Like several followers on this site, I really enjoyed MaconDawg's post about the biggest recruiting surprises that we've seen during Head Coach Mark Richt's tenure. I liked it so much that I felt compelled to reply with my own thoughts on the subject, agreeing with him and many others that Thomas Davis and Tim Jennings took the prize as most surprising recruits. However, while pondering the subject, I also thought about another former Dawg who was not the most sought after high school prospect, but in my eyes, always was a damn good Dawg. The following is an excerpt from my reply:
"Here's a name I hope some people remember too: Jarvis Jackson! I can't think of a more under-appreciated Dawg in my lifetime. This kid was a 2-Star according to some scouting sources, and a 3-Star on others out of high school, but man was he fun to watch. Remember back between 2003 and 2005 when we had a different linebacker suspended or hurt every other week? Jackson was THAT GUY who filled in at any LB spot, and did 10 times better than the regular starter (particularly in ‘04 when Odell Thurman was suspended to open the season and our backers were shuffling around). I kept hearing Munson call his name on every tackle, and after the game he would always end up among the stat leaders. He never became a full time starter until his senior year in ’06, and I don't understand why! I mean Brandon Miller, Arnold Harrison, and Danny Verdun Wheeler were great guys and hard workers, but none of them had the tenacity and consistency of little #45. Jackson just had a nose for the ball, and he always arrived with a good pop. There are so many games that I look back at and remember how lost some of the guys who were starting looked (i.e. Miller against West Virginia), and I was just yelling, "Why the hell is he on the field and not Jarvis!" That was also the season (2005) when Tony Taylor started in the middle, and I remember the following spring the coaches announced what a mistake that was. Not that Taylor played dreadfully, but he was just more natural on the outside, and proved more effective there in ‘06. That's when they decided to finally let Jackson start in the middle. People often forget that in that miserable season, our defense was actually very good (except against Tennessee), but our offense couldn't put up points. They kept the D on the field most of the time so that by the end of the games, they were exhausted. The defense only surrendered about 16 points a game, 90 yards passing, and 90 rushing. Those stats are normally enough to win you ball games, and the Jackson-Taylor swap was a huge reason why. The offense was just so God awful."
While I admit that it was a much longer and in-depth reply than I had originally set out to type, I stand by my defense of Jarvis, and would gladly argue against anyone who differed. But while I was typing the reply, I began to realize that my emotions had been thoroughly unraveled in my rant, and that I was not as concerned with a surprise recruit as I was a player who had not gotten his deserved praise. Jackson was, in my eyes, an unsung hero in a time where many of the best players the program has ever seen have come and gone.
The idea really stuck with me, and really took me back to the bare principle for which I love the sport of football so much: that anybody on that field can make a difference in any given moment, even if it is not always visible. Not every fan sees the great pancake block an offensive lineman makes, or the three blocks that the nose tackle takes on so the linebacker can make a tackle for loss. Fans might follow the heralded safety racking up interceptions and pass break ups, but do they cheer for that one pass rusher who's always in the quarterback's face forcing him to make poor throws? Everybody celebrates the quarterback when he breaks school records and lights up the stat book, but do they notice the receiver who has had to adjust and practice tirelessly to make those passes look great and catches easy? Or perhaps there's a fluke scenario, where the star receiver or running back is hurt. A scrub/backup is suddenly thrown into the mix, and he's expected to make a play. He comes through in brilliant fashion as he leads the team in receiving or rushing yards in his only start. He powers them to the win, then resumes his place on the bench.
Maybe his play merits more playing time or accolades. Then again, maybe it doesn't. He might not have his name called as often, but he's the one who's also never in trouble, never being publicly criticized by the coaches, and never being cursed by the fans. He just makes the play he's supposed to, then goes back to the huddle and prepares to do it again. It's not because he knows he will find eternal glory in the headlines and pictures, but because it's an honor for him every time he puts on the Red and Black. He's a football player who just wants to play.
That's the unsung hero for me. Jarvis Jackson encompassed these traits, who was it for you?