ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia Bulldog fanaticism is a tradition for the Woods family. As is painting an image of the UGA mascot on top of their heads.
Mike Woods grew up a Bulldogs fan. He calls himself the “biggest fan.” Athens residents know him as “Big Dawg” as he has become a staple in the Bulldog Nation, especially on game day.
Taking the lead from his father, Lonnie Lee Woods, who passed away in 1987, Mike decided to carry on his dad’s tradition of shaving and painting a bulldog on his head. More than 25 years later, he honors the tradition and is looking to pass it on to his son in hopes of keeping his father’s memory alive.
“Dad started painting a bulldog on his head for all the games,” Mike said. “That was in 1980. He used to drive the bus for the Georgia defensive team and they would ask when he was going to shave his head and paint a bulldog on it. ... He told them if they go to the national championship, he would.”
That year, Georgia won the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame. Mike’s dad stayed true to his word, shaving his head and having a student artist paint a bulldog on top.
“He did that on game days until he passed away,” Mike said. “And then I started doing it in 1990.”
A staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II, Lonnie Woods received a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars. It was Lonnie who raised Mike as a hardcore fan.
“I was born and raised a Bulldog and I bleed, my whole family bleeds, red and black,” he said. “We have been buying tickets for 43 years and I haven’t missed a home game since I was 6 years old.”
Mike said his dad would dress in a red sports coat, black slacks and a tie on game days. And, of course, the artwork atop his freshly shaved head.
Although Mike paints his head in his dad’s memory, he said he wants to do it in his own, unique way.
“I’ll paint my head, but I’m not going to wear a red suit and slacks,” he said. “I wear black overalls with patches all over them. And when I pass away and Trent (his son) starts painting his head, he’ll do it in his own way, too.”
Mike has two sons: Michael, 43, and Trent, 32.
“My brother is ... a bit of an introvert,” Trent said. “I won’t paint my head until my dad passes away. And I’m not sure who I will pass it down to. Probably (my nephew), Hampton Woods.”