Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer4 Minute Read
ATHENS, Ga. — Despite having two players arrested in the past two weeks for street-racing offenses, including Jalen Carter‘s booking Wednesday in connection with a Jan. 15 crash that killed a Georgia football player and a recruiting staff member, coach Kirby Smart insists his program does not have a culture problem.
“Absolutely not. I would say we’re far from it,” Smart told ESPN on Friday. “When you talk to people outside our program that come into it, they talk about what a great culture we do have — and we do an incredible job. Because I’ve got a lot of outside entities that come into our program and pour into these young men.
“Do we have perfect young men and women and players? Not necessarily. But I promise you this, that’s the intent: for us to grow these guys and get them better. And I feel really good about the culture within our program.”
Smart, in his first interview since offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy were killed, said he and his staff have worked hard to educate their players about the dangers of speeding and racing.
Carter, the former Bulldogs defensive tackle who is a potential No. 1 pick in April’s NFL draft, was arrested Wednesday on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing. He was released on bond after briefly being jailed. Linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson, a Butkus Award finalist in 2022, was arrested last week on the same charges.
Police officers said they observed Dumas-Johnson’s vehicle traveling at high speeds before fleeing the scene Jan. 10, the day after Georgia defeated TCU to win its second straight national title.
Then on Jan. 15, only hours after Georgia celebrated with a parade and ceremony at Sanford Stadium, Athens-Clarke County Police alleged that Carter was racing a Ford Expedition driven by LeCroy on a street near campus. Police said the Expedition left the road around 2:45 a.m. and struck two power poles and several trees.
Willock, an offensive lineman from New Jersey, was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. He was sitting behind LeCroy and wasn’t wearing a seat belt. LeCroy was transported to a hospital by ambulance and died as a result of her injuries.
Former Georgia player Warren McClendon and another female staffer, Tory Bowles, were injured but survived.
Police said the Expedition was going 104 mph when it crashed. A toxicology report indicated LeCroy’s blood alcohol concentration was .197, about 2½ times the legal limit in Georgia.
Smart said he was sleeping at home when his wife, Mary Beth, awoke him with the devastating news. He had several missed calls on his cell phone.
“Heartache,” Smart said, when asked what he remembered about that night. “Got a call at 3 or so in the morning. Went immediately to the emergency room. Probably one of the toughest moments I’ve ever experienced as a coach and a leader to see the pain in the faces of the players who had joined up at the emergency…
Read More: Kirby Smart defends Georgia ‘culture’ after fatal crash, arrests 2023-03-03 21:30:24