ATHENS – Jake Ganus shifted right, stopped, and shifted again. He ran backwards, then saw the ball coming at him and jumped at it. He grabbed it.
As he jogged the ball back to Rob Ryan, who was running this drill, Ganus could see Bill Belichick jotting something down on his legal pad.
Ganus will later find out for sure whether he made much of an impression on the NFL teams that saw him on Wednesday. This much he does know: He’s back to where he was last year, trying to show he can play a level up.
“I think that’s written with my name: I’ve gotta prove something,” Ganus said, grinning.
Last year the question was whether Ganus could play in the SEC, and whether the linebacker’s tackle stats at UAB meant anything, given it was against inferior competition.
All he ended up doing in one year at Georgia was leading the Bulldogs in tackles, being named one of the four permanent captains and winning the overall team MVP award.
But any thought that Ganus now had it made was knocked away last month. He was left off the list of NFL combine invites while eight Georgia teammates were invited, including several who weren’t even starters.
“I called and just asked, and there’s no answer, no reason. I really don’t know,” Ganus said. “I’m not worried about it anymore, I can only control what I can control. But at first I was pretty shocked. I think every guy from Georgia that made it was well-deserving. I do think I should have been part of that group.”
That made UGA’s pro day on Wednesday all the more important. And from what Ganus could tell, he did well.
He was credited with a 4.77 in the 40-yard dash, better than the 4.9 that Ganus thinks NFL scouts expected of him, based on game tape. His other numbers (9-foot-5 in the broad jump, a 30.5-inch vertical jump, 15 reps in the bench press) were middle-of-the-pack, compared to others at pro day.
But Ganus would rather just point to what he did on the field.
“I’m not a track star by any means. I’m a football player,” Ganus said.
Ganus joined Georgia last year after UAB’s program shut down, and ended up becoming a de facto leader on defense. He said his favorite part of last year was being voted a permanent team captain despite being with the program for only 11 months. When he gets a chance to talk to teams, Ganus said, he’ll tell them that’s the kind of guy they would get in their locker room.
“There’s guys that run 4.4s and do all that kind of stuff. And I’m not that guy. I just go out and make plays,” Ganus said. “I can run the defense, I can be a leader in the locker room. I can do those kinds of things for a team. Coaches know that, and all I need is one team to find that valuable enough to take me.”
The draft, and whatever follows, will just be the next chapters in what has probably been the most eventful 18 months of Ganus’ life.
He saw his program shut down in a controversial move, and wondered if he’d play football again. Georgia offered him the chance to continue his career, and he took it. He proceeded to earn a starting spot, won those team awards and got engaged to his longtime girlfriend along the way.
Then came the firing of Mark Richt, followed by the departure of all of Ganus’ defensive coaches. He finished up his Georgia career with a win in the bowl game, then went to the Senior Bowl. Now here he is again, trying to prove himself.
“It is a whirlwind. It’s been a good one, though,” Ganus said. “It’s been a year, ups and downs, a lot of ups. I’m grateful to Georgia for giving me a chance this time last year, a couple months ago. It’s been awesome. I’ve been able to make the most of this opportunity. When I get a chance to do that I’ll make the most of it.”