ATHENS – Sony Michel faced the same decision, the same timeline and the same general factors as his close friend and roommate. And yet he and Nick Chubb didn’t coordinate what turned out to be the same decision.
“None of us communicated,” Michel said. “I found out about Nick two days ago – and we live with each other.”
Michel’s decision came first. The junior tailback said he knew last week that he wanted to return for his senior year at Georgia. So he announced it on Thursday along with Chubb, and fellow juniors Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy.
It was not a decision that Michel reached lightly.
“It sat on my heart for about two weeks strong,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to make the decision that’s on your heart and not on your mind. You can’t go with everything else that’s going on around you. Sometimes people try to listen and that’s when you make a decision with your mind. I felt like it was the right decision for me to stay. I have so much going for me here at the University of Georgia. I want to enjoy it. I want to finish strong here.”
Chubb returning may be the biggest surprise, but Michel was far from a sure thing to return either.
While he’s been Chubb’s backup for most of the past three years, Michel did rush for 1,161 rushing yards last year, when Chubb missed most of the season with a torn ACL. Michel will enter the Liberty Bowl with 2,324 career rushing yards and 486 receiving yards.
Given his speed, athleticism and receiving ability, Michel makes for an intriguing pro prospect. But he said he didn’t even bother to wait for a draft grade from the NFL advisory board. And he didn’t worry about leaving money on the table next year, even if he only would have been a mid-round pick.
“It’s not tough at all because if I was to leave the University of Georgia as a junior, I would make some money, but I would make more money if I was to stay, get my degree and pursue what I want to pursue after football and make more money,” Michel said.
Then there’s the Chubb factor: Since both are returning, Michel once again figures to be in his close friend’s shadow. Would it diminish his draft stock after next year?
“That’s not something I ever focused on — being here at the University of Georgia and trying to be ‘the guy.’ I just want to be here and win games,” Michel said. “Obviously if we start winning games great things will happen for the individual players.”
There were plenty of other reasons to consider turning pro. Michel discounted them too.
What about running backs having a small window in their pro careers, which don’t last as long as other positions?
“No. That’s something I can’t worry about,” Michel said. “I can only control what I can control. If it’s meant to be for me to play a long time, it’s meant to be. I’ve just got to go out there, have fun, and play the game.”
What about Georgia’s offensive line, which struggled to run block this year and loses three seniors?
“We’ve got some young guys who are ready to step up. We’ve got some recruits coming in that’s going to be ready to compete for some positions,” Michel said. “The running back group is very excited to push those guys in the right direction.”
So in the end, there was Michel on Thursday, publicly declaring he would return in 2017, along with his roommate. There were career and football-related reasons. But Michel swore it was all about something else.
“At the end of the day if it was on my heart to leave, I would have left,” Michel said. “It was always stuck on my heart that Georgia was the place for me and I had to finish out strong. You’ve got to finish what you start.”