Ashley Strickland is an associate producer at CNN.com. In her previous job as a traveling sports photographer, she picked up plenty of souvenir recipes that she'll be sharing over the next few months in her Fare Play column.
The first time I photographed University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, he was on the field of Sanford Stadium. But instead of capturing him in a huddle amongst his team, my shot showed Coach Richt taking a big, juicy bite out of a watermelon wedge.
It was soon after beginning a photography internship with the UGA Athletic Association. The early Saturday morning scrimmage ended the football team’s sweltering two-a-day practices of summer, just in time for fall classes to start on Monday. They celebrated by indulging in an annual tradition, the watermelon cutting.
Dozens of UGA football players drenched in sweat were chomping on giant wedges of orange and pink watermelon. Off to the side, Coach Richt was eating his piece as well.
In the state of Georgia, UGA football is a way of life. So when it came to working for the Athletic Association, I covered my share of football and press conferences about football.
Every move he made, my trigger finger would punch the shutter and a round of click-click-clicks would go off, rapid-fire. Between the sound effects and my waiting for him to “do something,” I know it had to drive the poor man crazy but he never complained or failed to deliver.
Before and during the games, I looked for candid moments, a quick glimpse of his personality that the fans want to see. As the players came out on the field for warm-ups, he walked amongst them with the other coaches, pausing to murmur guidance over the top of their helmets as they stretched. I loved those quiet pauses, a few reflective frames before the tackling chaos of football consumed the field.
Each game, the stadium would come alive with over 92,000 fans. At times, it was impossible to hear yourself think. Photographers ran up and down the sidelines and through the end zones hunting a touchdown or interception photo. You had to fight for your spot or miss the winning shot.
Linebackers and running backs made plays and hit the ground just feet away from us, making the ground shake. A few touchdowns almost landed in my lap. But I wouldn’t trade those long, scorcher days on the field for anything. It was a beautiful chaos, and in the middle of the Saturday storm, Coach Richt always remained calm, orchestrating the moves of his team.
On the day of my graduation, my boss came up to me with a photo request from Coach Richt. He wanted to have a picture taken with me. Of course in the photo, we’re pointing in two different directions.
I would have to say the best part about getting to know him was discovering that underneath his coaching cap, Mark Richt is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
How fitting that the recipe he’s known for involves hot dogs (what with him being the top “Dawg” around UGA and all). When you slap all of this together, the complex flavors layer on top of each other in a lip-smacking combination.
“It’s the type of recipe a 14-year-old kid would dream up,” Richt said. “It was a matter of survival. At one time, growing up, it was just me and my dad in the house and sometimes you just had to figure out a way to get something to eat. I used my imagination, invented it and I’ve been eating it ever since.”
(Recipe provided courtesy Mark Richt)
Hot Dog Delight
(serving for one person)
3 hot dogs
2 slices of bread
3 slices of American cheese
A can of baked beans
Boil the hot dogs (or grill, depends on your method).
Toast the slices of bread on a cookie sheet under the broiler until golden. It won’t taste the same if you just pop them in the toaster.
Lay the hot dogs diagonally across the two side-by-side pieces of bread, cover with American cheese slices until you can’t see the hot dogs and then stick back under the broiler to melt the cheese.
Meanwhile, heat up your favorite baked beans.
Once the cheese is melted, slide the hot dog combo onto a plate and cover with baked beans to your heart’s content.
Lastly, squirt some ketchup on top.
Once you’ve got the whole thing assembled, Richt says, “Grab a sturdy fork and go at it.”