taller than the Orlando Eye. >> On WFTV.com: PHOTOS: Starflyer set to open in June 'To the very top, it's 450 foot. Riders will actually fly at 400 feet; slightly over 400 feet,” Whittall said. 'We just finished the certifications on it, and we're just making sure it's working absolutely perfectly.' Whittal said he’s also working on a second phase of I-Drive 360. He is developing a new hotel and more retail space, and putting several hundred million dollars into building apartments to get people to live on I-Drive. >> On icFlorida.com: Would you take a swing on the StarFlyer? 'I think I-Drive is the go-to destination for conventioneers and for half-day experiences,” Whittall said. 'Once you get tired of the theme parks, you still want to have fun and do things. We offer all that here.' Developer Josh Wallack told WFTV’s Jamie Holmes that he’s also sinking hundreds of millions into I-Drive. First came Mango's and the Hollywood Plaza Complex is next. It will be a rooftop restaurant with a 360-degree view of Orlando. >> On WFTV.com: Read more Orlando theme park stories The biggest hurdle remains traffic on I-Drive. The restaurant is on top of a parking garage with 880 spots. 'This is now the I-Drive entertainment district, and we are looking to make this downtown Orange County,” Wallack said.
  • The Transportation Security Administration isn’t known for its humor, but the government agency has won three internet awards thanks to its lighthearted messages used to keep us safe. The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences awarded the TSA Instagram account with awards for - Marketing/Corporate Communications, Social Content Marketing/Weird and the People’s Voice Award: Social Content Marketing/Weird. TSA uses its various social media accounts, like on Instagram and Twitter, to “inform, educate and at times even entertain millions of travelers across the country.” >> Read more trending news  Just last month, its social media teams reminded travelers that swords are not allowed as carry-on items in tweet that started, “We expected this would happen once they started offering direct flights from San Antonio to Gondor.” >>Read: TSA Instagram post: Cool it, Aragorn, you don't need your blade on the plane “We’re not in the entertainment business, but mixing humor with our messaging has been a very successful formula for us, and I’m glad IADAS as well as our followers have recognized and appreciated that.” Bob Burns said. Burns is the TSA’s social media lead who runs the agency’s Instagram account and writes the captions for the photos. Not only do the TSA’s social media accounts give lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek reminders, they also give tips on how to get through screening, packing and highlights its canine officers, plus it offers specific information on Twitter for big, national events like the Super Bowl. TSA had 1,200 tweets in 2017 on its main account, and its Instagram account has more than 865,000 followers.
  • Opening your hotel room door with your cell phone? Disney has started to roll out the new technology for guests to skip the front desk and go directly to their room, speeding up the start of vacations. Disney gave WFTV anchor Jamie Holmes an exclusive look at how guests will be able to use their cellphones to get into their hotel rooms. The theme park rolled out the technology at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Over the years, the My Disney Experience app has been an expanding feature of how guests navigate the parks and hotels. Previous story: Your smartphone could unlock Disney hotel rooms Guests can use it to check ride wait times and even clean up park photos. But guests can also use it to plan their hotel stay, skip the check-in desk, and go straight to their rooms. 'If you choose to, you can actually bypass the front desk area, if that's important to you, and start your vacation earlier,' Michael Trum, with Disney digital guest experience, said. Here’s how it works: Guests take their cellphones and hold it up to their hotel room door, and that’s when a little Disney magic happens. >> Read more trending news  'They're Bluetooth-enabled. Your phone, most smart phones. We've upgraded our locks to be Bluetooth enabled as well. So, they pair together, via security obviously,' Trum said. The technology can be used as a companion to the Magic Bands, which are required to get into the parks. Long gone are metal hotel room keys, and for the most part, even plastic key cards are gone. But, since most guests these days aren't far from their phones, the Bluetooth technology gives them a choice. Many people wonder whether the new technology is safe. Cellphone passcodes are notoriously hard to crack and Disney stands by the system. “We obviously designed this with security in mind. We can't go into details on Disney security policies, but our guests should absolutely feel safe using this as an entry point into their rooms,' Trum said. Disney is not the first to use the Bluetooth technology. Hilton and Marriot hotels have been using it for several years. The FBI said it has never had a case of hackers using phones to enter a hotel room in the U.S. Disney will expand the service to other hotels over the next several months.
