Welcome to Behind the G! This is a Georgia Way platform that shares student-athlete stories, hobbies, and what is important to them. To the world, student-athletes are viewed by their outcomes in their sports, but they are so much more than that. Our goal is to share with the world in their own words who they are as people, and the numerous ways they represent the G on and off the field.
My name is Billy Rowe, and I am a graduate transfer on the men’s tennis team at UGA. Deciding to transfer during the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the harder decisions I have ever had to make. Previously, I was at Vanderbilt and loved my time there, but felt like I needed some change for personal reasons. When Manny and Jamie, the Georgia coaches, reached out to me and made their offer, it was a no-brainer where I was going to end up. I knew of some of the players on the team already, and Jamie coached me at Vanderbilt for a year, so the transition was going to be easier than most other schools. What I could have never expected was just how easy that transition would actually be.
Getting to Athens in early August and starting my Master’s of Science in Business Analytics program was something I was looking forward to all throughout the summer. When I got here and moved into my house, I had all the goosebumps and excitement to be in a new place and to meet many new people. One by one, the guys on my new team showed up to Athens, ready for the new school year and as I got to meet each guy, I was shocked at how welcoming they were to me. Putting myself in their shoes, they had a 23-year-old “rival” player coming in as one of the oldest guys on the team. At most schools, I would imagine there would be some anxiousness about the new guy and hesitation that he would fit in, but none of that ever took place here. Each guy took me in with open arms, whether it was Britton and Tyler to go play golf, or just hanging out at the tennis house watching movies with Alex, Trent and Blake. Within weeks, the thoughts that I may not fit in or that I would not know anyone disappeared because I was surrounded by a team of such great guys that embraced me without a second thought. A lot of the credit goes to Manny and Jamie for recruiting guys that are not only talented and hard-working players, but outstanding young men off the court, too.
By the end of August, I felt like a member of the team and we started practicing. This was the part I was looking forward to because I wanted to see just how good this team was. And as I expected, they were great players. It was their work ethic and constant willingness to put in the extra time that amazed me, though. I was expecting to come in and help the team with my experience, which is partly what has happened, but the funny thing is that I ended up learning more about hard work from them than I could have ever imagined. The culture of the team was something I embraced, and joined without a second thought.
As my MSBA program continued and we got into the thick of the fall season, I kept meeting more people. Whether that be students in my program, or other athletes, my choice to come to UGA was solidified as the right one. Most everyone I met were great people and what I realized was that the UGA family is not only a big one, but one of the closest-knit college families out there, and I was now part of it. I met other people such as Meg and Alee from the women’s tennis team, Irby, who also works with our team, and many others. What I began to realize was that not only is UGA a great school, but it is the people here that make it such an amazing place.
Now, I flash forward to the spring season, which is where all the fun begins. We started playing matches and I finally got to wear the Red and Black in front of the Georgia fans that I had heard so much about. Hearing the chants and support from the hundreds of fans that attend our matches was one of the reasons I wanted to come to Georgia. There are so many people that support our team, and playing in front of those fans has been one of the most surreal experiences in my life. Luckily, I have been on the winning side of a few of our 3-3 matches, and those are the moments that I will never forget. Hearing my team members scream “Georgia!” and hundreds of fans scream “Bulldogs!” back in unison is enough to give any player the chills, and my advice to any future Bulldogs is to embrace those moments. I will only be at UGA for one year, but the memories I have made are enough for a lifetime.
As we are wrapping up our season, we look forward to the NCAA Tournament. We know we have not quite hit our peak yet, but the goal is to peak at NCAAs and that is where we hope to play our best. All of the training and work put in has led us to the tournament and I have no doubts that we will play our best there.
As I look back on my time at Georgia, I cannot say enough about the people I have met here. They made my transition not only easy, but one that I will be forever grateful for. After I graduate, I know I will have made relationships here that will go past the boundaries of Athens, and that is something I am thankful for. To Jamie and Manny, I want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to play tennis for another year. You both have been unbelievable leaders and mentors to me. To my team, I want to say thank you to you guys as well. When I came here I expected to help lead through my experiences, but as time went on I realized that I was learning more from you guys than you could imagine. The future of UGA tennis is bright and I am grateful to have been a member of the team and a soon-to-be Bulldog alumnus.
Billy Rowe – UGA Tennis