Right now, the attention of Bulldog Nation is scattered among several people. We all are wondering whether Stacy Searels is going to Auburn and whether Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Rockwell Moreno are headed for the N.F.L. We’re all glad Jeff Owens is returning and we’re all looking forward to at least another couple of years of A.J. Green. We all have our opinions of Mike Bobo and Willie Martinez, and whether their continued employment in their present positions is what’s best for the Red and Black.
Lost in all of this, though, is the fact that, while New Year’s Day 2009 may be---likely is---the last time Stafford and Moreno will take the field for Georgia, January 1 will be the last time another prominent Bulldog on the offensive side of the ball dons the silver britches.
I am speaking, of course, of Mohamed Massaquoi.
Perhaps because the ‘Dawgs ran the ball so much and so well for so long, we as a fan base have tended to be a tad tough on our receivers. Georgia receivers are a lot like presidents of the United States . . . since the late ‘80s, almost none of either have left their posts as popular as when they arrived.
Oh, we’ve been fond of any number of tight ends along the way; who among us didn’t love Troy Sadowski, Randy McMichael, or Leonard Pope? We have, however, been harsh towards the guys split wide ever since the Classic City Canines got serious about this whole "forward pass" business.
Andre Hastings was overshadowed by Eric Zeier and Garrison Hearst. Michael Greer caught everything thrown his way until his career went up in smoke. Hason Graham, Brice Hunter, Juan Daniels, Fred Gibson, Reggie Brown, Bryan McClendon, Sean Bailey, and A.J. Bryant all tend to be remembered more for that portion of their potential which went unfulfilled than for the percentage that they realized.
While we revere Lindsay Scott for a third down catch against Florida, all we recall about all-time leading receiver Terrence Edwards is a third down drop against the Gators. Unless a fellow was a Hines Ward who did double duty under center when desperate times called for desperate measures or a Michael Johnson who made 70 X Takeoff this generation’s chair-breaking, property-destroying moment, we tend to think of him less fondly than we should, if we think of him at all.
It is likely, therefore, that Bulldog Nation is eleven days away from consigning Massaquoi forevermore to the scrap heap of Georgia receivers we deem disappointing either because our expectations for them were so high or our faith in the passing game was so low.
We will remember Massaquoi’s sophomore slump, but we will forget that he still led the team in receptions that year. We will conclude that the 2005 offensive newcomer of the year and Sporting News freshman all-America honorable mentionee failed to live up in his last three seasons to the hype he generated in his rookie campaign. We will remember the afternoon he seemed like he couldn’t catch a cold and will pretend that a bad game made the fans justified in cheering when he was taken out of the lineup.
What we won’t remember, because we seldom do---but what we should remember, because he earned it---is that Mohamed Massaquoi caught a pair of passes in his collegiate debut against Boise State, and that he went 23 yards on his first career rush in a win over Tennessee, and that he hauled in half a dozen balls for 108 yards and a touchdown against Auburn, all as a freshman.
We will find a way to overlook six catches and a touchdown in a 15-12 win over Georgia Tech in the year in which he supposedly played so terribly. We will manage to ignore a tackle for a 20-yard loss on a botched punt to set up a touchdown against Oklahoma State. We will, if we try, succeed in forgetting his 84-yard touchdown reception in last year’s win over the Gators, or how he earned the True Grit Award at the end of spring practice and proved he deserved it by playing with all the guts and heart in the world in his last home game against the Yellow Jackets.
While we generally are good fans, we tend to be a little rough on our wide receivers here in Bulldog Nation. Given how much criticism Mohamed Massaquoi has drawn during his collegiate career, I have no doubt that he is but one game away from joining that long line of distinguished split ends and flankers, slot receivers and wideouts, who have passed through Athens and departed underappreciated and sold short.
Let us, however, take a break from speculating about the futures of Coaches Martinez and Searels and of Messrs. Moreno and Stafford. Let us, for now, for once, heap praises upon and be grateful to that tall, lanky kid out of Charlotte, N.C., who, try as he might, can’t resist smiling even at the end of a career that was a great deal more fun to watch than it had to have been to have lived.
For four years, we have had the privilege of seeing this young man usually play well and always play hard for his---our---team. While he had his bad games along the way, he hustled, showed toughness, and persevered. Mohamed Massaquoi was, is, and always will be a damn good ‘Dawg, and he deserves to be told that in terms much more uncertain than we have ever used when communicating that sentiment to him.
Don’t fail to appreciate Mohamed Massaquoi before he’s gone. He has 60 minutes to play and we have a lifetime to remember. We clearly got the better end of that bargain. Thanks for four great years, MoMass.