ATLANTA — Kevin Mawae said he was taken aback when he got a call from LSU telling him he would represent the school as its football legend at this year’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
Not only that, but the longtime NFL center was selected to speak on behalf of the 14 legends honorees Friday at the annual SEC Legends Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
“It’s a great honor,” said Mawae, who moved back to Baton Rouge this summer, “considering all the great athletes to come out of LSU. To be named along with these 13 other guys, some of whom I played against, is humbling a little bit.
“I’m thrilled to be representing LSU.”
A member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, Mawae was a freshman All-SEC pick in 1990 and was an All-SEC selection from 1991-93. A seven-time All-Pro, Mawae played for 16 years in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans and served as president of the NFL Players Association from 2008-11.
Among those also honored Friday was CBS Sports legend Pat Summerall (Arkansas), 1957 Heisman Trophy winner and Marion, La., native John David Crow (Texas A&M), former New Orleans Saints fullback James Owens (Auburn), former Ole Miss quarterback Glynn Griffing and ex-Georgia quarterback David Greene, who played against LSU in the 2003 SEC Championship Game.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have been friends — and competitors — since they were ball boys for their father’s high school programs at a pair of rival Georgia schools.
Saturday, the two former Georgia players will match wits with nothing less than an SEC championship and a berth in the BCS national championship game on the line (3 p.m. CST, CBS).
“We’ve tended to compete at everything we’ve ever done,” Bobo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “from cards to golf to who can get to the store the fastest. It’s just one of those things. It never ends pretty, so we’ll just see.”
Bobo was a quarterback for the Bulldogs from 1994-97, while Smart played defensive back from 1995-98.
Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked about the difficulty of going undefeated, and pointed to the three-game stretch with Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M that led to his team’s loss to the Aggies.
“We went through a pretty tough stretch where we played three top-15 teams,” Saban said.
“I didn’t think we played our best game at LSU. They played extremely well, and we put together a two-minute drive to win the game at the end that was a very emotional win. I don’t think we responded very well the next week, didn’t play well early and got behind.”
A&M jumped out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead and held on to beat the Crimson Tide 29-24.
“A&M has a good team, they made a lot of plays, they have a great young quarterback (Johnny Manziel), so I’m not taking anything way from them or the way they played,” Saban said. “But I don’t think we played our best, especially early in that game.”
The SEC Championship Game has been very good at identifying national championship contenders. Ten of the 20 winners have gone on to play for the national championship, with eight of them taking the title.
But creating close games? Not so much.
Only four of the 20 SEC championship games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The only one of those since 1997 was LSU’s 21-14 victory over Tennessee in 2007.
Two SEC title games were decided by one point: Florida beat Alabama 24-23 in 1994 and Tennessee beat Auburn 30-29 in 1997. Alabama also beat Florida 28-21 in the first championship game in 1992.
Despite Alabama’s eight appearances and Georgia’s five, this will be the first SEC Championship Game meeting between the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs.
The last time they played was in 2008, when Alabama blitzed to a 31-0 halftime lead in Athens, Ga., and coasted to a 41-30 victory.
Georgia wore black jerseys for that one, which became known as the “Blackout game.”
Asked what, if anything, he can apply from that game to this one, Georgia coach Mark Richt chuckled and said, “Don’t wear black jerseys. We’re wearing red.”
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