In the wake of Hate Week where we pick on our little brothers from the NATS, I would like to change gears a bit and express some Clean, Old-Fashioned Love for the starting seniors on this year's squad who should receive thundering ovations from the Bulldog Nation today. I share with you one of my favorite highlights from each player's career at Georgia and hope you share some of yours in the comments below. So get on your feet and join me in thanking these DGDs for their commitment to our university and its football program.
Marlon Brown, WR, Memphis, TN
I will always remember Brown as the guy whose catch against Kentucky last season clinched the SEC East for the Dawgs. He came in with a ton of hype in 2009 but injuries limited his potential until about halfway through his junior year in 2011. Right as Brown was establishing himself as one of Georgia's top receivers this season, he suffered a career-ending ACL injury. We wish Marlon a speedy recovery and a successful career in the League.
Tavarres King, WR, Mount Airy
King, the perfect complement to Brown, was a bit overshadowed by his fellow 2008 recruit, A.J. Green. After a redshirt season, TK emerged as a serious deep-ball threat who ended up setting an Outback Bowl record last season. King was also among the most visible senior leaders on this team this season. NFL teams would be silly to overlook him and his heart, hands and speed.
Richard Samuel, RB/FB, Cartersville
The ultimate of DGDs, Samuel was the quintessential team player in his time as a Dawg. So much so that he was recruited as a running back and a linebacker, played running back in 2008 and 2009, redshirted in 2010 to transition to linebacker in the abundance of tailbacks, played linebacker for all of one G-Day game before moving back to running back after the unexpected dismissal of aforementioned tailbacks. He had a solid season backing up Isaiah Crowell and Ken Malcome in 2011 and switched to fullback (!) in 2012 to shore up quality depth at that position! Is your head spinning yet? I'm sure Samuel's was, too. For his selfless sacrifice and game-clinching TD against Florida last season, we should wholeheartedly thank RS IV for being the definition of a DGD.
Sanders Commings, CB, Augusta
Commings has done nothing but give his all on the field, has accepted responsibility for an off-field incident earlier this year and has earned the right to play corner in the NFL. Though he might be remembered by many Dawg fans as the guy who recovered the fumble to seal this year's Florida game or the guy who made a few game-saving picks against UT, Commings to me will always be the guy who hit Stephen Garcia so hard last season that the latter's hangover wasn't the only thing hurting him the next morning.
Michael Gilliard, ILB, Valdosta
Gilliard might be remembered as one of the "softies" to whom Shawn Williams referred in his epic pre-Florida "rant" that revitalized the Dawgs' defense, but I remember him as the guy who came up with a clutch interception against Tech last season. Although Youtube doesn't share my enthusiasm for that play, here's a peek at his demeanor and how seriously he takes his play.
"Big" John Jenkins, N, Meriden, CT
After reading up on the 3-4 defense after the hire of Todd Grantham, I saw a hole in our defense in 2010. Big John filled that need when he signed out of Gulf Coast Community College (MS). A massive man at 6'3" 358 lbs., Jenkins is the ideal nose for the 3-4 scheme and will be drafted early come April. Not only does he constantly command double teams from opposing offensive linemen, this guy, much like the bear he resembles, is pretty dawg gone fast and has gotten to the QB with relative frequency. Though my favorite Big John moment was his body-slam of the MS State QB in 2011, a kind Youtube user posted a compilation of the havoc he wreaked against Auburn this season.
Abry Jones, DE, Warner Robins
We may or may not see Jones in a Georgia uniform again after an injury earlier this season, but his impact has been undeniable. Like with most defensive linemen, Youtube did not deem him worthy of a highlight video, but Jones has done nothing but pressure the QB and carry himself with professional grace for the past four years. I hope we get to see him in the bowl game. If not, I know we'll see him in the League next fall.
Bacarri Rambo, FS, Donalsonville
Rambo burst on the scene in 2009 with a game-saving hit against Auburn that resulted in him being carried off the field. Since then, he has been a human highlight reel for the Dawgs. Despite two suspensions, Rambo has been named an All-American and is still in the running for setting the all-time interception record at Georgia. Add him to the list of Dawgs bound for the early rounds of the NFL draft.
Christian Robinson, ILB, Norcross
I will probably remember Robinson as one of Georgia's all-time best defenders against the triple option. He played great games against Tech and one against Southern in his career. Auburn fans will probably remember him as the guy who made this Tiglesman see singing war birdies. Robinson was another one of Williams's "softies," but there was nothing soft about that. He is a great kid and was one of the leaders on this team in 2012.
Branden Smith, CB, Atlanta
Like Rambo, Smith became a household name in his freshman year with this huge run against South Carolina in the 2009 shootout between the hedges. Remember Smith is technically a defender. He did have a pretty good nose for the ball. I expect to see Smith in the NFL, playing a role similar to the one that Brandon Boykin played at UGA and is currently playing at the next level: the omniman.
Cornelius Washington, DE, Hephzibah
Much like Abry Jones, Washington made his presence felt on opposing offensive lines and QBs but never got any love from the folks making highlight reels at Youtube. He is a knowledgeable player who understands the Xs and Os of good defensive football. This knowledge, combined with his monstrous size and tireless motor, will serve him well either as a lineman or linebacker at the next level (remember that he made the transition to DE from OLB at the beginning of the year).
Shawn Williams, SS, Damascus
Williams reminded me a lot of Greg Blue. If you got hit by him, you'd remember it. My personal favorite Williams moment was his first-down-saving hit in the Florida game this season. Solomon Patton ended up breaking his arm on this legal hit. Ouch! Most Georgia fans will remember Williams as the guy who called out the "softies" on the defense in the week leading up to the Florida game. We should all thank him for that as the defense has played like the unit we all knew and loved in 2011 ever since. Expect to see Williams laying the wood in the League in 2013.
Please join me in raising a paw to these DGDs and thanking them for the memories and for sticking around for one last hurrah when many of them could have easily followed the money and left for the pros. I wish them all well in their future endeavors and am confident that they will continue to represent UGA well both in the NFL and the working world.
And, juniors, one more year! Pleeeeeeease?