Ten@10: Remembering Paul Oliver, Coach Red Bull and Dogs on silver screens

Paul Oliver starred as a defensive back at Georgia from 2007-11 and went on to play in the NFL.

Paul Oliver starred as a defensive back at Georgia from 2007-11 and went on to play in the NFL. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)


1. After UGA football letterman Paul Oliver died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last September, Georgia coach Mark Richt vowed to do something to ease the transition of his former players from professional and college football into life away from the gridiron. The realization of that effort took place last month at the Butts-Mehre football complex.

Richt invited all the players that played for him at Georgia since he became head coach in 2001 back to Athens for the “Paul Oliver Networking Weekend.” The idea of the event was for the former players “to reconnect with their friends and Bulldog family” while also meeting with UGA personnel to discuss their current career track and to undergo a “graduation audit” if they had not yet met their degree requirements.

“Every guy who comes to Georgia, we want to see him do great things here but we also want to see him go on and be successful,” Richt said. “I think a lot of guys struggle going from football to life, whether it ends in college or it ends in the NFL. … We’ve always helped guys find work and get interview opportunities and all that. But I wanted to get really organized to the point that there’d be a group of mentors that can really help these guys navigate how to get work. That was a big part of it. The other part of it was the reunion factor, the relationship factor of getting everybody together and being around each other again.”

Richt will host the event annually but also plans to provide services and support “all year round.” You can watch a video documenting the weekend RIGHT HERE.

2. Richt shared a funny story last week about one of his new assistant coaches. Inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler has developed a reputation over the years of being a high-energy coach. Some might even say the man Is hyper.

Turns out that hasn’t been lost on the folks at Red Bull. Well before he arrived in Athens this year, Ekeler’s reputation earned him a lifetime supply of the highly caffeinated energy drink. He has a Red Bull refrigerator in his office, which he keeps stocked with the drink, and the Bulldogs have taken to calling him Coach Red Bull.

“He’s a high-energy coach, a high-energy person,” Richt said before speaking at a UGA Day event last week in Gainesville. “They gave him a lifetime supply. They send him cases whenever he asks for it. I think it happened at Nebraska.”

Ekeler is also extremely positive in his demeanor. So much so that Richt said tries to make a point a drop by Ekeler’s office every day “just to get some positive vibes.”

3. The force shall soon be with Chris Conley. The long-awaited debut of his self-produced Star Wars tribute movie is at hand.

The Bulldogs wide receiver/budding film director on Monday released the trailer for his movie, titled “Star Wars Retribution.” Conley’s project was filmed all over the UGA campus using students as actors and extras. Richt, Todd Gurley and a few other players even get in on the act.

The trailer does not mention a specific date, place or time for the premiere, other than to say “coming soon.” So stay tuned.

Yoculan (AJC photo)

Yoculan (AJC photo)

4. Speaking of debuts, the SEC Storied documentary “Sarah & Suzanne” is set to air Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. The film will focus on the incredible competition – and tension – between legendary Georgia gymnastics coach Suzanne Yoculan and Alabama’s Sarah Patterson. The two Hall of Fame coaches competed for 25 years, combining to win 21 SEC and 14 national titles between. You can watch the trailer for that show HERE.

5. Former Georgia football coach Jim Donnan is scheduled to go on trial next Tuesday in Athens. Donnan is charged with conspiracy to launder unlawful proceeds, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and scheming to defraud. His alleged accomplice, Gregory L. Crabtree of Huntington, W.Va., pleaded guilty to similar charges last month. Donnan has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

An indictment alleges that Donnan banked $8.5 million and Crabtree nearly $1.7 million in a Ponzi scheme in which investors lost $23 million. The investors included some of Donnan’s former players, such as linebacker Kendrell Bell, and fellow coaches such as Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

6. Momentum continues to build for former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray as he prepares for the next week’s NFL draft. Murray, who established SEC records for passing yards and touchdowns in four seasons as a starter for the Bulldogs, had a private workout for the Cleveland Browns this past week. Murray has also conducted workouts or had visits with the Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins. He was able to perform at full speed for scouts at UGA’s Pro Day on April 16, less than five months after undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery.

7. The Bulldogs placed 85 student-athletes on the SEC winter academic honor roll, which was the highest total in the league, according to UGA. South Carolina (70) and Auburn (62) were second and third, respectively.

The honor roll is based on grades from the 2013 spring, summer and fall terms. To receive the honor, a student-athlete must maintain a grade-point average of 3.00 or above, compete on a varsity team for at least two season and complete 24 semester hours of non-remedial academic credit toward a baccalaureate degree. Georgia recipients included 42 equestrian team members, 30 members of the men’s and women’s swim teams, seven gymnasts, four men’s basketball players and two women’s basketball players.

Lauren Herring and the SEC tournament champion Bulldogs will host the NCAAs next month. (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)

Lauren Herring and the SEC tournament champion Bulldogs will host the NCAAs May 9-11 and May 15-26. (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt)

8. Serious college tennis fans can join the Georgia men’s and women’s teams for the NCAA Championship selection show tonight at Buffalo’s Café in Athens. The men’s field of 64 will be announced at 5 p.m. followed by the women’s field at 5:30. Both will stream live on NCAA.com.

Complete team brackets – including regional round sites – will be posted on Georgiadogs.com. UGA plays host to the NCAA Championships May 15-26 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Both the No. 3-ranked women, who won the SEC tournament championship last week, and the No. 10-ranked men, are expected to host first- and second-round matches May 9-11.

9. The Georgia women’s golf team will compete in the NCAA East Regional next weekend. The Bulldogs will be among 24 teams competing at SouthWood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla., next Thursday-Saturday for eight team and two individual spots in the NCAA Championships. The NCAA announced the 72-team field Monday night.

10. THIS & THAT: Sophomore wide receiver Reggie Davis made his debut as a sprinter in track this past week at the Drake Relays in Iowa. He was clocked at 10.75 in the 100-meter dash but failed to advance to the medal rounds. … Construction of the new Field Turf practice fields and the video towers at the Butts-Mehre football complex is now completed. … Georgia’s baseball team has been in a free fall of late. The Diamond Dogs (21-22-1, 7-12-1 SEC) were swept at Vanderbilt this past weekend and have now lost eight games in a row. They’ll try to turn it around this weekend when they play host to No. 7 South Carolina (34-11) at Foley Field.

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