ATHENS — The most veteran member of Georgia’s tight end unit has only registered three starts in his five years on the team.
From hauling in the final score for the Bulldogs in the 2012 Georgia-Georgia Tech game, to being named Offensive Most Improved Player after his final spring, Jay Rome has run the spectrum of on-field contributions.
Just not as many as one would expect of a fifth-year senior and former five-star recruit.
“He is a team guy,” coach Mark Richt said. “He does help the young players. He’s not selfish with that. And when his number’s called, so far, he’s really done a nice job.”
In the 38-31 loss to Tennessee, Rome saw more playing time than freshman Jackson Harris and registered two catches for 25 yards, an uptick in participation from what had been seen previously this season.
“I see myself as a leader in the tight end room,” Rome said. “When I’m on the field I try to be an example with my plays and when I do get the ball or when my number is called I try to make the play and set an example for the guys under me the guys that are going to be playing just as much as me.”
Rome joined the Bulldogs five years ago as the No.1 tight end prospect in the nation. When he joined the team he came into a depth chart that started All-American and future NFL tight end Orson Charles. The following two years, Rome backed up All-SEC tight end and future Miami Dolphin draft pick Arthur Lynch.
When 2014, Rome’s redshirt junior year, came, the starting role was usurped by new kid in the room Jeb Blazevich.
Add highly-touted Harris to the mix, and Rome, the highest-ranked Georgia tight end recruit in at least a decade, gets cemented to the No. 2 spot, catching passes from Brice Ramsey at a Wednesday practice.
“We are all family,” Rome said. “I love to see those guys get in and do really good. We are a team and whoever is in there at the time, they’re going to do the right things and they’re going to play hard and help the team win. Whenever we’re making plays, its just a great thing for the whole segment group.”
Both his teammates and Richt acknowledged that Rome’s biggest contribution may not come from what he can do on the field.
“I personally think Jay Rome is one of the finer leaders on the team,” said senior wide receiver and Rome’s high school teammate Malcolm Mitchell. “A guy that already has his degree. Very educated, very smart, a very well-rounded player.”
When asked about his advice to the younger guys starting ahead of him, Rome offered guidance that seemed perfectly crafted from his experience—and possibly something he has said to himself.
“You have to work on the things you need to work on to be a better football player and to help the team,” Rome said. “You just have to do you part. You might not feel like what you are doing is helping the team but every person plays a very integral role.”