ATHENS – Georgia linebacker Ryne Rankin rarely steps on the field with the Bulldogs’ defense and doesn’t have a career start to his credit despite being in the twilight of his college career. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a player on the team more liked and respected by him teammates.
Just ask them to describe the 6-foot-1, 218-pound senior from Orlando, then watch their faces light up.
“Wow, too many things come to mind,” said junior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, laughing hard. “He’s a go-getter. He’s going to do whatever it takes, man. He’s going to make plays. He’s a flying bullet.”
“That’s him, the nut,” said sophomore linebacker and safety Rashad Roundtree. “You definitely have to that mentality every time you go out there. He’s always the one who gets us fired up and ready to go. That’s his baby. Everybody knows that. Ryne Rankin is the man.”
There is only one place to command that type of respect without being an every-day starter on offense and that’s on special teams. And that’s where you can always count on finding Ryne Rankin.
You may have noticed Rankin — the latest to wear the No. 38 jersey in his family — represent the Bulldogs several times this season and over the years as a special team’s captain. In fact, he was named the permanent special teams captain and special teams MVP of the year after last season. Not surprising considering he plays on every special teams unit except for field goals and field-goal block.
And if you watch before Georgia’s kick-coverage units take the field, you’ll notice it’s Rankin in the middle of a huddle, usually in some form of ranting-and-raving as he shouts at his teammates. He affectionately calls the group, the “Nut Squad.”
“You’ve either got to be one or have a bunch of them,” Rankin explained. “You’ve just got to fly down there knock ‘em out. You’ve got to be crazy to play special teams.”
Asked what it is the plan and purpose of these highly-charged huddles he conducts, Rankin shrugs and laughs.
“I’m trying to get them to match my intensity,” said Rankin, who has three tackles this season and 23 in his career. “If they match my intensity, they’ll play good. I don’t know, growing up I was always a little bit of a wild man. So I’m just being me. I just say whatever’s on my heart, whatever I feel at that moment.”
Rankin is the subject for this week’s “Five Questions With …” feature. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: Obviously you came to Georgia hoping to one day be a starter on defense. You never have, but have clearly embraced your role on special teams. What was that transition like?
Rankin: “Obviously I wish to play more. But growing up, I just always wanted to be a team player. Right when I came to Georgia, it was hard for me to get on the field. So I just embraced my role on special teams and just fell in love with it. I feel like if anybody can play on my level — like all out all the time — they’re going to play better. That’s why I try to get all the guys to match my intensity on special teams. I tell all the young kids and the freshmen, ‘get on some special teams and play,’ because you just never know.’ I have fun. I have a ball.”
Georgia senior Ryne Rankin asked UGA cheerleader MaKenzie Blalock to marry him on the Sanford Bridge outside Sanford Stadium earlier this year. SPECIAL PHOTO
Q: Noticed you got engaged recently (to UGA cheerleader Makenzie Blalock). When’s the wedding and how has that changed your life?
Rankin: “We’re getting married May 20th. And it really hasn’t changed anything. it’s not supposed to, right? Obviously I love her. … I made my resume the other night, so it’s kind of getting real now. I’m getting married, got to get a job soon. It’s coming to an end here.”
Q: Has it been disappointing not becoming an everyday starter or star, all those things dream about when they’re signing a scholarship to a major college?
Rankin: “I came to Georgia because I got recruited by Coach (Mark) Richt. I just fell in love with the program, I fell in love with what he had here and I fell in love with Athens. And I fell in love with the Agriculture School, too. That is what I have a double-major in, agriculture business and agricultural economics. That’s what I’m going to pursue my career in after football. So when I came here I thought it was a great opportunity for my career after football. It didn’t really matter what I did on the field, just that I got on the field and did what I could do to help my team.”
Q: Football runs in your family, does it not?
Rankin: “Yeah, my grandpa played at North Texas with Mean Joe Green, played offensive tackle there. My dad played at Cincinnati, played linebacker there from 1988-91. Dad’s a coach, or he was. He’s retired, now selling cattle in Colbert. But coached for 20 years.”
Q: Is coaching something you would consider?
Rankin: “I’ve thought about it. I thought about maybe coaching special teams in college. I like it that much.”
NextFittingly, Durham and Dominique enter College Hall of Fame together