'He's doing it for the 478': Baldwin School District honors Javon Bullard
The Baldwin County School District recently held a “Javon Bullard Day” honoring its former student’s accomplishments on the gridiron.
Bullard was a part of Georgia’s 2022 national championship team, which defeated Alabama 33-18 on Jan. 10. It was the first time the Bulldogs hoisted a title trophy in 41 years.
One of Bullard’s first stops was at Oak Hill Middle School, which is where he went from sixth to eighth grade.
According to teacher Desiree King, the students were “blown away” by Bullard’s presence.
“Javon came and spoke to our YES Program students,” King said. “He talked to them and spoke some encouraging words to them. He was awesome.”
King said the YES Program at Oak Hill is an afterschool organization that is run by Georgia College.
“We work on academics and enrichment,” King said. “We help students with their homework and help them back on track if they're behind. It’s primarily to help make academics fun.”
King said the students from the program looked at Bullard as if he were a “superstar.”
“They were so excited, you would have thought he was (NBA star) Steph Curry,” King added. “They took pictures with Javon and some even had him sign their shoes.”
King said she was in “awe” of how they looked at him. She also added that one student thought he was “Tom Brady-esque.”
“He was only a freshman defensive back,” King said. “However, they saw him as one of their own.”
The students had all kinds of questions for Bullard, including some about grades and work ethic.
“Javon explained to them that their education does matter,” King said. “He talked to them about respecting their parents. It was great to see the kids listen to his advice., and he was so down to earth. (Javon) also talked to them about their hopes and dreams.”
King called Bullard “Oak Hill Middle School’s rockstar.”
Bullard appeared in 14 of 15 games this season for Georgia. He finished the 2021 season with 12 total stops, including a team-high six tackles against Charleston Southern.
The Milledgeville native was a three-star prospect out of high school, per the 247Sports Composite. He had offers from Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Washington State and NC State, among others. Regardless, the Bulldogs offered Bullard on June 7, 2020, and he committed nearly three months later on Aug. 17.
Baldwin High head coach Jesse Hicks said after the national championship game that it “couldn’t have happened to a more deserving young man.”
“It’s amazing to see it all come full circle, man,” Hicks said in January. “To see one of our young men, one of our brightest, be a member of that team just makes our hearts pound.”
Hicks added that he spoke to Bullard before the title celebration and after the game.
“He’s saying pretty much what I expected him to say,” Hicks said. “He thanked me and the coaching staff here, but he was also kind of speechless. It was a great opportunity for him to be a part of something of that capacity. He’s also looking very much forward to spring practice, and to get on the field to try and fight for a starting position.”
The Braves’ head coach also said in January that it hadn’t hit Bullard yet that he was a part of a national championship team.
“I think it will finally hit him (the magnitude of his achievement) when he comes home,” Hicks said. “He was very thankful for the opportunity he got. He’s also looking to build on the foundation that has been laid. So, now, the pressure is off, but is it? Now, they are the top dogs and everyone is going to try and take them off the top of the mountain. Javon understands that and he definitely has spring practice on his mind.”
Seticia Smith, who is a seventh-grade math teacher at Oak Hill, said she could tell it hit Bullard when he arrived.
“He went to middle school here and these are his roots,” Smith said. “The faculty and staff thought it was exciting to see him return. You could tell he was happy to be back.”
Smith said that the former Baldwin defensive back had a big smile on his face.
“He gave everyone hugs, signed jerseys we had, and enjoyed his time,” Smith said. “He remembered us (his former teachers) by name and just embraced us. It was great to see him.”
Smith said he didn’t want to make it all about his success. She also pointed out that Bullard wanted the students to know that they can also prosper in life and achieve their goals.
“I think that it showed the students here that they need to start thinking about their future,” Smith said. “He’s at UGA, which is a big school for a Baldwin County kid. Regardless, he gives them hope that they can go to any collegiate level and play athletics, or they can go to a school in general.”
Smith said that Bullard’s success has made a positive impact on the city of Milledgeville.
“He always says he’s doing it for the 478,” Smith said. “He’s just letting others know from around the area, and not just those in Baldwin County, that they can do what he did.”
King said Bullard’s accomplishments brought Baldwin County “to the forefront.”
“He put a light on our little city,” King said. “He also shed brightness on our school system. We have someone from Baldwin County that was on the national championship team and he matriculated through the public school system. That was great to see.”
The Bulldogs started spring practice last week and Bullard will have his chance to make a greater impact in 2022.
This article was originally a part of the Friday, March 18 edition of the Baldwin Bulletin, which is owned by Smith Communications. This was shared on Dawg Watch as a part of my portfolio.