Indianapolis – “Woof! Woof! Woof!”
Hunter Street of Zirconia and other Spike Squad student super fans barked like dogs to root on their Georgia Bulldogs’ semifinal win, then a 33-18 conquest of Alabama to win college football national title game Monday night.
“This feels spectacular,” Street said. “I had the time of my life” watching the victory up close. “It feels really good to be national champions, and for our defense to dominate such a good team. Especially after the heartbreak of not beating (Bama) in the seven prior times. We’ve waited since 1980 for this day.” Georgia’s prior title was in ‘80 behind freshman runner Herschel Walker. Walker is a conservative GOP senatorial candidate.
Street, a 105-pound fireball, produces perpetual vocal enthusiasm and gesturing. His motto is “screaming loud — for all of Dawg Nation. We scream for every down on defense.” He calls the Spike Squad “just a bunch of crazy students” in costume. Think Duke basketball’s frenzied Cameron Crazies.
Bulldog fans’ collective support spurs the team according to head coach Kirby Smart, Street noted. “Kirby said after the Arkansas game we’re worth ten extra points. We were so loud, the Razorbacks started the game with back-to-back false starts.” Versus Notre Dame in 2019 got “so crazy, our stadium got up to 114 decibels.” That equivocates to a blasting rock concert in one’s room.
“We lost our voices for three days” after Georgia beat second-ranked Michigan 34-11, in a semifinal game on New Year’s Eve, Street said.
That set up a rematch with bitter rival Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat the “Dawgs” soundly in the SEC title game, and by 26-23 in the national title game four seasons ago. Dynastic Bama won six of the past 12 national titles.
Offenses broke open a defensive stalemate, with Bama up 9-6. Georgia’s James Cook ran for 67 yards. That set up the first touchdown – on Zamir White’s two-yard run. UGA led 13-9 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Alabama recovered a fumble on the Dawg 16. Heisman winner Bryce Young tossed a TD pass, to lead 18-13 with 10:14 left.
Bulldog QB Stetson Bennett’s 40-yard TD bomb put Georgia ahead 19-18, with 8:09 remaining. Bennett’s TD toss to super tight end Brock Bowers made it 26-18 with 3:33 to go. Freshman Kelee Ringo’s 79-yard “pick six” sealed a 33-18 win with 54 seconds left.
“Streetdawg” Street said “I ride or die for my Dawgs. He honors former walk-on Bennett, by wearing an authentic postal worker cap. Stetson F. Bennett IV is “Mailman” – since wearing a postal hat at a basketball camp when in high school.
The title game was in Indianapolis – Street’s furthest game site. As they say, “Dawgs travel.” He went to 13 of Georgia’s 15 games. More than two-thirds (26 of 37) of Spike Squad members bought title game tickets. They sat on the Georgia sideline side near an end zone — as for the semifinal when 11 went to Miami’s Orange Bowl.
The Streets scored bargains buying tickets secondhand. Hunter said his seat up close cost $600 for the title game. The price was $425 each for his parents John and Joan Street to go. They both taught locally. Georgia native John is a lifelong Bulldog fan. Hunter is, too. He also roots for UNC Tar Heels and Atlanta Braves.
Hunter, the 2017-18 North Henderson senior class president, was a Knight second baseman. He helped his father coach Apple Valley Middle School baseball for two seasons. Father and son went to the football semifinal – costing $150 per ticket. They drove to Omaha, Neb. for the 2018 College World Series.
“My parents with their passion for sports are really the reason I am who I am,” Hunter Street said.
He is a Spike Squad rookie. The senior will do it again in 2022. He is on pace to graduate in spring ‘23. He averages an A- with his 3.53 GPA. He will remain in the Spike Squad while in grad school. His master’s degree will mirror his undergrad major of statistics. His minor is in sports management. His dream job is to use analytics for the Braves. This Dawg is also in the “hunt” to work for a pro franchise or a college. His fallbacks are a corporate career, or to teach math and coach baseball.
Front Row Celebs
Street and cohorts often made it onto TV in this season. In the title game on ESPN, Street was seen up front, yelling encouragement. With five minutes left, he was shown hugging two colleagues as Georgia was up one and driving for an insurance score.
They are also often on pregame shows. Street was behind ropes among first festive fans behind ESPN’s famed “College GameDay” crew for some games. When UGA thrashed 11th-ranked Kentucky, “SEC Nation” was also there. “We set up three groups of Spike Squad members — one at each morning show, and one at the gate,” Street said. He was up close for “SEC Nation” – also before the huge 34-7 win versus rival Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. “I got to mingle” with Tim Tebow.
After the semifinal win, “I got to ‘high-five Trayvon Walker and Justin Shaffer” from the first row, Street said.
Spike Squad members often got to move up to row one in the student, with fellow UGA students switching back so the Squad sits together. If a Spike Squad member buys a row one seat then “we’re gonna screenshot it — and send it to everyone” else’s cell phones within the group, Street disclosed. “So when ushers ask, we can show them row one.”
His friend Rachel Henderson portrays hard-edged blonde heroine Harley Quinn. Tall Nathaniel Lemmons dons a platinum blonde wig, as wrestler Rick Flair.
Street wears black paint on his arms and bare torso – even in the cold. He paints himself in five minutes. In humid Miami, Fla., he put on black body paint in the parking lot. “Some smeared, from sweat of my shoulder pads during the walk to the stadium. So I reapplied paint at the gate. I stashed (leftover) paint near a power box.”
Spike Squad Legacy
The Spike Squad began in 2010. The name refers to their spiked red shoulder pads. The hard plastic spikes are painted silver. For a contrast, body paint is normally black – unless there is a fan “red out.”
By now, Bulldog defensive players have a similar tradition. They get to briefly wear a decorative pair of spiked golden “Savage Pads,” when on sidelines after making a superb play – such as Ringo’s pick six. Street said “it’s a turnover trophy. It’s cool they got that from us.”
It is imperative Spike Squad members “remain in good academic standing,” and shun drinking alcohol publicly, Street said. Prospective members are expected to memorize “Hail to Georgia” song and know ACC trivia. Dues cover costs of shoulder pads and paint.
Spike Squad rituals include shaking hands after first downs on offense, and shaking three pointed fingers when foes face third down.
Chants include “G-E-O-R-G-I-A,”“Goooooo Dawgs!,” “Sic ‘em!,” and “Woof, woof, woof!” Alabama students this time could not taunt Georgia with “Hey Bulldogs! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer. Give em hell, Alabama!”
The Spike Squad avoids the anti-Pres. Biden “Let’s Go, Bran-don!” taunt, Street said. “We don’t bring politics into our club.” The Spike Squad instead brings plenty of energetic fun.