Opinion: It’s King Lunsford’s court and we’re all here for it

Head Coach Chad Lunsford celebrates the win over Appalachian State with the students who had stormed the field.

McClain Baxley

From the slamming of the metal chairs to the waving of the hat to the Georgia Southern faithful, Chad Lunsford has done everything right. In just his first season at the helm of the Eagles, Lunsford has done a better job reinvigorating a program than any other coach in college football history. Even Nick Saban lost six games in his first year at Alabama.

Lunsford’s Eagles beat two teams that dominated them a year before, but kept looking forward. Lunsford’s Eagles beat the preseason conference favorite, but kept looking forward. Lunsford’s Eagles beat a ranked rival that they hadn’t beaten in three years, but kept looking forward.

Week after week, the first-year head coach has continued to stay humble and keep the past in the past. The 34-14 victory against Appalachian State was arguably the biggest win since GS moved to FBS and Lunsford has already put it behind him.

“I’ve moved on from App State,” Lunsford said in his press conference Monday. “App State will not really enter my mind until next year.”

Whether that quote is interpreted as a final dig at the formerly ranked Mountaineers or not, the motive is once again clear that Lunsford is focused on the now.

Lunsford has embodied all of the values of not only a great GS coach, but the values and mindsets of a great college football coach. He’s smart about his social media presence, he respects tradition while implementing his own and he’s recreating a name that a year ago was rightfully overlooked.

The first-year head coach’s name has been dropped in national coach of the year conversations and the program is on the verge of its’ first ever AP ranking.

It has all been incredible to witness.

My first GS game was the 2015 senior day game against Georgia State. Since that pummeling all the way through last season, all I knew was that GS USED to be good.

Now, the Eagles are one of the best Group of Five teams and one of the best stories in college sports. So much so that a petition has been started for College Gameday to come to Statesboro.

And while he won’t admit it, the hype and winning comes from Lunsford.

Following the victory over App State, a student approached Lunsford and shook his hand.

“Thank you for beating App State,” the student said, fighting back tears of joy. “I’m a senior and to have that happen this year is just the best. So thank you.”

Lunsford smiled, nodded and went to get interviewed by a media frenzy hungry for more quotes.

That senior, every other senior and every other student and alumni knew what that win meant for the program and Lunsford didn’t cast that aside.

But rather than celebrate for weeks like many of the students will, he had a different way to remember the night.

Like he’s done with every win this season, the team put App State’s logo on a folding chair, hung it on the wall and didn’t look back. On to the next one.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, [email protected]