The last time Mike Bobo was at The Swamp was not the best day of his college football career.
Not only was it raining buckets and his Georgia team was getting killed by Florida (52-14 final in 1994), but the student section was giving him a hard time because of his last name.
“Bobo the Clown, Dumbo. I heard it all,” he said. “They were wearing me out. I had to move down to the other end.”
On Saturday, Bobo will stand in the same field as the head coach at Colorado State instead of a backup quarterback at Georgia. Just the fact that he is standing at all is a victory of sorts.
A couple of days into July camp with his team, the fourth-year head coach started to feel some numbness in his right foot. Because he’d had knee surgery during the off-season, he figured it was related.
There were MRIs on his knee, his pelvis and his hip. Nothing. A few days later, he felt the numbness and occasional stabbing pains in his left foot. A few days later, his right arm went numb.
“You’re scared for the central nervous stuff,” he said. “Things like MS.”
The fear of Multiple sclerosis certainly weighed on his mind as he laid on a hospital bed. His parents, George and Barbara, rushed out from Clayton, Ga., to be with their son.
For 10 days, he remained hospitalized. The diagnosis was peripheral neuropathy, a condition where — in Bobo’s case — the autoimmune system attacks the peripheral nervous system and the results are burning, tingling and sharp pains in one or more areas.
As a result, Bobo spent those 10 days in the hospital being treated while his team got ready to play in Week Zero against Hawai’i.
“It’s not comfortable,” he said. “But it could have been a lot worse. It was a rough preseason, but the hard part is not being with your team.
“To get back down on the field with the guys who are in the fight, it was an awesome feeling.”
Bobo did return to the practice field the week of the first game, but he’s far from finished with his physical problems.
If you are at today’s game, you will see him standing on the sidelines, but not pacing like some coaches do. His feet are still an issue and it’s difficult to move. He has a former All-American sprinter on the staff in Alvis Whitted who can run downfield to an official if he wants a timeout.
But the thing that got Bobo to Colorado State in the first place — his play-calling abilities as the offensive coordinator at Georgia — is something he has had to give up.
Doctor’s appointments are still ongoing. He had one Tuesday and another Wednesday this week.
“If I can’t be in the offensive staff meetings 100 percent, I’m not going to call plays,” he said.
He called two in the win over Arkansas last week (they both worked), but he’s still dealing with issues in his feet.
“I was better last week than I was the week before,” Bobo said. “But there was an interception last week and it was headed my way on the sideline. They told me I was on the headphones saying, ‘Who’s gonna grab me? Somebody grab me.’
“I try to be aware. There are safe places to be.”
Then there are the nights. That’s when the pain and tingling in his feet are still at their worst.
Every couple of hours he has to get up and walk around to put out the fires in his feet. The good news is that he is on high dose medication and the problem will eventually be cured.
“It could be a few weeks, a few months or a year,” he said. “It takes time for the nerves to regenerate that have been restored.”
Still, Bobo has found the positive in being sideswiped by something he didn’t see coming.
“My dad is taking care of me,” he said. “He drives me to work because I can’t drive. He sits in my office and reads a book or watched the Weather Channel. He tells me every half hour how hot it’s going to be in Florida.
“It’s been great. It’s been awesome. I’ve been able to spend almost a month with my dad. Every day he’s at every practice. So that’s a silver lining.”
Today, Bobo will return to The Swamp with a lot of bad memories as a player and coach at Georgia of battles with the Gators, most of them in Jacksonville. But right now, he’s just glowing with the memory of last week’s comeback win over Arkansas.
“We’re trying to go 2-0 this week in the SEC,” he said. “That’s our goal.”
He’d like to kick up his heels, but that’s not possible.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.