  • What’s the longest nonstop flight you’ve been on? Maybe a five-hour trip between Los Angeles and Hawaii? Or maybe it’s a flight between New York and London that’s more than 7 hours. Whatever the time is, the trips have nothing on Singapore’s newest flight. Thanks to the Airbus A350-900ULR that’s being produced, the airline is planning on offering a nonstop flight between New York and Singapore that will last nearly 20 hours in the air, CNN reported. >> Read more trending news  The ultra long-range plane had its first test flight Monday with a nearly five-hour round-trip from an assembly plant in Toulouse, France. Singapore Airlines ordered seven of the new planes that replace the A340-500 that the airlines grounded in 2013, CNN reported. The plane offers high ceilings and LED lighting and promises low noise level, CNN reported.
  • A Colorado woman is paying the price for forgetting an apple in her bag when flying internationally. Crystal Tadlock recently was returning to Arvada from Paris when flight attendants on the international flight handed out apples in sealed plastic bags, KDVR reported. She said she didn’t want it at the time, so she tossed it in her bag, intending to eat it on her second flight to Denver, KDVR reported. When she landed in Minneapolis, she went through U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Minneapolis, where she was supposed to declare fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers, meat, animal products or live animals, the Washington Post reported. >> Read more trending news  That free apple ended up costing Tadlock $500, a fine for not declaring the fruit and bringing it into the U.S., KDVR reported. Tadlock says she shouldn’t have been fined for a mistake. She’s also saying that Delta Airlines should have told passengers not to take the fruit with them. She also told KDVR that she asked the agent if she could throw the apple away or eat it. She said the agent said no before handing her the ticket. Delta officials told The Washington Post that food given during a flight “is given with the intention you consume it on board.” She told KDVR that she’s upset that she got the ticket when the fruit came from Delta and was marked with the Delta logo. She says she plans to fight the citation in court, KDVR reported.

Local News

  • Summer is off to a, well, hot start in metro Atlanta, and that is likely to continue through the Fourth of July holiday next week. Monday’s high is expected to hit 92, several degrees above the average for the date, according to Channel 2 Action News. This comes after a Sunday in which heat indexes in metro Atlanta and North Georgia ranged to near 100 degrees in some areas. The pattern should continue, Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said. Forecasts for the next four days call for highs in the 90s, though the average high for these dates is 88. “It’ll feel like 100 the next couple of days with the humidity,” he said. Expect the same all the way through Independence Day. “The temperature pattern all across the Southeast is for above average temperatures,” Monahan said. Monday also has a 40 percent chance of rain, which could mean some pop-up showers for commuters.
  • The Banks County Sheriff’s Office says there was no fire and there were no injuries when smoke filled a section of the Banks County jail: a malfunctioning air conditioning unit gets the blame.  Two brothers from Stephens County are facing theft charges in Franklin and Hart counties: Nicholas and Matthew Glover are accused in a string of thefts at Victoria Bryant State Park.  There was a dramatic weekend rescue at Panther Creek Falls in Habersham County, with crews extracting a hiker who fell twenty feet: the man was taken by ambulance to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.  From Cherokee County: four workers at a Wendy’s in Canton, fired for dealing methamphetamine from the fast-food restaurant.  Decatur Police say they’ve made an arrest in a possible road rage incident that left a teenager dead. 50 year-old Simmie Reed has been charged with murder and aggravated assault. 17 year-old Janae Owens was shot and killed last Wednesday while sitting at a traffic light with her mother. Reed is in the DeKalb County jail. 
  • It opened in the 1960s: it closes today after more than 50 years in Five Points in Athens. The Waffle House at the corner of Lumpkin and Milledge will serve its last patrons, shutting down because the restaurant operators were unable to reach a lease agreement with the property owners. There is still no word on what will replace the Waffle House in Five Points. 
  • The steering committees that are studying the Atlanta Highway and Lexington Road corridors in Athens convene today: it’s a 4 o’clock session at the Government Building on Dougherty Street.  Madison County Commissioners are meeting this evening, 6 o’clock at the Madison County Government Complex in Danielsville. They’ll look at a plan to hire four more Madison County School Resource Officers.  A Hall County Commission work session is on tap for today: 3 o’clock at the Government Center in Gainesville. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt a new Hall County budget later this week in Gainesville.  There is budget work in Bowman: the Bowman City Council meets tonight at 7 at the City Hall building in that town in Elbert County. 
