‘He wants that life’: Nolan Smith aims to become the Freddie Freeman of Georgia football

Nolan Smith-Georgia football-leader
Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith is the vocal leader of the Georgia defense

Nolan Smith is a big baseball fan. Despite being a Savannah, Ga., native, his favorite team is the New York Yankees. New York’s season came to an end in early October at the hands of the Boston Red Sox.

Yet Smith still found joy in watching the Atlanta Braves win their first championship in 26 years. In part, it’s because his dad is a massive Braves fan. But he also enjoyed getting to see his teammates getting to enjoy a championship run, one he himself hopes to participate in as a member of the Georgia team.

Smith further expounded on how much he appreciates Freddie Freeman, the leader of the Atlanta Braves, and all he did for his team.

“That’s one of those guys that stuck out with that program. That’s something we do here,” Smith said. “A lot of guys stick around for fifth and sixth years. To see him win it and stuck the ball in his back pocket, I’ll never forget that.”

Like the Braves, there’s some debate about who is the best player on the Georgia defense. There’s a number of different answers you could give and on any given day you could be proven right. Austin Riley, Max Fried, Jordan Davis or Nakobe Dean. There’s no super-duper star — at least with no Ronald Acuña Jr. available — just a collection of great players elevating the entire team.

But like the Atlanta Braves, there’s little doubt as to who the leader of the group is.

“Nolan is real vocal. Nolan is definitely an extrovert,” junior safety Lewis Cine said. “When Nolan is in an area you are going to know because he is really loud. He cares about his people, he cares about the players, he cares about the coaches. He cares about everyone. That’s the type of leader he is.”

Smith’s voice and enthusiasm constantly show to why leading comes naturally to the outside linebacker. Wide receiver Kearis Jackson compared him to a microphone. Tight end John FitzPatrick went with “very loud” to describe his personality while Jordan Davis pointed to Smith’s “bubbliness.”

Smith has long been working towards being a leader at the University of Georgia. He was the first player to commit in Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class, instantly emerging as the pied piper for a class that ultimately landed Dean, Walker, Cine and others.

Before he got to Georgia, Smith spent his final two seasons of high school playing for the prestigious IMG Academy. He was playing with some of the best high school players in the country, much like he is now for the No. 1 ranked Bulldogs.

Not only did it help sharpen his on-field skills. Playing for the school allowed him to further hone his leadership skills.

“He’s always had leadership skills. He’s very intelligent,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Everywhere you meet people at the schools he’s been at or the schools he grew up going to, they rave about what a great kid he is.”

As Smith has grown as a leader this season, he’s also gotten better as a player. In recent games against Florida and Missouri, he’s forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, came down with an interception and blocked a punt. His performance against Florida earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

While he might not be your answer for the best player on Georgia’s defense, he’s clearly an impact player for the Bulldogs.

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