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Jeff Sentell / AJC
Georgia commits Justin Shaffer (left) and Netori Johnson (right) make up an impressive group of offensive line recruits for the Class of 2017. (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation.com)

A few unforgettable stories from Georgia’s “SICEM17” recruiting class

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

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I’ve been holding on to these for a little bit. Just trying the right time to gather everyone up around and tell a story or three.

That’s what Christmas is all about, right? Slow down. Sit back. Spin a tale.

Some old dude shows up and tells everyone a few things they didn’t know about a few folks of interest. Even the ones that thought they already knew everything about everybody.

Well, I’ve got a few like that for DawgNation this morning.

Another great Netori story

Netori Johnson is a guy to root for. No matter which school we root for. The way he keeps his smile despite a few harrowing turns in his life is a lesson for all of us.

He weighs in at about 340 pounds right now, but his charm and personality will outweigh every bit of that.

Yet this vignette is about a time when I saw a different look on his face. This was after the Georgia Tech game. That’s a result everyone wants to forget from 2016.

Netori Johnson says he's "at home" at Georgia and does not plan to make any other official visits. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Netori Johnson says he’s “at home” at Georgia and does not plan to make any other official visits. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

The look on Johnson’s face belonged in a Looney Toons cartoon. Think Yosemite Sam. I’m talking about looking for smoke coming out of Johnson’s ears.

Netori had all he could stand. He tolerated the Nicholls State game. He suffered that Tennessee miracle. Then came that lackluster Louisiana-Lafayette result.

When Tech won the last game of a dreadful home slate at Sanford Stadium, he could stand no more.

I was on the field at Sanford Stadium but noticed Netori pointing down below. It wasn’t over-the-top. Just making a few gestures with his hand. His hand was moving about as half as fast as we would all throw a dart.

He made one gesture that mimicked the incomplete pass call that the officials make.

I could read his lips, but I made sure I knew what he was saying the next time I spoke to him after a Cedar Grove game.

Netori Johnson prioritized the recruitment of Isaiah Wilson to Georgia. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Netori Johnson prioritized the recruitment of Isaiah Wilson to Georgia. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

“I was saying ‘Never again’ that day, man,” Johnson said. “Not on my watch. Not ever again if I have anything to say about it. I was furious after watching us get beat by Tech.”

“That won’t be us. Not with the class we got coming in. That won’t be us. I can promise you that. That will never happen again. We are about to change that program around completely. We are going to compete for SEC championships and national championships.”

Johnson just kept going.

“The games we lost this year were tough to take,” Johnson said. “I saw three games this year that we lost by five points. Total. We were ahead and we end up losing. Losing by five points. Georgia would have had a 10-2 season if we won those games. That would have been great.”

Johnson brought up the up-and-down moments for the offensive line. He mentioned the bad times, but also the dominating efforts against South Carolina and Tech.

Johnson and his teammate Justin Shaffer can always be found in their Georgia gear. (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation.com)
Johnson and his teammate Justin Shaffer can always be found in their Georgia gear. (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation.com)

“We’re going to have the guys coming in that are going to improve on all of that,” he said. “We have to improve on all of that or we are not doing the job the Georgia Bulldogs need.”

Georgia fans have often harped about that they wish the team and the players would live-and-die as much as they do with the wins and the losses.

They want to see more passion.

The nation’s No. 5 offensive guard might be one of those players that will cause the fan base to wonder if they care as much about Georgia as they do.

Mission accomplished for Johnson 

I’m going to drop a few quotes and a few factual statements regarding Johnson and Georgia’s pursuit of 5-star OT Isaiah Wilson. That proved to be a successful turn of events for Johnson and Georgia.

Netori Johnson and his current and future teammate Justin Shaffer led Cedar Grove to a state title this year. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Netori Johnson and his current and future teammate Justin Shaffer led Cedar Grove to a state title this year. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

“I want Isaiah Wilson,” Johnson said. “We want Isaiah Wilson to be honest. I think it is between us and Michigan. I want him. I believe he can change the program. I believe we can join with all of us up front and be destructive up there. Wreak havoc. I’m talking about all kinds of havoc.”

Johnson said that on Dec. 2.

“The chances of us getting Isaiah Wilson to me is 100 percent,” Johnson said. “He can’t be a part of anything better. We are going up there to Athens to win SEC championships and national championships.”

He said that on Dec. 9. Along with this next quote.

“When I see him up in Athens on his official I am going to look him in the eye tell him to come be a part of something great,” Johnson said. “We’ve got Justin Shaffer, Andrew Thomas, D’antne Demery and me. You can’t get any better than that. If we get him, then all five of us can start as freshmen. We can all get up there, get in there and whip up some defensive lines and start turning that Georgia program around.”

The 4-star guard told me that Wilson was coming after he made that official visit. That wasn’t Johnson’s official, but he made a point to go up to Athens and see him to hammer all those points home.

