ATLANTA – Georgia inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann nudged his wife, who was holding up her camera to film the team’s SEC title celebration. Schumann pointed at the massive screen, which was showing the words: “Roquan Smith, SEC championship MVP.”
“MVP!” Schumann shouted, excitedly, like a proud parent.
Three years ago, Smith was the center of a national recruiting drama. The Montezuma product (hence the budding nickname) had committed to UCLA and then, after his assistant coach bailed for an NFL job, decided to hedge his bets and perhaps start a trend, not signing with anybody. He just enrolled at UGA when the time came.
Smith’s move didn’t become a trend. But Smith has burst back into national recognition, along with his Georgia football team.
Or perhaps Smith led the team there.
Georgia has a lot of strengths, as any team good enough to win a conference title. And it has a lot of good players. But it has become evident that Smith is the best, as he showed Saturday.
Thirteen tackles, 10 of them solo. Two fumble recoveries, one of which turned the game. One sack.
Afterward, Smith handled a question about his performance by praising God, his teammates for taking on blocks, and his coaches for preparing him. Basically, everyone but the actual MVP of the game, himself.
“It’s pretty much give all the credit to them because those guys did a lot of what made me able to do what I was actually doing throughout the game,” Smith said.
Smith offered a good description of the first fumble recovery, which turned the game: Auburn was driving with a 7-0 lead, and then Davin Bellamy stripped the ball and Smith jumped on it.
“You never try to make the moment too big or anything like that,” Smith said. “All I remember is seeing one of my guys hit the ball, and I just saw the ball on the ground. It took me back to practice. You know, scoop drills. I just scooped the ball and said let me get what I can get.”
Smith has almost certainly played his way onto All-SEC and All-America teams. A junior, he is being mentioned more and more as a high-end NFL prospect. He is a finalist for the Butkus and Bednarik awards, which go to the nation’s top linebacker and top defensive player. So he’ll be back in Atlanta later this week for the College Football Awards Show, which is at the College Football Hall of Fame.
Now his goal is to get Georgia back to Atlanta for the national championship. It would be another chance for the deferential-but-very-skilled linebacker to enhance his national profile.
“Coach said always keep your composure. We knew they would make plays,” Smith said of Auburn’s quick start. “But we just had to keep our composure and keep fighting back and keep chopping. That’s what it was.”