ATHENS – Perhaps you’ve heard more than you care for about Sony Michel the last couple of days. I haven’t, and I’m going to give you a little more today.
There are a lot of people and players that I will always be fond of in the wake of Georgia’s 2017 football season. Michel is at the top of that list.
Before I get in too deep on Michel, don’t you think that’s one of the main reasons everybody had so much fun rooting for the Bulldogs last season? Yeah, sure, winning all those games was fun and exciting. And the way they won a lot of them was pretty cool, too.
But one must admit, the players and personalities on Georgia’s last team were pretty easy to get behind.
I was talking to Janet Frick the other day. She’s a psychology professor at UGA and a faculty-appointed member on the school’s athletic board. The purpose of our talk was to discuss grief and depression and the other tangible psychological effects of the sudden, disappointing ending to the Bulldogs’ season. Part of the reason it hurt fans so much, she said, was because Georgia fans had come to care deeply for these players.
“So much happiness had been associated with those experiences, so much positivity, so much goodwill,” Frick said of the 2017 season. “You had Lorenzo Carter, you had Sony and Nick [Chubb]. You had all these upstanding young men who were such good representatives of Georgia. So, for [the season] to end for them the way it did, the fans experienced real feelings of grief and loss.”
As Frick alluded, Michel was one those players you couldn’t help but root for. Then he goes out this week and pens a letter to the Dawg Nation.
Published at theplayerstribune.com — that cool website founded by Derek Jeter to provide a first-person creative outlet for athletes — Michel used that forum basically to tell Georgia fans how much he appreciated them and loved his time in Athens. Like most everything I’ve heard come from Michel’s mouth, his thoughts were deliberate and well expressed.
Keep in mind, they don’t just publish anything at The Players’ Tribune. It has to be meaningful and well done. I talked to Jake Silver, Michel’s player rep at CAA, and he said Michel immediately expressed an interest in publishing that letter and worked hard on it for weeks.
It made me think about my impressions of Michel when he first arrived at Georgia. He was very quiet then, along the lines of Chubb, the kid who would become his best buddy at UGA. But, slowly, he came out of his shell, socially and athletically. We soon learned he liked to rap. We found out that, while he was backup, he really was no backup. Later, we’d learn he had exceptional leadership capabilities.
Michel’s Georgia career peaked during the Rose Bowl, where all those traits came together. He delivered a simple, four-word motivational speech at halftime — directed at Georgia’s overwhelmed defense — and that turned the tide against Oklahoma.
“I got your back,” he shouted.
And boy did he.
Michel ran for 181 yards and 3 touchdowns and he caught 4 passes for 41 yards and another score. Chubb had 145 yards and scored twice as the Bulldogs delivered a come-from-behind victory for the ages, 54-48 in overtime.
Fortunately, most people barely remember that Michel had a fumble late in that game that Oklahoma used to scoop and score on a play that looked like it was going to decide the Rose Bowl in the Sooners’ favor. Alas, Michel’s teammates had his back. They rallied and gave him the opportunity to record the winning score, which he did.
I’ll forever remember the poignant moment when Michel, after being mobbed by his teammates, came to the Bulldogs sideline and exhaustedly fell into the arms of former Georgia running back Garrison Hearst. With his face hidden from view during an extended embrace, Michel let loose tears of joy and relief.
As if he hadn’t given enough, Michel basically apologized in his letter Wednesday for not being able to deliver Georgia the national championship its fan base so desperately craves.
“I really hope everyone out there understands how badly we wanted to bring that championship home for Dawg Nation,” he said. “I know it still stings, for all of us, but I hope that we gave you all enough amazing memories throughout the season that you can forgive us for not getting it done on that night in Atlanta.”
Yeah, Sony, I think they probably can give y’all a pass on that one. Hopefully, he has received a few thank-you letters himself. I’d say he deserves them.