  • Georgia needs more doctors. In fact, the entire country does. The University of Georgia and Augusta University are working to address this need. In June, 10 residents from the initial class (some pictured above) of the Medical College of Georgia at the Augusta University/ University of Georgia Medical Partnership Internal Residency Program marched in recognition of finishing their three-year residency program. Each was surrounded by their family members, mentors and other physicians who guided them along the way. Several graduates accepted positions in the state. According to a 2017 study by the American Association of Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to face a shortage of between 40,800–104,900 doctors by 2030. This is fueled by a growing population, and an increase in the amount of aging Americans and retiring physicians. And in order to meet the national average of 36.6 physicians per 100,000 people, Georgia needs an additional 1,456 graduate medical education positions in various specialties such as family medicine, internal medicine and general surgery. About the program The Internal Medicine Residency Program, a joint effort of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership and St. Mary’s Health Care System, received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in January 2014, becoming Athens’ first medical residency program. This program takes three years to complete and concentrates on producing community-based physicians. Since the inception of the Medical Partnership residency program, an additional internal residency program has been established at Piedmont Athens Regional bringing an additional 15 residents to the Athens community each year. Combining the two programs, the total number of resident positions in Athens is now 85.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia baseball coach Scott Stricklin just got a contract extension and raise, and he’s not the only “Head Dawg” who is going to make out well in 2018. At least two other UGA head coaches can expect positive adjustments to their current employee agreements going forward. Men’s and women’s track and field coach Petros Kyprianou is expected to receive a contract extension and raise in the coming weeks and softball coach Lu Harris-Champer will have “something done for her, too,” according to Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity. And deservedly so. All three coaches are coming off landmark seasons in the field of play. Kyprianou’s teams won two national championships in the past four months. The men’s team won the NCAA outdoor national championship earlier this month while women’s team won the indoor national title in March and finished second by one point at the outdoor competition two weeks ago. Both titles are incredible achievements considering they came in just the third year of Kyprianou’s tenure. The former UGA assistant was promoted to head coach in 2015 and since then all his teams have finished among the top 10 at nationals. Kyprianou, 40, just completed his third-year of a five-year deal that pays him $335,000 annually. He is expected to earn bonuses for the national championships. He was just named national coach of the year in track and is considered one of the true rising stars in international track and field. For that reason, a considerable extension and commensurate raise is expected. “We’re working through all that right now,” said Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity, who declined to discuss details of ongoing negotiations. “Let’s just say we look forward to having Petros for a long time.” McGarity said there also plans for more facility improvements for track. UGA completed a $1 million complex renovation a year ago that included a complete rebuild of the track just a year ago. Georgia finalized a deal with Stricklin this week that will extend his contract by three years through the 2022 season and include a “modest” pay increase from his previous salary of $575,000 a year. Stricklin’s fifth team is coming off a 39-21 season that saw it land the No. 8 national seed but lose in the finals of the NCAA Athens Regional. That represented the first winning season in Stricklin’s tenure. But the Bulldogs return all the position players and most of the pitching staff for next season, as well as a highly-rated recruiting class that includes one of the top high school pitchers in American. More importantly, Georgia returns its entire coaching staff, with the considerable exception of volunteer coach Pete Hughes (who returned  head coaching job at Kansas State). McGarity said raises are in the works for Stricklin’s staff, including acclaimed pitching coach, Sean Kenny, who was hired before last season. Harris-Champer led her team to the NCAA postseason play for the 17th consecutive season and to the Women’s College World Series for the fifth time this past season. The Lady Bulldogs (48-13) were knocked out of the national championship tournament in two games. “We’ll get around to that eventually,” McGarity said of an extension for Harris-Champer. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on.” Georgia sure does. Add all that to the tremendous year just logged by the Bulldogs’ football team, which reached the national championship game, and it has been a very good year for UGA. The school finished No. 8 in the Learfield Cup all-sports standings and second only to Florida in the SEC. And that came in relative down years for men’s and women’s tennis and swimming. The financial cost of such athletics excellence is high, hence UGA’s record $143 million budget for 2018. Earlier this year, football coach Kirby Smart received a contract extension and pay raise that nearly doubled his salary to $7 million a year. The Bulldogs 10 on-field assistants in football will earn nearly $10 million more in 2018 than they did last year. That doesn’t include the bonuses earned by the staff for winning the SEC Championship and reaching the finals of the College Football