Mike “Big Dawg” Woods, who for decades attended University of Georgia games with a bulldog painted on his head, died at 65 one year ago today.
UGA fans mourned the loss with thousands of social media tributes at the time; head coach Kirby Smart and his predecessor Mark Richt were among those offering condolences.
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The team honored Mike Woods during Rose Bowl week with a sign in its official hotel. “Watch your head, ” it read, referring to a low ceiling. Next to the banner was a photo of Woods in his game-day best, his trusty overalls and his unmistakable Georgia dome.
His son, Trent “Big Dawg III” Woods, carried on the tradition at the Rose Bowl. A couple of days before the game we found him holding court in a restaurant at the end of the famous Santa Monica Pier.
Fan after fan lined up for selfies – and many of of the folks wanting photos were in Oklahoma gear.
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“My dad would be tickled pink to be here,” Trent said. “My dad would be so happy.”
A jovial guy who makes friends with ease, he got serious, then a little emotional, when talking about his dad. We asked if his trip to the Rose Bowl felt like a tribute to the late Mike Woods.
He cleared his throat, turned his head and took a minute to collect himself.
“My dad gave everything he had to the University of Georgia, ” he said. “He instilled it in his family. Go Dawgs.”
Mike Woods’ dad, Lonnie Lee Woods, started the head-painting routine in 1980. He took it up after the elder Woods died in 1987.
When he wasn’t cheering on his team Big Dawg served in the U.S. Army, had a successful career in sales and was a former Commissioner of Madison County, according to his obituary.
He died of a heart attack, having survived heart surgery in 2015. At the time of his procedure he posted a video message for fans:
“God bless you. Thank you for all the prayers. I’m in good hands,” he said. “I’ve got good doctors. I love you all. I love the Bulldogs. I’ve always said, I was born a Bulldog, even gonna die a Bulldog.”