Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart has insisted his program has no culture issue, even though two of his players have been arrested for street racing crimes, including Jalen Carter in connection with the fatal January 15 crash.
Carter was charged Wednesday night for reckless driving in a car crash that killed fellow sophomore Devin Willock and Bulldogs recruiting coordinator Chandler LeCroy after the Athens-Clarke County Police Department obtained a warrant for the 21-year-old’s arrest.
Willock and LeCroy were killed in a car accident on January 15 after a group that police said Carter was among allegedly raced their vehicles through the streets of Athens.
Also, just last week, Bulldogs defenseman Jamon Dumas-Johnson, a sophomore, was arrested on city street racing and reckless driving charges, according to Athens-Clarke County Jail Reservations records.
However, despite two Georgia players being arrested for driving offenses within two weeks, Kirby defended “culture” with the Bulldogs football program.
Georgia’s head coach, Kirby Smart, stressed that his program has no problem with culture
Draft top contender Jalen Carter fined for reckless driving in Athens on Wednesday night
Georgia football player Devin Willock and his employee Chandler LeCroy were killed in a January accident
‘Absolutely not. I’d say we’re far from that,” Smart told ESPN on Friday. “When you talk to people outside of our program who come on it, they talk about our great culture – and we do an amazing job. Because I have many external entities that come into our program and pour themselves into these young men.
“Do we have excellent young men, women and players? Not necessarily. But I promise you this, that’s the goal: to breed these guys and make them better. And I feel really good about the culture of our show.”
Carter was pulled over by police and given a speeding warning months before he was involved in a fatal car accident in January.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Carter had previously been arrested and charged with speeding on September 22, 2022.
New police camera footage obtained by ABC News and Channel 2 Action News shows an officer stopping Carter on September 22 for driving at 89mph in a 45mph zone and begging him to let him go.
The officer also told Carter that he had stopped two other Georgia players just minutes before and warned them to slow down.
While players seem to have ignored the police’s previous warnings, Smart said he hoped they would learn from the tragic events of January 15.
“I mean over there.” [are] existing laws on these things to prevent it from happening for some reason,” said Smart. “And we want to educate our players in every aspect, in every part of our organization. We are constantly looking for better ways, whether it is health and safety.
“I talked about drugs and alcohol, I talked about gambling, I talked about car racing and high speeds. You have to educate your players and make sure they understand the risks and dangers involved, and that’s something we’ve tried to do.
Smart added that his program brought in officers from the UGA Police Department and Athens-Clarke County Police just last summer to educate players about the dangers of street racing.
The coach said Bryant Gantt, program director of player support operations, suggested the idea after watching news clips of Atlanta street racing.
Bulldogs defenseman Jamon Dumas-Johnson, a sophomore, was arrested last week on charges of racing on city streets and reckless driving, according to prison booking records
Carter received a speeding warning months before his January 15 fatal accident
The 21-year-old was arrested on September 22 for driving at 89mph in a 45mph zone
Carter appeared to be driving the same black 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk he was supposed to be driving on January 15 before the car accident
The crash happened Sunday, January 15, at 2:45 a.m., just hours after the Georgia victory parade, less than two miles from the school campus, when a group of players and team employees got into three cars and left a local strip club to eat in the nearby Waffle House, according to the police. Willock died at the scene, and LeCroy died shortly after being taken to the hospital.
“The investigation revealed that Chandler LeCroy, driver of the 2021 Ford Expedition, and Jalen Carter, driver of the 2021 Jeep Trackhawk, were driving their vehicles in a race-compliant manner shortly after leaving downtown Athens at around 2:30 a.m.,” Athens-Clarke County Police said in a statement.
Carter, who is set to be one of the first players selected in next month’s NFL draft, previously told police he was a mile away from the accident, later admitted to driving behind the other car when it crashed, and eventually admitted to traveling next to LeCroy. vehicle at the time of the accident. He left the scene of the accident before police or paramedics arrived and returned an hour and a half later denying having raced, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Police now also claim that LeCroy was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash with a blood alcohol level of 0.197. The state limit in Georgia is 0.08.
Police say LeCroy’s 2021 Ford Expedition, which was leased from the athletics department for recruitment, “failed to make a left-hand bend, resulting in the vehicle hitting the curb with the front passenger tire and veering off the road on the west shoulder.” As a result of the impact, the vehicle hit electric poles and a tree.
Police say both cars – Carter’s and LeCroy’s – were racing each other for hours after the Bulldog parade, adding that LeCroy’s blood alcohol level was over the legal limit.
Smart said he was sleeping at home when his wife woke him up with a message. He had several missed calls on his cell phone.
Police obtained surveillance footage from city cameras as well as from one business owner, although authorities declined to release the footage citing an ongoing investigation
In addition to LeCroy, 24, the Bulldogs’ recruiting coordinator, and Willock, 20, a promising offensive lineman, another member of the recruiting staff, 26-year-old Tory Bowles, and 21-year-old offensive lineman Warren McClendon were also injured in the January 15 wreck
“Heartache,” Smart said when asked what he remembers about that night. “I got a call at three in the morning. He immediately went to the emergency room. Probably one of the hardest moments I’ve ever experienced as a coach and leader as I saw the pain on the faces of the players who joined the ER that morning. [Athletics director] Josh Brooks was there. You know, [I] I still remember the ER doctor breaking the news to me and one of the most painful experiences of my life.
Smart’s last interaction with Willok, 20, was at the end of the parade, but he said he didn’t remember seeing LeCroy, 24, at the celebration.
“I remember him leaving the stadium with a big smile on his face,” said Smart. “I just finished speaking on the podium and we rocked each other [and] they gave each other knuckles, as we did from time to time. He just had an infectious smile. One of the gentlest, best people in terms of character. You know, he picked up my 10-year-old son and carried him off the field on championship night.
Smart said many players are still suffering and dealing with the pain of the loss, but stressed that the program provides support for their mental health.
Dumas-Johnson was arrested in connection with the alleged incident on January 10 – the day after Georgia defeated TCU in the College Football Playoff Championship game in Los Angeles.
A finalist for the Butkus Award, given annually to the best defenseman in college football, Dumas-Johnson finished second in the Bulldogs with 70 tackles as Georgia won a second straight national title last season. He was also a First Team All-American in 2022.
Dumas-Johnson is also believed to have been present on January 15, although he was driving his own car. According to the AJC, the police questioned him about the accident.