playoffs. Meanwhile, Georgia is wrapping up construction of a $63 million locker room and recruiting lounge addition at Sanford Stadium. That comes on the heels of the $31 million indoor, 1-year-old Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. They’re already building new seating and luxury suites on the East End. All that will be in play this fall. McGarity said they’re not done there. Coming online soon are plans to expand the football complex in a project that “goes way beyond” enlarging the Bulldogs’ weight room and training facility, he said. Beyond football, the athletic board just approved funds to plan the renovation of the Dan Magill Tennis Complex that will cost “at least” $23 million and include the construction of a new indoor facility. They just completed $8 million worth of improvements to Stegeman Coliseum, extensive renovation projects for swimming and volleyball facilities and just approved $1 million for equestrian. “That’s just the cost of doing business nowadays,” McGarity said. The good news is revenue continues to pour in via donations, football ticket sales and television deals. The SEC just paid Georgia a record $42.8 million in its revenue-sharing arrangement, tops among member institutions. McGarity said the Bulldogs continue to focus on doing what they need to do to stay in the front of the pack of the ultra-competitive SEC. He said they have a plan for doing that, whether it means facility improvements, pay raises for coaches or continuing to pour money into the increasingly expensive world of student-athlete wellness and services. “We have a long list of improvements we want to make for the future and the priority is determined by a number of factors,” McGarity said Friday. “But the bottom line is we’ll always be looking to do whatever we need to do to improve and enhance all our sports. At the end of the day we’re going to do what we believe we need to do to be competitive.” If this last year is any indication, 2018-19 could be a very good year. The post UGA vows to do whatever is required to remain at top in the SEC appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Patience paid off for Scott Stricklin. The Georgia baseball coach has agreed to terms for a contract extension and pay increase that will keep him with the Bulldogs at least through the 2022 season. His previous deal was due to expire after next season. “I couldn’t be happier,” said Stricklin, who came to Georgia from Kent State in 2015. “It just gives us stability and shows the confidence that Greg McGarity and Jere Morehead and our administration has in our program. We have been able to have success even with (the previous) contract expiring. But they believed in us, they believed in Georgia and they believed in the program.” Stricklin said he would be receiving a “modest raise” to remain as Georgia’s coach. Financial terms were not disclosed by either side, but Stricklin earned $575,000 annually under his previous agreement. “It’s not about money,” said Stricklin, who was not represented by an agent. “If I had an agent he’d be upset with me because I only want to be at Georgia.” Keeping Stricklin to this point was an anomaly of sorts in this day and age of ultra competitiveness in college athletics. Stricklin just completed his fifth season with the Bulldogs and it was the first year they finished with a winning record and reached NCAA postseason play. Georgia (39-21) was awarded a national seed (8) and had the second-best conference record (18-12) in the SEC. However, the Bulldogs lost to Duke in the finals of the NCAA Athens Regional. After five years as coach, Stricklin’s record at Georgia is 143-140-1 overall and 61-86-1 in SEC play. But UGA’s administration has shown extraordinary patience in giving Stricklin time to execute “a complete rebuild” of the baseball program. McGarity said that was a because of the plan and timeline that Stricklin gave him at the time of his hiring in June of 2013. “When (baseball facilitator) Ted White and I first met Scott, he discussed in detail his plan and vision for this program and he emphasized it was going to take some time,” McGarity said Friday. “At that point, his first two classes had basically already been done. Scott said he was going to honor all those commitments, but he wanted to build through the high school recruiting process. I remember taking notes and he said the plan was we should start seeing some improvement in Year 4 and we should be nationally competitive in Year 5. “That’s what we saw, and I feel comfortable that Scott has followed his plan and I have every confidence that his plan will continue to materialize.” Georgia lost a lot of key pieces from this year’s team to graduation and the professional baseball draft, including all-star senior Keegan McGovern, junior designated hitter Michael Curry and pitcher Kevin Smith. But the Bulldogs also have every position player returning from the 2018 team and saw Cole Wilcox, a right-handed high school pitcher from Ringgold who was considered a Top 20 major league prospect, choose UGA over the pro baseball. Georgia began to show marked improvement at the end of last season when it won the last three SEC series of the season. That continued into this year as they set a school record for fielding percentage, recorded the second-lowest staff ERA in 50 years and clubbed 64 home runs while hitting .282 as a team. Probably the most impressive accomplishment under Stricklin has been his ability to recruit at a high level despite being saddled with a short-term contract. “These recruits know the players we have in front of them,” Stricklin said. “They knew it was just a matter of time before we started winning in a big way. It came up with some of the kids that we were recruiting the last couple of years. But they all had confidence that we were going to get this thing turned around and they wanted to be part of it.” The post Breaking News: Baseball coach Scott Stricklin receives raise, extension from UGA appeared first on DawgNation.
