ATHENS — As much as Kirby Smart has attempted to keep things business as usual this week, there’s something about the Georgia-Florida football rivalry that gets certain players more fired up than others.
Bulldogs tight end Isaac Nauta, having grown up in Jacksonville, Fla,, and Buford, Ga., said it’s always a special game for him.
“I know a lot of guys on their team, they love to talk, even from the camp circuit, and 7 on 7, and it hasn’t changed the last two years,” Nauta said with a chuckle. “There’s a carryover with it, and this is just a big trash talking game. The last two years I played in it, that’s the way it’s been, that’s the way I think it will always be.
“Just good old fashioned hate between two teams that don’t like each other.”
The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) kick off against the No. 9-ranked Gators (6-1, 4-1) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in TIAA Bank in Jacksonville (TV: CBS, Radio: WSB 750 AM, 95.5 FM).
“Growing up in Jacksonville, I was a part of watching the Gator teams that had Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, and there were tons of Gator fans,” said Nauta, who lived there between the ages of 7 and 15. “They have a lot of history, a lot of good players, (but) I think a lot of people are seeing in Georgia what I saw, the tide is turning, there’s a lot of good things going on here and Georgia is going to be good for a long time.
“When I first moved to Jacksonville, I became a Florida State fan because I got put in a class that was full of Florida fans and I wanted to be different.”
Nauta, who originally committed to the Seminoles before flipping to Georgia, said the Bulldogs had a good bye week after Smart delivered a pivotal message in the wake of the LSU loss.
“I think it was good for us to reset an take a deep breath,” Nauta said. “You lose a game like that, you feel like the world is crashing down on you.
“One of the best things i heard from Coach Smart, he said that of all the national championship teams he’s been a part of, only one of them was undefeated,” Nauta said. “That just kind of put it into perspective, that everything we want to do is still in front of us, we just have to handle it from week to week, and I think that brought a lot of juice back to everybody.”
And now it’s a matter of finding that edge on Saturday, playing with passion, but not going over the line.
“They don’t like us and we don’t like them, but this game is about composure, too,” Nauta said. “You can’t get caught out of control, or the next you know you’re costing the team because you can’t keep your mouth shut.
“But yeah, there’s some words swapped during the game.”
Georgia football TE Isaac Nauta