Justin Shaffer: Georgia football guard kept working and working until he became a 2022 NFL Draft prospect

ATHENS – Justin Shaffer is not flashy. He is not a loud individual. The only time he really drew attention to himself was when Georgia would score. He would often be the first offensive lineman in the end zone to celebrate with his teammates.

“Shaffer, he didn’t say much but when he did, you listened,” quarterback Stetson Bennett said of the Georgia offensive lineman.

That sort of respect comes when you undergo the journey that Shaffer did during his time in college. One where he was often overlooked until he was leading the Bulldogs to a championship in the final game of his career.

Shaffer signed with Georgia out of Cedar Grove High School in the 2017 signing class. That same recruiting haul produced first-round offensive linemen in Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson. Both of those players were top-100 overall prospects in the 2017 recruiting cycle. Shaffer was the No. 388 ranked recruiting prospect for that class.

Shaffer wasn’t even the highest-rated recruit on his own high school team. That would belong to 4-star offensive lineman Netori Johnson, who also signed with Georgia in the 2017 recruiting class.

Related: Justin Shaffer: The ‘Pac-Man’ Georgia Bulldog story to read before the national championship game

Undeterred by the talent around him, Shaffer just put his head down and continued to work. And work. And work some more.

He seemed poised to make an impact on Georgia’s offensive line in the 2019 season, starting games against Tennessee and South Carolina. But a neck injury forced him to miss the final eight games of that season.

Then the man that recruited him to Georgia, Sam Pittman, left to become the new head coach at Arkansas. It proved to be an eye-opening experience for the offensive lineman.

‘Going into college I had coach (Sam) Pittman, and I was thinking he could be there the whole time,” Shaffer said at the Senior Bowl. “But he moved on to bigger an better things, and you know it could be the same way in the league.

“You could have one coach one year, and then the next year another coach. So that was an experience for me learning how to regroup and collect and take in information differently.”

In came Matt Luke to replace Pittman. With Wilson, Thomas and Solomon Kindley off the NFL, Georgia had a number of openings on its offensive line entering the 2020 season. Despite signing class after class of highly-touted recruits, Shaffer had played himself into a starting role for the Bulldogs.

Shaffer started all 10 games during the 2020 season, with nine coming at left guard. He then took advantage of the extra year of eligibility afforded to him by the NCAA due to COVID-19 and returned to Georgia for his super senior season.

Related: Georgia’s Justin Shaffer solid in Senior Bowl, shares favorite moment of championship season

He once again started every game for Georgia, doing so at the left guard position. While Georgia moved teammate Jamaree Salyer, Broderick Jones and Sedrick Van Pran around during the course of the year, Shaffer was a constant presence at the left guard position. Coaches and media took notice of Shaffer’s steadiness, as he was named Second Team All-SEC.

Shaffer capped his long and winding career in the best way possible, walking off the field as a champion following Georgia’s 33-18 win over Alabama.

All that work, all that time turned Shaffer from an overlooked member of the Georgia team into a likely draft pick. After a solid performance at both the NFL combine and Senior Bowl, Shaffer is expected to be taken in the fifth or sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

It’ll be a major milestone for a key figure on Georgia’s team in recent seasons. Certainly a moment worth getting loud about for the offensive guard from Ellenwood, Ga.

Justin Shaffer poised to become a 2022 NFL Draft pick

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