LOS ANGELES – We’re all looking for it. We’re all trying to find it. You know, that moment that’s too great for Jake Fromm.
So far it hasn’t been identified. But the Georgia Bulldogs are quite happy to keep moving up in their quest to locate it. Just how high can they go before reaching it? That’s the question now. There are but two more rungs on the ladder before nobody cares.
Georgia’s freshman quarterback was the center of attention on Thursday. It was the Bulldogs’ first turn at the podium for the Rose Bowl. The day was marked for Georgia’s offensive leaders to be interviewed at the L.A. Hotel Downtown, while Oklahoma’s defensive players went before them.
As a freshman on Georgia’s team, Fromm wasn’t allowed to speak to reporters all season. It’s a team mandate of coach Kirby Smart, and it extends to all players, no matter their role or station. And in case you haven’t noticed, Fromm has played a pretty big role on the 2017 team.
He has played in every game for the Bulldogs, who won all but one of their 13. Taking over for an injured Jacob Eason in the first quarter of the first game of the season, Fromm has responded to every challenge that has been laid before him thus far. And now he’s about to face the biggest one his team has encountered in more than three decades – the College Football Playoff semifinal against No. 2 Oklahoma on Monday.
In keeping with that, all gag orders go out the window once a team reaches the postseason. Fromm was available for postgame interviews for about 15 minutes after the Bulldogs’ 28-7 victory over Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. Thursday was different.
In this scenario, Fromm was plopped under bright lights on a stage in front of a microphone and cameras before a horde of reporters representing publications from every region across the nation. They were given free range for the better part of an hour in two different rooms.
Once again, the moment was not too big. Fromm came through for the Bulldogs, just as he has on the field all season. Most of what he said will only endear him more to the UGA faithful.
“My family, they’ve been Dawgs ever since I’ve been born,” Fromm said, his Central Georgia drawl amplified over the sound system. “So, playing quarterback for the University of Georgia is a lot bigger for them than it is for me sometimes. It’s been awesome.”
“Awesome” was about the only evidence that we’re still dealing with a freshman here. He said that word a lot. I counted it eight times in my transcription of our brief interview alone. I didn’t count them but he definitely said “definitely” a lot, too.
Otherwise, there’s has been nothing freshman-like about Fromm all year, in the rare interviews or, more importantly, on the field. That’s why he remains No. 2-ranked Georgia’s starting quarterback long after Jacob Eason returned to good health.
Lest we forget, Fromm replaced Eason at the 8-minute mark of the first quarter of the home opener against Appalachian State. Eason sprained his left knee on the fourth offensive series of the season. Fromm has taken every meaningful snap since.
Of the scenario, Fromm said, “I wouldn’t have believed [it] if you told me.”
Yet here he is, preparing to lead Georgia’s offense into its first College Football Playoff. Sitting under those bright lights, Fromm was asked to reflect on the distance he’s traveled in the four months since that first game.
“I definitely have a good understanding of what college football is all about,” Fromm said. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew it was just a football game and that’s the way I approached it. Now I’m here and I know what to prepare for a little more now. I definitely have a better feel about the flow of the game, 48 minutes versus 60 minutes. I definitely have a better feel of how we play football and I think that has helped me a lot.”
It hasn’t been a perfect road. There have been bumps along the way. Fromm shuddered Thursday when thinking back on some of the mistakes he has made this season. He really couldn’t have done much in the road loss at Auburn, what with the pressure he was under throughout, but he still has some regrets from that one. He mentioned the fumble against Notre Dame that he “had to own up to” and the anxiety and nervousness he felt in that first quarter at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium.
Yes, that’s right. The kid gets nervous.
“When I get the most nervous is when I know I don’t prepare,” Fromm said. “For me, I think I’ve prepared more this season than any freshman quarterback or any quarterback out there in the country. That’s the way I take games.
“Do I get a little anxious before the game? Absolutely. That’s anybody. You’re just ready to play. But for me, if I know I’m prepared, I’m ready to go.”
Ultimately, that is what has endeared Fromm to his veteran teammates. They’ve witnessed how hard he works and they’ve seen how much he knows.
For the record, it’s a lot more now than it was in those games early in the season. But Fromm’s M.O. always has been that his knowledge builds on itself. So offensive coordinator Jim Chaney kept adding things to his plate, and Fromm kept consuming and digesting it.
But his teammates say they knew there was something special about the kid long before that.
“For me, the time I really took note that he was filling that leadership role pretty well was during 7-on-7 work during the summertime,” senior Isaiah Wynn said. “It was obvious that he was just different as opposed to some other players. He was always intense and made sure that everybody out there matched his intensity.”
Fromm’s pretty good at this question-and-answer thing, too. He was careful not to let himself be tripped up when an Oklahoma writer asked if he was a trash-talker like the Sooners’ Baker Mayfield.
“I’m going to play behind Nick and Sony and let their pads do the trash-talking for me,” said Fromm, referring to the Bulldogs’ star tailbacks, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
The national narrative for the game Monday is that Oklahoma has an edge at the quarterback position. That’s understandable considering the Sooners’ guy has thrown for more than 14,000 yards in his career and won a trophy this season known as the Heisman.
But the Bulldogs don’t necessarily see it that way. They don’t believe anybody will be better prepared than their guy.
And that’s Fromm’s aim, too. He said he believes “film work” and preparation have been his key to success.
“For whatever reason, I can see something on film and translate it on the field,” he said. “I don’t know why I can do that but for some reason I can. And it’s definitely helped a lot playing college football. I hope it continues because it’s been awesome.”