ATLANTA — Maurice Smith has the rare distinction of having played for both Alabama and Georgia. And he’s as torn as anybody on who to root for in the national championship.
Smith, you may recall, was the starting nickel back for Georgia last season, after spending the first three years of his career at Alabama. He’s in town for the game and will be in the stands at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
And he will not be wearing either team’s colors.
“I’m going to dress like a pedestrian,” Smith said. “At this point I’m neutral. I have love for both squads. I have memories with both schools.”
That may be a bit surprising considering how Smith left Alabama, opting to leave for playing time and then sparking a fight between Georgia and Alabama on whether he should be allowed to transfer within the conference. Kirby Smart maintained that anyone who has graduated, such as Smith, should be able to go where they want. Nick Saban felt the rule on in-conference transfers should take precedent. But Saban eventually relented under public pressure, and the SEC granted a waiver.
But Smith said he has too many friends on Alabama’s team to let his transfer cloud his thinking. After all, he does own a diploma from Alabama.
“I have so many memories, and I can’t throw it away because I transferred because of this,” Smith said. “And the love I have for people that are still on the staff.”
It ended up working out for both parties: Alabama still made last year’s national championship, while Smith emerged as a team captain for the Bulldogs, and made more friends along the way.
Smith spent this past season with the Miami Dolphins, who signed him as an undrafted free agent and put him on the team. He played in six games this year. After taking last semester off from UGA graduate classes, he plans to take some this spring semester, as he continues to work towards a graduate degree in Public Health.
So how does Smith see the matchup of his two college teams? Pretty much like everyone else. Two evenly-matched teams who resemble each other, highlighted by great defenses. He expects the score to be in the 20s.
“I might. That may happen actually. I’m going to try to keep it bottled up, especially since I’m in the stands.”
“It’s going to be a heck of a matchup,” Smith said. “It’s going to come down at the end to who makes the least mistakes. Who’s going to make one more play than the other team.”
So as the game goes on, could Smith’s emotions get the best of him and bring out his preference for one of his former teams? He acknowledges it might. But for now, he has a fence-straddling rallying cry.
“Roll Dawgs,” Smith said.