UGA Gifts Young Fan, Who Lost Family in Fire, Tickets to National Championship

by Liz Holland
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

UGA is honoring 12-year-old Georgian Taeden Johnson, who lost his entire family to a house fire last year. In January of 2021, Johnson was able to escape his burning home and run to a neighbor for help. Unfortunately, by the time firefighters arrived, the home was already engulfed in flames. 

His neighbor told local news channel, “He kept saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just tried to get them out. I was trying to save them.’ Was the saddest thing I ever seen. I had to grab that baby and hold him and tell him, ‘You can’t go back in there.’”

The fire took the lives of Johnson’s grandmother, mother, and 8-year-old sister. Zac Hendrix, UGA grad and a mentor of Johnson’s, started a GoFundMe as soon as he heard the news. Part of the fundraiser’s description written by Hendrix reads, “As soon as I got the call I rushed up to Athens to make sure my best friend is okay and alive. By the Grace of God to see his smile saying…‘I love you bro, you are just a few of the family I have left…’ has left me crushed, but trusting God’s plan through this tragic event.” 

Taeden Johnson Is Headed to Indianapolis For the Big UGA Game

Almost one year later, Johnson is taking a trip he’ll certainly never forget. Hendrix posted a picture of Johnson on Instagram sporting a UGA sweatshirt, on his way to see the Georgia VS. Alabama championship rematch in Indianapolis. The post’s caption explains, “A few days ago, I had a compassionate Delta Flight Attendant reach out to me and express interest to help Taeden get to Indianapolis for the National Championship. 24 hours later, I received an email from @edbastian and his amazing @delta staff stating, ‘They would be grateful to provide first class service to IND airport for both of us’ I look back and think there is no way I am flying solo at the age of 13, but I am super proud of you little bro!” Hendrix writes. 

Hendrix goes on to reflect on the past year and the progress Taeden has made following the tragedy. He writes,  “As I sit here waiting on you to arrive, I am so grateful to each and every one of you for this year-long journey. January will be a tough month for Taeden, but these memories from the amazing people of Georgia going the extra mile, to give a 13-year-old boy from Athens, Georgia a memory of a lifetime. I can’t thank you all enough for what you’ve done and this is why I will be a Delta loyalist for life.”

The Georgia football team is providing tickets to the Monday night game for the pair. In the past, they also donated to a fundraiser organized to build Taeden a new house.

The two will appear on ESPN on Monday before the game. “NOW @georgiafootball let’s beat down the Tide’ and bring this championship back to the Classic City!” Hendrix wrote in his Instagram post. “I am forever grateful for this team, the coaching staff especially Coach Hankton, and hundreds of others who have stepped in this past year! Go Delta & Go Dawgs!! All the glory to God.”