The initial plan was to give Georgia Bulldog football fans a huge event, the biggest one possible that doesn't have an actual game involved.
Gwinnett grads Matt and Jon Stinchcomb, along with former UGA teammate David Greene, feel like they have accomplished that mission with Countdown to Kickoff, their third-year fundraiser for a number of local children's charities.
This year's version, with Greene as the official host, is Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. at UGA's practice field in Athens. Tickets are still available to the event at www.ugakickoff.com.
"We've got everything game day has except for an opposing team to play," said former Parkview standout Matt Stinchcomb, an All-American UGA tackle who had a seven-year NFL career. "The band will be there. The cheerleaders will be there. Hairy Dawg will be there. Everybody will be there but an opponent. That's the idea."
The guest list also includes the majority of Georgia's current players, along with a large group of former Bulldog stars, including Collins Hill grad Bradon Coutu, now with the Seahawks. An official guest list hasn't been released, but the event's first two years featured many of UGA's current NFL players as well as all-time greats like Vince Dooley, Buck Belue, Bill Stanfill and Scott Woerner.
Unlike fan day, the kickoff event caps the attendance to minimize lines and to offer more one-on-one interaction with the football stars. In addition to autograph sessions, fans can play catch or run through drills with the players. The goal is to make it more interesting than some events, where players barely have time to sign an autograph before moving on to the next person.
Matt Stinchcomb handled a large portion of the planning, but his younger brother Jon, who plays for the New Orleans Saints, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Greene also are heavily involved in the festivities, which also feature kids' games and free Chick-fil-A with admission.
"It's a hectic day, but it's fun and it's almost a relief for us because it's finally here," said Jon Stinchcomb, who also played at Parkview. "It's really game day for us. There's a lot of preparation that goes into it, but it's fun. It's a reunion of sorts, too. There's a lot of guys there we haven't seen in some time. And it's nice to see Georgia fans. They were faithful to us when we were there and they continue to support the team now that we've left."
Countdown to Kickoff features a Friday golf tournament and awards night/auction, followed by the main event on Saturday. All three, with the help of presenting sponsor Synovus, make it possible to donate large sums of money to deserving charities.
The Georgia Transplant Foundation, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Children's Tumor Foundation and UGA's Pediatric Exercise Motor Development Clinic are the main beneficiaries.
"My dad's on the heart transplant list, my cousin, Drew Leathers, has neurofibromatosis, Schwannomatosis actually, so that's where the Georgia Tumor Foundation comes in," Matt Stinchcomb said. "In one way or another, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has impacted just about everybody's life in the Southeast, if not nationally. They all kind of tie in to us one way or another.
"The clinic at Georgia is one we want to do because it's the University of Georgia and we wanted to contribute to the school we attended."
Greene is eager to be a larger part of this year's celebration, which costs $30 per ticket or $100 for a family pack for four or more people from the same family. As official host, Greene will attend all three events and will spend more time interacting with Bulldog fans.
His wedding conflicted with the inaugural kickoff in 2006, and he was in former teammate Bartley Miller's wedding the following year on the same day as the kickoff.
"I just felt like it was something I really wanted to be involved with," said Greene, a four-year starting QB at UGA after graduating from South Gwinnett. "We can do something to give back to the fans and at the same time raise some money for some great charities."
SideBar: UGA Kickoff
· What: Countdown to Kickoff
· When: 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday
· Where: UGA practice fields, Athens
· Details: The event, hosted by Gwinnett grads and former Bulldogs David Greene and brothers Matt and Jon Stinchcomb, is a festival to kick off Georgia's football season that features interaction with current and former UGA players along with other events.
· More information: www.ugakickoff.com