How Matt Dobson and Darius Safford helped shape Georgia Southern football history

Kevin Keneely

Georgia Southern has had plenty of talent come through their system over the years but few have made plays that will always be remembered by the Eagle faithful. Matt Dobson and Darius Safford have done just that. They both etched their names into the minds of Eagle fans for the rest of their lives.

Darius transferred to Georgia Southern his senior season. When he arrived here, the Eagles secondary had a plethora of talent and Darius quickly found out that he would have to be patient and wait for his number to be called. Turns out his number was to be called on for the biggest game of the season. For the first time ever, Georgia Southern made a trip to the University of Florida to take on the Gators. “Wow, I’m playing in the Swamp where greats like Tim Tebow, Emmitt Smith, Percy Harvin,” he said. This game proved to be more than just a “wow” factor for Darius; most importantly it was the last game he would ever play with the pads on. “I mean you’ve got to realize, that was my last college football game after playing football since I was five years old, and that being the end of it all is probably one of the greatest moments of my life,” he said. This play proved to be just as special to Georgia Southern as they hung up the picture of Darius making his game changing play in the end zone in the lobby of the new football field house,

One year after Darius graduated from Georgia Southern, Coach Fritz hired him to be a defensive backs coach. “It’s a blessing, this was an opportunity that I cannot give up, I have always wanted to coach college football,” he said. For Darius, he was not just coming back to coach some random college football team, he was coaching his Alma Mater. With that comes the opportunity to coach some players that he played along side of in the 2013 season, Matt Dobson in particular.

Safford noted that Dobson has improved since he first started playing. “Dobson has made strides ever since my last game I played with him against Florida,” he said. “Each week, not only in his athletic ability, in his skills, and in his technique on the field, but I applaud him for his leadership skills.”

Dobson is looking forward to having a career in football, whether it be as a player or a coach. “I want to play as long as I can, if I get the opportunity [to play in the NFL] that’d be great, if not I’ll try to get into coaching, try to be a graduate assistant somewhere and get into the coaching profession,” he said. “Ever since my sophomore year or junior year of high school is when I really realized that this is probably what I wanted, to coach once I got done.” Before Matt tries the NFL or becomes a coach, he is staying focused on the this season and the remaining games on the schedule. “I just want my legacy to be known as being a good teammate, somebody that helps this team win, and does whatever he could to win ball games around here,” he said.

Darius Safford’s Play

The Gators never thought this game would mean anything to them; they came in thinking that they would blow out the Eagles, who at the time were an FCS team. They will never make that mistake again.

Safford made his mark on the game in the first quarter. The Gators had been driving almost with ease against the Eagles defense and looked as if they would take an early lead. Safford stepped up and made a big play to keep the Gators out of the endzone. Lined up against Solomon Patton, who is currently in the NFL, Safford followed him step for step as he ran his route. He looked back at the right time, jumped up and broke up the pass, forcing the Gators to kick a field goal. “I can’t even really explain what was going through my mind,” he said. “After that you have to forget about it quick, you can’t really dwell on that moment right there, you got to move on. That was in the first quarter, one of the first drives, so you had to finish the game,” he said.

Matt Dobson’s Play

Coming into the last game of the season, the Eagles needed a win against the University of Louisiana-Monroe and they would capture their first Sunbelt championship in their first season as an FBS team. With the Eagles up by only 6 points, the Warhawks were driving down the field late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles looked lost on defense to start the drive, giving up consecutive deep plays to the Warhawks. With 0:09 left in the game the Warhawks had managed to drive the ball all the way down to the Eagles own 19 yard-line. On 2nd and 5, the Warhawks went for the win, throwing a pass to receiver Kenzee Jackson in the end zone. From his safety position, Dobson saw ball was coming his way and quickly reacted. Just as the ball got to the hands of receiver, Dobson laid one of the hardest hits of the game, knocking the ball right out of the receivers hands for an incomplete pass.

But before the Eagles could celebrate they had to stop the Warhawks one more time. They had to do this without their star safety, who was pulled out of the game the play before because the concussion sensor in his helmet went off after his hard hit. “I wanted to be there for the last play with the Sunbelt Championship on the line, but the trainers did their job and they took me out,” he said. “It’s frustrating but you have got to live with it.” With 0:03 left in the game, Pete Thomas, ULM’s quarterback, threw the ball out of the reach of his receiver, ending the game and allowing Dobson and the rest of the team to celebrate their first Sunbelt Championship.