ATHENS – As a test, trying to determine the exact location of one college senior’s head at the start of spring, we asked if he knew the date of the NFL draft, Day 1.
Bulldogs runner Sony Michel answered in a way that should please fans of his school.
“I’m not sure.”
That talent auction – which Michel and fellow runner Nick Chubb, as well as defenders Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy chose to skip in favor of staying at Georgia for their senior seasons – begins April 27.
So, armed with that information, would Michel watch?
“I’m not big on watching. I’ll probably see something on ESPN, but don’t think I’ll watch it (wall to wall),” he said.
Doesn’t he want to keep score, see how many running backs are taken, where they are taken, and where he might have fit had he made the jump?
“I won’t keep score. The only reason I’d watch it at all is because I know some of those guys. Probably watch to see where they go, be excited for those guys. Nothing I’ll keep score on because that’s out of my control,” Michel said.
You wouldn’t really blame him if his mind were on a dozen other things rather than spring football, because, well, at 22 he’s an old hand at this out-of-season exercise that we tend to make far too much of. Like, say, daydreaming about the NFL draft.
And you wouldn’t blame him if all he wanted to do was just get through the familiar drudgery, stay uninjured, and tiptoe on to his next assignment. But apparently none of that is an option.
There were definite signs earlier this week of Michel’s commitment to his (wise) decision to return to Georgia. He put some of those out there when he was one of the handful of players made available to the media at the start of spring practice. One sign was the fact that he was among the players doing the talking. That was significant. Kirby Smart likes to designate – and sorely limit – his messengers.
When the coach summed up Michel this week, he obviously noted that the back closed the 2016 season with an exclamation point – rushing for 170 yards in the loss to Georgia Tech and being named offensive MVP in the Liberty Bowl victory.
But there was also this from Smart: “More importantly than on the gridiron, (Michel) impacted our team more off the field than anybody. He’s not a guy who’s afraid to speak out. He’s not afraid to challenge others, which I appreciate as a coach. I haven’t been around a lot of players like that in my past. He has that 'it' factor to do that.”
A guy like that, when he’s asked the best part of not having to commute to practice now that all the construction around the permanent facility is done, his answer has nothing to do with personal convenience. Michel said the best part was being able to stay after practice to do extra pass-catching work rather than scurry off to catch a bus.
A guy like that, when he’s asked about the worst part of spring practice, fashions this answer: “You can’t complain about much. My least favorite part is probably not having a game each Saturday. You get to practice, you get a day to recover, you don’t have much to complain about. It’s a pretty fun time. No complaining.”
For a guy like that, one whose diverse skills sometimes are obscured in the shadow of Chubb, you need to provide an offensive line and a game plan that is worthy of him.
As Smart said, “When you give him the ball in space, he tends to make things happen. Finding ways to get Sony the ball, creating ways to use is ability is important for us.”
Seems clear enough that Michel – all of him, from the head down – is in the proper place for this overwrought warm-up to the 2017 season. He has done his part. Now the coaches have to do theirs.