He was right.

Got any brick walls to run through today? If so, I bet Johnson just filled up everybody’s gas tank.

Shaffer turns out to be a Man of Steel

DawgNation is probably starting to sound a lot like Jerry Maguire these days when it comes to 3-star offensive guard and UGA commit Justin Shaffer.

justin-shaffer-georgia-dome-interview-by-jeff-sentell-120916aI wrote this about his worth and the fact that he’s the lowest-rated commitment in Georgia’s vaunted offensive line class this year shows just how strong that unit is.

We’re going back to the state championship week for Shaffer. That was the week he did not practice at all leading up to the GHSA Class 3A state title game.

He was hobbled by a bad ankle. That’s the same bad ankle that limited him the previous week in practice.

“Coach kept me out the whole week,” Shaffer said. “I told myself I had to fight through the pain to help win this game. On a scale of 1-to-10, the pain was a 10. I was laying there on the field in the Georgia Dome but I knew I had to get back up and keep playing. Keep fighting.”

Johnson and Shaffer will still be teammates at Georgia next fall. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Johnson and Shaffer will still be teammates at Georgia next fall. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

The 6-foot-5, 350-pounder missed a handful of plays and then returned to the field. Shaffer said he came back into the game at about 80 percent. He said was the worst injury he had ever suffered in a game.

“He got rolled up in the game a little bit but when he came out of the game I just looked at him and he looked up and said ‘I am not finished Coach’ so I knew at that point that ankle wasn’t going to hold him out of this game,” Cedar Grove offensive line coach Lawrence Smith said.

Smith shared why he thinks Johnson and Shaffer will excel at Georgia.

“They both refuse to play second fiddle to anybody,” Smith said. “Even each other. They always competed against each other to be better. That helped our whole offensive line to be a better unit.”

Another good one on Shaffer 

His teammates at Cedar Grove call Shaffer by another name.

It has nothing to do with being a superhero, but an old-school video game of all things.

Smith tells that one the best.

“As a freshman when we watched film Justin would block people and it was like they would disappear,” he said. ” So I said he gobbled them up like Pac-Man did those little pellets and it has been his nickname ever since.”

Pac-Man playing guard? Making SEC defensive tackles disappear? Georgia line coach Sam Pittman probably likes the sound of that.

The first (brief) time Chaney laid eyes on Fromm

Any recall of first time that 4-star signee Jake Fromm crossed paths with his future offensive coordinator is going to sound like a reality show. When Jim Chaney meets the media for his one visit every year, it will be worth somebody asking him about the first time he laid eyes on Fromm.

Jake Fromm-Georgia football
Jake Fromm is most at home with his maternal grandfather, Bill Haskins, deep in the backwoods of Central Georgia deer country. CHIP TOWERS / DAWGNATION

Chaney was recruiting. Madly. That was in the first few months of his time at Georgia.

Fromm had spent the wee hours of that morning hunting. He’s known to do that. If somebody had to ask him, he’d have a have time deciding whether he likes being in the huddle better than he likes being outdoors or in the woods.

The nation’s No. 3 pro-style passer spends a lot of his time hunting. This was early in the morning and Chaney was in the Houston County football office chatting with head coach Von Lassiter.

Fromm had just come from a hunt. This time it was duck hunting. He still had all the camouflage gear on. The eye black and all that. The 4-star QB told me he was on his way to the locker room to grab a quick shower and change before school.

That’s when Chaney saw him for the first time. It was just for an instant as Fromm was in a hurry to shower and get ready for school. Lassiter had to fill Chaney in afterward about just how big of an outdoorsman his quarterback was.

“I guess he saw me for what I was the very first time,” Fromm said. “That’s who I am. Can’t change that. So I guess he got a good first look at the real me. I bet I probably had some feathers on me somewhere from that morning.”

It was quicker than a hiccup, but that first impression likely told Chaney a whole lot about Fromm.

Don’t forget about …..

Another Georgia early enrollee is set to sign his financial aid papers this morning. I’ll be at Newton High School this afternoon to visit with 4-star WR Jeremiah Holloman on his special day.

Holloman and fellow 4-star Malik Herring were the 17th and 18th commitments to UGA for the Class of 2017. (DawgNation staff photo)
Holloman and fellow 4-star Malik Herring were the 17th and 18th commitments to UGA for the Class of 2017. (DawgNation staff photo)

Holloman plans to room with 5-star DB Richard LeCounte at Georgia. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver even traveled down to Southeast Georgia on Monday to take in LeCounte’s graduation party and a community celebration in his honor.

The U.S. Army All-American is rated as the nation’s No. 19 receiver for the Class of 2017.

Did you see DawgNation’s story about him earlier this year? It is the best example of the type of person that will be signing his official papers with Georgia today.

 

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