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November 27, 2008Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner hates to say it, but eventually his annual Thanksgiving Day shindig for players will come to a regrettable end.
He laughed that it will be his daughters' fault.
The father of six girls, including five living at home ranging from ages 4-11, Garner said that the thought never crossed his mind until his wife Kimberly posed a question to him that he hadn't really thought of before.
"The girls love it right now because they're young, but my wife asked me what's going to happen when these girls become teenagers and they start liking the players," Garner said. "I told her that's probably when we stop having Thanksgiving dinner. That will definitely be the end."
Until then, the Garner Thanksgiving feast will remain a popular holiday tradition for players to partake in one humdinger of a meal that can take up to a week to prepare.
"My aunt in Alabama, my mom, my wife, her family in Augusta, her best friend ? she made 10 trays of macaroni and cheese," Garner said. "I've probably got eight trays of dressing that my mom made that she started last week."
Last year, Garner said 68 people showed up for dinner, including 58 players.
"It's just something I've been doing that since I coached at Auburn. It's for the guys have to be here, an opportunity for them to have a home-cooked meal, to be in a home environment and not to eat in a dining hall facility. There's always a big crowd."
Finding room for everyone to eat is never a problem.
Garner joked that with six kids, he doesn't have a lot of furniture, so he's got plenty of empty rooms that he just throws some tables in while some eat in the basement.
"We make it work, man," Garner said.
It's worked for 18 years. That's when Garner began his coaching career at Auburn before moving onto Tennessee in 1996. Thursday's dinner is the 11th he's hosted for players at Georgia since he joined the Bulldog staff in 1998.
"My mom and my aunt actually started it. My aunt's passed away but the tradition has continued and as long as they'll continue to come we'll do it," he said.
Garner said that redshirt freshman Justin Anderson is the reigning champion when it comes to packing away the most food.
"Bean did a good job last year," Garner said. "Unfortunately, Coach (Stacy) Searels probably doesn't want to hear about that. Clay (Strength and conditioning assistant Clay Walker) said he came back heavy."
Garner said it's also an opportunity for the players to see him in different way than they normally do on the practice field.
"It's a good time to fellowship and even though the economy is like it is we still have so much to be thankful for. It's also an opportunity to fellowship with the guys in a positive manner," he said. "People say sometimes I'm not the most positive guy, so they definitely get to see me in a different light and hopefully see that I have a human side, that I do care and I do love them. But once they get back, it's on. They'll have to pay for eating that last piece of cake."