  • RUTLEDGE, Ga. — Driving East out of Atlanta, keep going on until there’s no evidence of civilization, exit onto Newborn Road and head south into the middle of nowhere. Turn left onto Centenniel Road, drive about a mile, then hang a right onto the gravel road known as Keencheefoonee. Proceed through the wooden gate, turn left at the horse stables pull into a dirt parking lot. Then walk downhill along an asphalt path through a shady white oak forest and emerge into sunlight and arrive at the happiest place on Earth. No, you’re not at Disney World. This place is better. You’ve arrived at Camp Twin Lakes, which for this one day at least is known as Camp Sunshine. Georgia coach Kirby Smart puts his arms around linemen Kendall Baker and Lamont Gaillard as the Bulldogs listen to a presentation by a nurse at the infirmary at Lake Twin Lakes on Wednesday. (Chip Towers/DawgNation) Longtime Georgia Bulldogs’ fans know the drill. UGA’s football team has been making this trek an hour and change south of Athens annually for most of the last 35 years. Vince Dooley, along with wife Barbara, was appointed to the Camp Twin Lakes board of directors in 1983 and the Bulldogs have been making a midsummer visit here every year since (well, every year accept for those under coach Jim Donnan, according to camp administrators). For the unenlightened, Camp Twin Lakes is a retreat in which children with cancer and their families can get away to enjoy outdoor recreational activities for the summer. It has air-conditioned cabins for “glamping,” swimming pools, lakes, a farm (complete with miniature cows and alpacas), sports playing fields, a zipline, a gymnasium and much more. All of the available activities are retrofitted to accommodate children battling different forms of cancer. And, of course, there’s an infirmary to attend to any children who might get sick — or just scrape a knee raising their buddy on one of the many trails snaking the expansive property. It’s here that one sees a whole different side of Georgia coach Kirby Smart. He completely drops his guard and relaxes. He back-slaps and jokes with his players. He peels off at the sight of any of the campers or there families. During the hour-long tour, he seems to know somebody personally at every corner and stops to chat, falling behind the tour and then double-timing it catch back up. The familiarity is because Smart has been coming to Camp Twin Lakes a very long time. He first started coming when his older brother Karl was diagnosed with leukemia in the 1990s. His brother has long since been well, but Kirby has kept coming. He came when he was an assistant coach at Valdosta State and when he was the Miami Dolphins and Alabama. “It’s convenient because I have a lake home that’s 30-45 minutes from here (on Lake Oconee),” Smart said Wednesday. “So through the years, when I was with the Dolphins or Alabama, I’d stop by. A couple of those years Karl was still here as a counselor, so being able to stop in here to see him and everybody was good. Now that he’s head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, he brings his whole team with him, including wife Mary Beth, twins Julia and Weston and little Andrew. Wednesday they had a good time posing with a cardboard cut-out of Kirby and Karl on display in the camp’s courtyard. Andrew kept asking everybody when the dodge-ball game would start, and was front and center and in the middle of everything when it did. “He needs to get smacked around a little bit,” Smart said with a chuckle. “He’s a little too brave for his own good out there. The players are scared to bean him because they know he’s mine.” “Nobody’s like Kirby,” said Mo Thrash, one of the original founders of Camp Sunshine who serves as the Bulldogs’ tour guide and taskmaster each year. “He’s come every year since he’s been out of college. He’d always call me and say, ‘Mo, can I come to camp?’ He show up, spend an hour, hour-and-a-half with me walking around the camp saying hey to kids. No press, nobody around, just being himself. Then he’d leave. He did it every year. Then he became Georgia’s head coach. He’s just very special.” Wednesday was the first of two trips that the Bulldogs will make to Camp Sunshine. In all, Smart said about 70 players signed up to participate. About the other half will come next Wednesday. The first group seemed to include a lot of freshmen and first-year players. Notre Dame transfer Jay Hayes, wearing his new number 97 Georgia jersey, was front-and-center for many of the activities. So was long and tall true freshman Tommy Bush, until they went to alpaca pin. The nearly 6-foot-6 tall receiver, wearing the No. 12, eased to the back of the pack when the group was asked to pet the odd-looking creatures. The many interactions with the campers and staff were entertaining to observe. The players were split into two groups and toured opposite ends of the complex. When being shown the cabins where the campers stay, the girls of Cabin 10 came pouring out and high-fived every player. “Oh my  God, they’re all so tall,” one of the young teens shouted. The residents are not all Georgia fans, either. At the intersection of two paths, a young man named William yelled, “go Gators.” To that the