On the heels of an Orange Bowl-winning season where his Yellow Jackets defeated all of their four biggest rivals, head coach Paul Johnson has apparently decided that the time is right to try and push his team to the next level. Yes, with spring practice underway, Johnson has instituted a drill inspired by his past in hopes of giving his team the edge it needs to capitalize on its success next year.
That drill? Bear wrestling.
It's an unprecedented practice stemming from Johnson's past, whose upbringing in North Carolina saw him master the art.
"Growing up in the mountains, a man has to know how to fight for his honor," said Johnson. "It all started one day when I saw a baby black bear look at me funny. I took offense and decided to show him what was what. After successfully asserting my dominance, I looked up and saw his momma watching. That match didn't go quite so well."
One of the lessons to be learned in the drill is persistence though, according to Johnson.
"I may have lost that first fight to his momma, but I was no quitter. It turns out I lost the second and third as well, but eventually I was able to win that match. Soon enough, I was able to out-wrestle every bear in those woods. I think it played a huge role in getting to where I am today."
Johnson took in one of the bears as a pet, and began bringing it to spring practice earlier this week.
"This team beat just about everyone they faced last year, and I think it's time they had a new challenge. You know, just to keep them humble."
When asked about the details of the drill, Johnson replied, "Well...there's a bear...and then there's you. And then you wrestle, usually until I pull the bear off of you."
Indeed, the team has seen less-than stellar results so far, and seems a bit confused about what the drill is supposed to accomplish.
"As a lifelong athlete, I understand the value of conditioning...but I really don't understand how wrestling bears will help me when it comes to doing my job on the field," remarked rising junior kicker Harrison Butker.
On the other hand, it's provided others with entertainment.
"They threw me in there to wrestle the thing first. They kept saying I was probably the best and should go first. But, given the uncontrolled giggling, I still think it was just hazing," speculated A-Back J.J. Green, after recently transferring in from Georgia Tech's biggest rival. "That's OK though, I giggled a bunch too as the rest of them tried and failed afterwards."
Except not everyone failed. There was one success story in the inaugural bear wrestling drill:
"I don't really know what all the fuss is about. It's not like bears are much for wrestling anyways. You want a real fight? Go find yourself a kangaroo," quipped senior defensive tackle Adam Gotsis -- a native of Australia.
Even after such mixed reviews from his team, Johnson says the drill is here to stay.
"As a coach who runs the spread option out of the flexbone, I consider myself a pioneer of strategy, and you'd better believe I find high value in new, innovative ideas," said Johnson. "I'm a firm believer that bear wrestling will make this team better. I just hope the bear remembers to always watch out for its knees."