ATHENS – When Brian Herrien got that first carry for Georgia’s football team, in a nationally televised game in the Georgia Dome, it was a surprise. Watching from home, his former high school coach Myron Terry watched Herrien run towards the sideline, and at first was just relieved.
“You’re thinking nice run. Good job,” Terry said. “You didn’t fumble the ball.”
But then Herrien kept going. He ended up in the end zone, a 19-yard touchdown the very first time he ever touched the ball for UGA. Terry said he leapt off his couch in stunned celebration.
“Who carries their first time in the Dome and then scores a touchdown” he said. “And you’re a late addition to the team. I mean that’s storybook.”
That run could end up being a parallel to Herrien’s story at Georgia: Surprising he got there, and then he just keeps going.
Herrien isn’t looking like a flash in the pan right now, based on reports and media viewing periods of spring practice. He looks poised for a role again this year, and perhaps a bigger and different one, even with star tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel back for their senior year.
G-Day is a week from Saturday. The Red and Black get is set for kickoff at 2 p.m. and will be televised on SEC Network.
Georgia is using him in a slot receiver role, one of several players from different spots, including Michel. Head coach Kirby Smart even said that Herrien (who’s listed at 6-foot and 210 pounds) has the ability to be a receiver.
“There’s other ways to get the ball besides carrying,” Smart said of Herrien and fellow rising sophomore tailback Elijah Holyfield. “They’ve both embraced that role, whether it’s punt return, kick return, slot for Brian. Holyfield’s picked up some more carries because Sony and Brian have been moving around a bit more. So they’re kind of athletic figures that can go play some different spots.”
But Herrien still looks to be in line for carries this year, even if it’s just as relief for Chubb and Michel. If you watch Herrien run at practice, whether it’s drills or even 11-on-11 drills, then it doesn’t look like his freshman season (363 rushing yards, 5.8 yards per carry and three touchdowns) was a fluke.
“Anyone that knows Brian, we all knew he was capable of this,” Terry said. “But this time last year we were sweating bullets.”
That’s because this time last year Herrien didn’t have a scholarship, not to Georgia or anywhere else. It was months after signing day and Herrien’s future was unknown, thanks to a tenuous academic status. He also wasn’t a well-enough known recruit that major colleges were waiting on him.
At least not most major colleges.
New Manchester High School knew what Herrien could do. He rushed for 1,873 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior, and also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Terry recalls one play where they called a swing pass to Herrien. It was almost a bad decision: The defender jumped it, and had Herrien tackled. But Herrien threw the defender to the ground by his facemask and ran past everyone for a 65-yard touchdown.
“We could call a horrible play. Horrible,” Terry said. “And Brian could turn it into a 70-yard touchdown.”
One of Herrien’s best friends was Tyler Simmons, a receiver at McEachern High School who was being recruited. Herrien and his parents had mostly passed on the summer recruiting camp circuit, but he tagged along with Simmons to one such camp. When Herrien played some receiver at that camp, it gained the notice of an Alabama assistant coach: Smart.
When Smart got the Georgia job, he and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann put Herrien on their radar. And when Herrien finally qualified academically, they quickly offered him.
“They were patient,” Terry said. “And it paid off.”