jersey-wearing group responded with a collective, “boo!”, then just laughed it off. In the cafeteria, Smart made a beeline to a young man wearing Alabama gear, including a crimson-and-white cast on his right leg. Colton, who’s 14, said he first met Smart when he was an assistant for the Crimson Tide. “Now he tries to talk me into being a Georgia fan, but he knows I won’t convert,” Colton said. Thrash showed the team the lake and pointed to the zipline and ropes course far across on the other side. “What’s the weight capacity on that?” Smart asked loud enough for everyone to hear. “We’ve got some people here we think can break it “Be sure to keep Fernando off it,” he added, referring to support staffer and former Georgia and NFL offensive lineman Fernando Velasco. At the heart of it all, though, is a serious message. “You guys are heroes to these kids; you’re heroes to me,” Thrash said when he huddled up the team at the outset of the tour. “So go in here, look around the place, see what we do, say hello to the kids, get to know them a little bit and have a good time.” Said Smart: “I want them to appreciated what they have. You look at some of these kids and see how they have to struggle and go through things. Some of them are well now and they come back because they’re the hope for so many other kids who are going through what they did.” For the team, it was a well-earned reprieve. They’ve been working out and doing conditioning every morning for the last two weeks. That includes Wednesday when the players signed up for the trip had to report to the Butts-Mehre football complex at 5:30 a.m. “I don’t know if everybody slept the whole way down because I was asleep as soon as the bus pulled out,” junior tight end Isaac Nauta said. Participants range from players like Nauta and senior center Lamont Gaillard, who have been every year since they arrived on campus, to junior running back Elijah Holyfield, who was making his first trip Wednesday. “My freshman and sophomore years I was kind of trying to do too much,” Holyfield said. “Finally I said I’ve got to go this year because everybody was talking about how much fun it is. I knew I had to do it before I left Georgia and I loved it, so I’ll be back next week as well.” It was especially re-energizing for the freshmen, who have known nothing but regimen and brutal intensity since they arrived on campus May 31. “I think they can finally see that there’s a human side to everybody and you can go out and have fun,” Smart quipped. Camp Sunshine unique to the University of Georgia. Located 51 miles east of downtown Atlanta, the camp is located in the heart of Bulldog Country. No other teams make the pilgrimage to the East Georgia outback. Just the Bulldogs. “It’s only a Georgia thing,” Thrash said. “We’d love for other teams to come in. But it’s always special when the Georgia Bulldogs come in. They’re part of Camp Sunshine.” A happy place indeed. The post Camp Sunshine is strictly a Bulldogs’ thing, and something Kirby Smart loves appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Welcome to a feature on DawgNation where our writers answer (or try to answer) the best questions submitted by Georgia fans. If you’d like to submit a question, please email us at ugaquestionoftheday@gmail.com. Or you can tweet us here or here. Look for the Question of the Day every Monday through Friday. Previous QODs can be found on our question of the day archives page . What is draft projection for Yante? Sure did hate seeing him leave.  Thank you, John Vaughn, Newnan The fact that your question was submitted using only his first name speaks volumes about how Yante Maten is thought of within the Dawg Nation. He achieved one-name status at UGA, like Herschel or Dominique. It was well-earned as Maten was named 2018 SEC Player of the Year, joining Dominique Wilkins (1981) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2013) as the third Georgia player to earn the honor. He left the Bulldogs as Georgia’s first three-time All-SEC honoree in more than 25 years and just the sixth in program history. So he did some incredible work at UGA, and it was recognized locally and regionally. Nationally, however, Maten is not as well known. Nonetheless, he certainly has generated a lot of interest from the NBA. That’s not to say he is in line to become a lottery pick come Thursday at the Barclays Center in New York; he definitely won’t be in that group. But there has, and continues to be, considerable intrigue surrounding Georgia’s star power forward. 