ATHENS, Ga. -- Chris Burnette’s pastor at Athens Church, Sean Seay, was preaching about courage on Sunday afternoon when he called Burnette and his girlfriend, Arielle Haynes, to the stage to demonstrate courage in action.
Little did Haynes know exactly how much nerve her boyfriend was about to demonstrate.
Burnette -- a junior offensive guard -- had filmed a video explaining to Haynes how much he cherished their relationship and how he wanted to build a future with her. And when it ended, he got down on a knee before hundreds of fellow congregants -- a crowd that included about 50 members of the football team -- and proposed marriage.
And she accepted.
“I was very confident,” Burnette said after Monday’s practice. “I guess there’s always that 0.1 percent chance that she’d say no. But I was definitely very confident and I just thought it would be a good display of love and just do it in a way that shows we’re trying to do it in a Godly way -- a way that we believe is right.”
Burnette, 21, met Haynes, 24, through her classmate at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., former Georgia tight end Orson Charles, shortly after Burnette arrived at Georgia three-and-a-half years ago. They have dated for the last two-and-a-half years and Burnette said he has known since they were only six months into the relationship that she was who he wanted to marry someday.
“It was really like a no-brainer,” Burnette said. “And the thing that took me a while was just trying to save up money and be financially stable. It really helped me mature a lot during that time.”
And when it came time to finally get down on a knee, he made sure to let his friends on the football team know in case they wanted to be there for the big moment. He was pleased that so many showed up on Sunday to offer their support.
“It was unbelievable,” Burnette said. “I told a lot of guys and I told them, ‘Make sure that you’re there early so you can kind of disperse and not be in one area where it looks kind of obvious.’ It was awesome because a lot of guys go to that church, anyway, so it was a great opportunity to get guys to attend and have some fun.”
One of them was freshman right tackle John Theus, who lines up alongside Burnette on Georgia’s offensive line. Theus wore a wide smile while recounting the proposal.
“We knew it was going to happen, but still, I’ve never witnessed a proposal or anything like that,” Theus said. “It was great. We knew it was coming and when the video came up, we knew and she didn’t. Then he got down on the knee and it was an awesome experience. Chris is a great guy. The Lord’s blessed him and she’s great for him.”
Pulling their weight: Burnette said he and fellow offensive guard Dallas Lee have not necessarily been pulling to lead block for their tailbacks more often this season, but those plays might be working more successfully.
“It does kind of seem more dynamic when we’re pulling, but it definitely was around last year, too,” Burnette said.
The Bulldogs have broken numerous long runs with Lee and Burnette out in front though, including SEC Freshman of the Week Todd Gurley’s tackle-breaking 29-yard touchdown run against Vanderbilt.
Such plays do have their drawbacks for the linemen, however.
“They’re doing a great job with those runs, so I’m sure we’ll continue to pull like that, which is a good thing and a bad thing,” Lee joked. “It is more running than a big guy likes, but it works really good, so we love it for that. So it’s well worth the extra running.”
Ice cream socialites: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray took the blame for Vanderbilt’s lone sack in last Saturday’s 48-3, so that meant a beloved trend for the Bulldogs’ starting offensive linemen continued for a second consecutive week.
Murray takes them out for ice cream at the Ben & Jerry’s in downtown Athens if he makes it through a game without being sacked, so he treated them again on Sunday evening.
“I love ice cream and it’s better when it’s free,” Theus said. “It’s just a fun thing and it’s more camaraderie that we get. I love these guys and we all love each other. It’s a great group of guys and that’s just something for us to get together and bond.”
Injury update: Georgia defensive end Abry Jones was held out of practice on Monday according to the team’s injury report after spraining his left ankle against Vanderbilt.