STATESBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - The Georgia Southern Eagles played in primetime on ESPN Thursday night, hosting South Alabama at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro.
Thursday night was one of Georgia Southern’s few home games this season, since a couple have been cancelled due to COVID-19. But the Athletic Department made Thursday Military Appreciation Night and the military always has a booming presence in Paulson Stadium.
“It gets everyone fired up, we call it the Power of Paulson,” Georgia Army National Guard Sgt. First Class Bryan Neal.
If you go to a Georgia Southern game, you can’t miss the thunder of the Power of Paulson. The cannon belongs to the Georgia Army National Guard 118th Field Artillery Regiment and is assigned to the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The cannon, a M-119 HOWITZER9, has been overseas in Afghanistan but now serves a different purpose: celebrating touchdowns, intimidating the competition and firing up the fans.
It was the brainchild of Neal with the Georgia Army National Guard to recruit new members, but quickly became a gameday tradition.
“I went to school here, I met my wife here, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than right here in Statesboro. I currently work at the ROTC here at Georgia Southern, and I’ve recruited, deployed out of here to all different theaters of combat, with the National Guard out of here, and always came back, and watched the games when I was overseas, and I love Georgia Southern football more than anything, so it was a great opportunity,” Neal said. The primetime Thursday night match-up against South Alabama served as Military Appreciation Night inside Paulson, something Neal said he and other veterans appreciate now more than ever.
“With the COVID, and the rioting and protesting happening that we’ve been helping out with across the state, it’s really good to get out here with the students and the university atmosphere of a football game, and let them see what it is that we do, and what we look like,” Neal said.
Most of the 6-man cannon crew are Georgia Southern alums, and they say it’s helped their recruiting just as much as it’s helped the football team.
“It’s in the hundreds of rounds. It’s done well. We score a lot,” Neal said.
The flyover that was scheduled was canceled due to the weather.