'I love Atlanta. I went to the University of Georgia. So…this is my backyard.' – @UGABasketball's @YoungMoney__11 pic.twitter.com/GWVxeZ0V5B — Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) June 8, 2018 To answer your question, I reached out to Austin Walton, Maten’s Atlanta-based sports agent. Walton told me that Maten has been invited to work out for 14 NBA teams. Among them, he worked out for the Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Lakers last week. Maten also worked out for 21 teams at his pro day. And that’s on top of his appearance at the NBA combine and at the all the teams that saw him at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. In summary, every NBA team has gotten a good long look at Maten. “He’s had a lot of exposure,” Walton said. “We had to turn down some things just because we haven’t had enough time. He was seen by every team at least three times and 14 of them much more than that. High exposure, for sure.” And apparently they like what they’re seeing. Maten certainly did his part. Maten led all prospects at the combine with 18 reps of 185 pounds in the bench press. He also had the No. 2 time among big men in the three-quarter sprint and finished in the top 3 in shuttle and lane agility drills. Meanwhile, he measured at 6-foot-8½ and 246 pounds with a 7-1 wingspan and only 8 percent body fat. “He tested well,” Walton said. “He showed them he’s agile enough to play with guards and forwards and strong enough and long enough to play some 4 and maybe small-ball 5. His numbers bear that out. He’s one of the most polished offensive players in the draft. The biggest thing is he can bring that type of effort defensively.” Looking at the many mock drafts that are out there, most are projecting Maten as a second-round selection. Walton guesses his client might go “40 to 60.” “There’s probably some possibility he goes undrafted,” Walton said. “But he’ll sign an NBA contract no matter what, whether he’s drafted or not.” Maten, who hails from Pontiac, Mich., finished his career ranked all over the Georgia record book: No. 2 in points (1,886), No. 4 in rebounds (889), No. 3 in blocks (198), No. 4 in free throws made (518), No. 4 in free throws attempted (686), No. 5 in field goals attempted (1345), No. 6 in field goals made (655), No. 13 in free throw percentage (.755) and No. 15 in field goal percentage (.483). If he is drafted, Maten will become only the fourth Georgia player since 2011 to do so. Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie were each second-round picks in 2011 and Caldwell-Pope was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft, by the Detroit Pistons. KCP, now with the Lakers, is the only Bulldog currently playing in the NBA. Which is not to say there’s not a lot of Bulldogs playing pro ball. Leslie is playing in Paris, J.J. Frazier played in France and Italy last season, Charles Mann is balling in Luxembourg, Gerald Robinson is in Monaco and Thompkins just won the European championship with Real Madrid in Spain. But most folks are betting that Maten will be able to make a living in the NBA, and maybe for a while. “He’s a very skilled offensive player, one of the most polished post scorers, or mid-post scorers, out there,” Walton said. “His size isn’t traditional, but the way the NBA is going where you’re playing a little bit of position-less basketball, he has a 7-1 wingspan and is strong enough to play inside and shoots the ball well from anywhere on the floor. A lot of teams like him.” Worth tuning into the draft, for sure. Thanks for the query, John. Be sure to send another one our way soon. Have a question for DawgNation reporters Chip Towers and Jeff Sentell? Email us at ugaquestionoftheday@gmail.com. The post What are the NBA draft projections for Georgia’s Yante Maten? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Knowshon Moreno. That’s the name that pops in my mind when I contemplate this new NCAA redshirt rule. I was offline and otherwise occupied last week when news initially broke that the NCAA had passed the rule. Since then, I’ve had a chance to read up on it and learn a little more. Essentially, it gives freshmen four games to play without losing the option of redshirting and thus still having another four years of eligibility for competition. What are my thoughts on it? Mainly, wow. I’m not at all surprised the NCAA adopted this rule or the one regarding transfers. The movement to provide student-athletes with more freedoms and liberties in general has intensified considerably in recent years and has been a long time in coming, frankly. But the extent to which coaches can utilize this new redshirt rule to the team’s advantage — to effectively try out first-year players, or deploy them at opportune times — surprised me. Of course, the question I’ve heard more than any other since the new rule was adopted is what kind of effect will this have at Georgia? Where it could be particularly useful for the Bulldogs is getting an early look at some of these elite signees at positions where there otherwise doesn’t appear much room for impact. And that’s where it takes me back to Moreno’s freshman year. Moreno was famously — or infamously, I should say — redshirted his freshman year at Georgia, even though it eventually became clear he was at least as good and probably better than most of the running backs that were being utilized that season. Making it worse was, after Moreno proved himself to be one of the most special talents in the country in  his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons with the Bulldogs, he decided to turn pro. That was quite understandable and justifiable considering he was the first running back taken and 12th pick overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Again, the spirit of this rule is not for the coaches to be able to test out the young talent that they have, necessarily. But this new legislation provides them with more