ATHENS — Kirby Smart and Bill Belichick visited for several minutes visiting in Georgia’s so-called “House of Payne” indoor facility Wednesday afternoon.
All 32 NFL teams were represented. The Atlanta Falcons sent 11 coaches to see the outgoing Bulldogs show their speed, athleticism and skills in combine-line drills.
But Belichick, perhaps more than any of them, has shown he recognizes the value of former UGA players.
“I think Kirby’s program is excellent to prepare guys for the National Football League,” said Belichick, who selected UGA players Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and signed center David Andrews as a free agent in 2015.
After Georgia’s pro day, more Bulldogs will be on their way to the league. Smart was practically beaming with pride on Wednesday.
“Our guys competed well,” Smart said, dozens of media and several cameras surrounding him.
“We want them to have this opportunity, that’s what they dream of, but we want them to get their education as well.”
There were 21 players running drills on Wednesday, from projected first-round NFL draft pick Deandre Baker to former Bulldog Tramel Terry, who signed with UGA in 2013 before finishing his career with Jacksonville State.
Smart, who spent the 2006 season with the Miami Dolphins coaching the safeties, has as good of a perspective as anyone on what the NFL combine drills mean.
Not only has the Georgia coach prepared several players for NFL careers, but he went through the process himself.
Smart was an All-SEC safety at Georgia who signed a free-agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts before getting cut before the start of the regular season.
“We still say your tape will speak volumes to who you are, and a lot of our kids have some good tape,” Smart said. “I know from having worked in that league there’s a lot more than just the combine and the times.
“There’s a lot of football tape to be watched, there’s a lot of background to be checked, and those are all strong points for a lot of our players, so don’t put a lot of weight on a number.”
As for Belichick, Smart indicated their conversation covered several areas.
“He knows you know your own players, he’s always about guys you played against that you thought a lot of, guys coming in the future,” Smart said, “or things they are doing in their organization that are making them better that maybe we can mirror.”
Indeed, there are already similarities.
“Sony (Michel) told me that the New England Patriots practice is just like the University of Georgia practice, but maybe not as intense, because we’re in college,” departing UGA receiver Riley Ridley said at the NFL combine. “But he said they have the same attack.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart