'We love Athens': Mark Richt on his move back to Georgia and his Parkinson's diagnosis

Former Georgia and Miami coach Mark Richt sat down with FOX 5 Sports' DJ Shockley in a two-part interview to discuss his Parkinson's diagnosis, moving back to Athens, his family, deep faith, and of course football.

The 61-year-old Richt, who has been working as a studio analyst for the ACC Network since the 2019 season, announced on Twitter earlier this month that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease

"The best way to say it is I could do just about anything I could do a couple of years ago, just takes me longer to do it," Richt told his former quarterback Shockley, who now works for FOX 5 Sports.

The two spent the afternoon at Richt's Athens home recently, remarking how all former Georgia coaches come back to the Georgia city. He said he and his Katharyn are settling back in just fine in Athens.

"We love Athens. You know, I didn’t burn too many bridges here so," Richt said. "You know, just recently I mentioned that I had Parkinson’s, but I had known for a good little bit before that, and so part of the reason to come back is… There are two reasons: One if we need more help, where’s the best place to be, where family is. And then the other thing is our two grandchildren we were visiting our son Jon’s house like a week out of every month in retirement, you know. And so, Jon’s like ‘Hey dad, you either got to pay some rent or get your own place.’ So, I felt bad and figured I’d be a big boy and get my own place." 

Richt said he started to feel like he needed to go to the doctor earlier this year during his rehab following his second hip replacement. He said the rehab took longer than he wanted and was likely masking the symptoms.

"Here's the thing about Parkinson's, once you see motor symptoms, you probably had Parkinson's five to ten years," Richt said. 

He said he recalled calling plays in Miami that he "couldn't spit them out the way I used to" and "struggled to get the words out sometimes."

Richt spent three seasons as Miami's head coach before surprisingly retiring from his alma mater in December 2018. Before that, he had coached Georgia for 15 years.

Richt previously suffered a heart attack in October 2019 but was back at work the same week.

"You know I had that heart attack close to dying on the table, and while all of that is going on, in my spirit, I am at peace, I know where I’m going you know. I’m kind of excited about it," Richt said. "My goal is to see as many people I know and come across in heaven as possible."

About his old coach, Shockley says "I know you guys have had people in your life who have mentored or gotten you to the place you are, Coach Richt is that guy for me."

Shockley was a priority recruit for the Bulldogs when Richt took the helm in 2001. He remembers how Richt was in his living the night he took the job as head coach.  

"Following Coach Richt to UGA was one of the best decisions of my life," Shockley said.

"There had been other guys who had committed to Georgia, but you were the first to commit to Coach Richt," the coach told Shockley. "And that was huge for me. That was a big boost for me for sure."

Shockley: "145-51 in 15 years at Georgia, what's the thing you're most thankful for?"

Richt: "You know one of the things I wanted to be able to do was raise my family. In the coaching profession, as you know, a lot of coaches are moving every two years, every other year. You’re chasing a dream as a coach. Then there’s a trail of tears behind you. And the trail of tears is your wife and your children's tears because they, ‘We got to move again, dad? We got to move again?’ And I just didn’t want that for my family."

Shockley: "What are your expectation for the Georgia team this year. Obviously, you get to watch a lot of chance to watch teams in the ACC, but being here in Athens, I know you still keep an eye on the Dawgs. 

Richt: "Well, you know, if they can by the first one, which should be quite a battle, Clemson-Georgia, may be the best non-conference game in the country all year, if they can win that one, I was looking at their SEC schedule, and to me, it was pretty favorable. I mean, it’s always pretty tough to go through it, so whether they beat Clemson or not doesn’t matter in terms of the SEC, but I’ll say this, whoever loses that game is definitely not out. But you’re one step closer to two losses. And two losses can be a problem when it’s still only four teams."

Richt said the whole country will be watching that matchup and believe the two teams will meet again in the College Football Playoff.

WATCH: FOX 5 Atlanta live news coverage


Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.