flexibility to insert a player in a game later in the season. That would have been useful for Moreno, who initially was slow in mastering Georgia’s offense in preseason camp and was buried behind three very good tailbacks at the time: Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware. That explains why there was no mention of Moreno in the “Fall Outlook” portion of Georgia’s 2006 Media Guide. Under the running backs section, it said the position “figures to be a strength for the Bulldogs” and mentioned that the top-3 rushers from the previous year returned in Brown, Ware and Lumpkin, respectively. There was a mention of a junior walk-on named Jason Johnson and fullbacks Brannan Southerland and Des Williams in the preview, but none of Moreno. It’s also important to recall that while Moreno was a big-deal recruit from New Jersey, he wasn’t as big of a deal as a lot of the backs we’ve seen the Bulldogs ink lately. He was ranked the nation’s No. 10 back by Rivals (73rd player overall) and No. 9 by Scout. Georgia’s Zamir White is the consensus No. 1 back in the 2018 class and James Cook is considered the No 3 “all-purpose back” in America and No. 41 overall by 247Sports. So it wasn’t until the Bulldogs got well into the season that they realized what they had in Moreno. In preseason camp, he was taking reps behind the three guys ahead of him. It was actually in scout-team work against the No. 1 defense that Moreno began to distinguish himself. It’s in that role where we got the first reports of Moreno hurdling a defender. That’s something we wouldn’t witness in a game until two years later. And there was a perfect opportunity to execute a make-good of sorts on Moreno. Brown, who ended up being the starter on the 2006 team, suffered an ACL injury against Vanderbilt in the seventh game of the season.Georgia still had Lumpkin and Ware to turn to at that point. But imagine if the Bulldogs would’ve unleashed Moreno at that point. As it was, they lost that game and close games to No. 8 Florida (21-14) and Kentucky (24-20) in subsequent weeks. We know now that there’s no doubt Moreno could’ve made a difference. Coach Mark Richt still refers to not playing Moreno that season as one of the greatest regrets of his career. In Richt’s defense, he didn’t want to give away a whole year of eligibility on Moreno to play what at the outset would’ve looked like a backup role. Had this new rule been in place, that wouldn’t have been a concern. Richt could’ve deployed Moreno for as many as four games. If he wasn’t making an impact, he could’ve sent him to the sidelines. We know now that wouldn’t have happened. Now, coaches have strategies they can employ when it comes to utilizing freshmen. They can plan to give them extensive work against non-FBS opponents, such as Georgia has in Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee State in two of the season’s first three weeks. Or, if there are late developing players or depth issues that materialize as the result of injuries or other attrition late in the year, there will be no reason for hesitancy in turning loose one of the Bulldogs’ previously non-utilized players. It opens new possibilities when it comes to roster management. It’s like having a practice squad from which to execute a call-up whenever the need arises. Only, in Georgia’s case, there’s a good chance there’s a blue-chip prospect waiting in the wings. The flip side of that, for coaches and teams at least, is a player can more readily transfer to another program if he doesn’t like the way he has been utilized. And schools can no longer restrict a player’s options in that regard. That’s certainly a fair exchange, I’d say. If that designation happens to be a major rival that competes in the same division of the same conference, so be it. I understand coaches’ concerns that rampant transferring at the first sign of adversity or discontent could turn college football into the wild, wild west every offseason. But it has been that way in basketball for a while and the system hasn’t collapsed. No, the redshirt rule in particular seems like a win-win on both the side of the student-athlete and of the institution. It hasn’t been often that we’ve been able to say that about any new NCAA legislation. Georgia had 16 true freshmen take the field last season, but only one who could’ve benefited from this rule. William Poole, a defensive back, played sparingly in the Bulldogs’ first three games of the year, then not again until the Kentucky game in Week 13. Georgia also played him against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, but probably wouldn’t have had a full year of eligibility been the cost. As it was, the Bulldogs had already burned it. That’s the difference now. At four games coaches will have to decide whether it’s worthwhile to keep utilizing a player. Conversely, there’s nothing holding back Georgia or any team from giving a freshman a look. Meanwhile, you have to wonder if there might be a Moreno or somebody like him at another position on Georgia’s roster this season. This almost always is the case. The post Imagine if redshirt rule had been in place for Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno in 2006 appeared first on DawgNation.