“It’s overwhelming, to be honest with you,” Anderson told ESPN’s “College Gameday.”
“I got a text earlier this week when whoever started the whole idea of pinking out today. I’ll be honest with you, I teared up and took a little while to compose myself. It will be hard today, but very honored. Appreciate all the support.”
Anderson began a 19-day leave of absence on the day of Wendy’s death yet made a surprising and emotional return for this past Saturday’s game against UNLV. His Red Wolves won, 43-17.
Arkansas State’s grief resonated with many, including Georgia alum and Bulldogs mega fan Dwight Standridge. He is the fundraising chairman for Athens-based Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer, a nonprofit whose proceeds go toward helping women detect breast cancer before it can metastasize. Standridge, 49, told The Washington Post he learned of Coach Anderson’s story while reading a blog in preparation for Saturday’s game.
“There’s a guy [who] writes every week on reasons Georgia should hate their opponent,” Standridge recalled. “This week, he said, ‘I can’t find a reason for Georgia to hate Arkansas State, given their coach just went through this traumatic experience.’ It just shows a different side of human nature — human kindness.”
Standridge was referring to a weekly column published by Graham Coffey on SBNation’s fan site dedicated to Georgia football, Dawg Sports. On Monday, Coffey explained how much he was touched by Anderson’s story in the aptly titled: “Why I DON’T Hate Arkansas State.”
“I have been through some things in my life that I consider painful, but I cannot even begin to fathom what Blake Anderson has been going through for the last two years,” Coffey, who did not return an email requesting comment, wrote. “It is even harder for me to fathom what he’s going through right now.”
Several people in the blog’s comment section agreed, and the #WearPinkForWendy hashtag was born. Soon after, Coffey created a graphic to encourage those attending Saturday’s game to wear some form of pink in honor of Wendy Anderson.
The message aligned perfectly with the efforts of Bulldogs Battling Breast Cancer, who already had a “pink out” event planned for Georgia’s Oct. 19 game against Kentucky, Standridge said. He posted the image to the nonprofit’s Twitter account Tuesday morning with the accompanying hashtags.
Then, Standridge said, his tweet “took on a mind of its own.”
It has since garnered more than 1,000 retweets and even caught the attention of Arkansas State University System President Chuck Welch, who tweeted the image with the caption, “Incredibly classy move by Georgia. It’s about more than just a game.”
Later that day, the official Georgia Football Twitter account quote-tweeted the image along with #WearPinkForWendy. Anderson took notice too, tweeting that he was “beyond grateful” for the Georgia fans’ initiative. ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt delivered a monologue about the campaign this week, saying “from the bowels of the most toxic place on the Internet — college football chat rooms — a rose grew. A pink one. . Get a shirt or a hat or a ribbon for that noon kickoff on Saturday so that when you turn on the television, it looks like a big ol’ piece of bubble gum.”
“It really shows you the power of social media when people take this and run with it and keep retweeting it and sharing it — it multiplies exponentially in the scope of people that you reach,” Standridge said. “It’s such a positive movement, and any kind of positive light we can shine on the issue of breast cancer awareness is just awesome.”
Even though putting together Saturday’s tribute was by all accounts a last-minute, grass-roots affair, Standridge was optimistic about how many fans will participate. He hoped at least 20,000 to 30,000 of those in attendance will wear pink in honor of Coach Anderson.
Before the game began, Georgia held a moment of silence to honor Wendy Anderson’s memory.
Standridge, who attends every Bulldogs home game, said he still expects Georgia fans to adamantly cheer on their team. On paper, the Bulldogs should have no trouble taking down Arkansas State (Georgia is a 33½-point favorite), but this weekend, he said, fans will come in with perspective that overshadows winning.
A perspective that is bigger than football entirely.
“Just because you’re a Bulldogs fan doesn’t mean you have to hate the opposing team,” he said. “I think this week the Bulldogs fans will step up and show that side of human nature: rallying for a common good and supporting the team across the sidelines.”