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GSU grad trying to raise awareness one burned shirt at a time

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POSTED: September 21, 2012 5:09 p.m.

Note to Georgia fans: If you’re easily offended, read no farther. But if you can respect someone who cares about his school the way you do yours, then read on.

It’s probably safe to say that Nathan Queen is a diehard Georgia Southern fan.He’s also got a knack for making a statement.

Queen, a GSU grad and the general manager of Retrievers Sports Bar & Grill in Statesboro, recently decided to offer students a free Retrievers T-shirt in exchange for their UGA apparel, which would then either be trashed or burnt. It got some attention.

But wait. Before we go any further, let’s get one thing clear.

You see, it’s clear from his email that Queen is no casual fan. Nope. He bleeds blue and white, as we used to say.

"I was born and raised in Ringgold, Ga. It is right outside of Chattanooga," he said. "I grew up a huge Alabama fan and was a Bama fan when I came to college at Georgia Southern in 1999."

Then, Queen had an epiphany. It featured guys like Adrian Peterson and Greg Hill and it was something to see.

"It was what I believe to be the best football team Georgia Southern

has ever put on the field," he said. "That year I burned every piece of Alabama clothing I owned. As I saw it I picked GSU and that is were my loyalty should be."

Here it’s probably instructive to note that Queen doesn’t have issues with fans of other schools. Be true to your school by all means.

"This is not directed at UGA alumni or current students of UGA, nor is it directed at people who did not attend college," he said. "This is about Georgia Southern students taking pride and supporting their school."

In short, Queen wants GSU fans to be true to their school as well.

For some, that has long been an issue in Statesboro, perhaps because the Eagles play in FCS and are still a young program – albeit one that has six national titles and enough tradition to make any college football fan proud. Or so you’d think.

Whatever the reason, a noticeable number of Georgia Southern students, Statesboro residents and a good number of the school’s alumni consider themselves Georgia fans first. You can see it on the clothes they wear. The ubiquitous G is everywhere.

That bugs Queen, who met his wife at GSU and can list current Eagles assistant coaches among his friends from their days together as students. After witnessing the powerhouse teams of 1999 and 2000, and the high-octane offenses of Mike Sewak, he remembers the program’s down times under Brian VanGorder and Chris Hatcher.

And he’s basking in its resurrection under Jeff Monken.

"He brings in a staff that I believe is the best coaching staff as a whole that Georgia Southern has ever had. I will admit I am biased. Vic Cabral and I were friends as undergrads and Brent Davis was a graduate assistant my first year here and we became very good friends as well. But over the last two seasons what this staff has done is nothing short of amazing. To take a team that was recruited to run the Hatch Attack and turn them into Southern Conference champions in two years running the triple option speaks for itself."

Yes it does. And as the school is now publicly pointed toward making a move to FBS and bigger time football, Queen believes its time to start reforming those with GSU ties who tend to put the Dawgs first.

"What I am after is changing the culture in Statesboro," said Queen, who got his start at Retrievers working security in 2003 and now runs the day to day operations in Statesboro. "How many stores in Athens do you think carry GSU gear or GA Tech gear? My guess is less than 5 percent. How many UGA students do you think wear GSU gear around campus or wear Georgia Tech, Florida, Alabama or any other team? I would say that is probably less than 1 percent."

But this is about more than T-shirts. Lots more.

"There is not one business that does not benefit from the money that GeorgiaSouthern brings to the community and I would say that 90 percent of us would not be in business if it was not for the University," he said. "As Georgia Southern makes its move to FBS I hope that Statesboro and GSU students realize every dollar that is spent on any other school’s attire is costing GSU money."

It’s money the school will need. Just like it will need more alumni like Queen, who says simply that "I will do anything and everything for my university."

As for the shirt trade-in program, it’s apparently gathering momentum.

Queen said he’s gotten shirts from Georgia, Florida, Tech, even Wofford and South Carolina.

The response to a photo of a burning Dawgs shirt on the Retrievers Facebook page drew some 500 likes as of late Thursday and 60 comments, a few of which had to be removed for what Queen called "vulgar" language.

Controversial? Perhaps. But if the idea is to get people to think about their school, it’s working.

"Some people love it, some people hate it. Most students love it. They see it as funny and they are getting something for turning in an old shirt," he said. "It started as a joke. It just grew legs from there. And the way I see it, I got 500 people talking about Georgia Southern and all it cost me was a T-shirt."

To see a photo of the burning Georgia T-shirt, go to https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151137691209404&set=a.198917889403.125055.72667109403&type=1&relevant_count=1

 

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