ATHENS — Being a Georgia tailback is a sort of brotherhood, a fraternity, if you will. You’re in an elite club as soon as you sign with the Bulldogs, but you also have a legacy to uphold and there’s a tremendous amount of work and pressure that goes into that.
At least that’s the way Sony Michel and Nick Chubb describe it.
“It’s great just to be a part of that fraternity,” said Michel, a junior from Miami. “You’ve always got guys rooting for you. Every Saturday morning we’ll get texts from guys like Keith (Marshall), Todd (Gurley). They’ll text us: ‘have a great game.’”
Gurley and Marshall once spoke of a kinship with Isaiah Crowell, who they succeeded, and Crowell of Washaun Ealey, and he of Knowshon Moreno, and so on.
Even tailback generations gone by keep up with the current guys. While one would think their competitive natures wouldn’t want to see their places on career lists overtaken, nothing could be further from the truth. Chubb, who has – for him at least – a modest 546 yards rushing on the season, recently passed Rodney Hampton and Moreno to move up to fifth on Georgia’s all-time rushing list with 2,840 yards.
“I’m glad to see Chubb bounce back,” Hampton said on a recent visit to Atlanta. “He’s a hard worker. Him coming back doesn’t surprise me a bit. I talk to his uncle, Aaron Chubb, who played with me at Georgia, and he tells me that he’s a great young man as well as a football player. I know he’s going to do well, like all the Georgia running backs.”
Chubb was coming off a season-ending knee injury that required reconstructive surgery last October.
Right now, he and Michel are co-presidents of the Bulldogs’ tailback fraternity. Freshmen Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield are poised to succeed them. Other members, such as Brendan Douglas and Tae Crowder, stand by close like loyal sergeants-in-arms, ready fill in whenever called upon.
But Michel and Chubb are the unquestioned leaders in the tailback meeting room. They live together, as well, and describe themselves some sort of an odd couple. Michel is the self-described “neat freak,” while Chubb is a “kind of it-is-what-it-is-type guy.”
“We’re kind of like brothers,” Michel said. “I think most of the people on the team are very close and me and him are very close. We live together, unfortunately [laughs]. We see each other every day. So it’s great.”
On the field?
“Whatever he does, I want to do,” Michel said. “It’s that kind of thing. You know he’s going to go in there and do some great things. It makes me want to go out there and do some good things, too.”
Georgia’s tailbacks almost accomplished something unprecedented this past weekend. Michel (133), Chubb (121) and Herrien (82) came just 18 yards from becoming the first tailback trio ever to all rush for 100 or more yards in the same game.
So the theory of “oneupsmanship” works.
Those guys represent the present. But there’s an esteemed list of past members, such as Thomas Brown, Robert Edwards, Terrell Davis, Garrison Hearst, and some guy named Herschel Walker. Likewise, there is a a long list of “wannabes” waiting to be next.
Georgia currently has commitments from nation’s No. 4- and No. 7-rated running backs, in D’Andre Swift and Toneil Carter, respectively. The Bulldogs vigorously pursuing No. 2 — Cam Akers — and would not hesitate take three tailbacks in this class.
The Bulldogs vow to never be without a great tailback. And they prefer to have several of them. Because of the physical nature of the position, the philosophy is to share the load. Georgia has had a 1,000-yard rusher in three of the last four seasons but only six over the last 14.
“It is who we are,” said Chubb, who did not play at all in the fourth quarter against South Carolina. “This is Georgia football; we’re going to run the football.”
If all goes to plan, Chubb and Michel will move on to the NFL after this season. Gurley and Marshall both left with a year of eligibility remaining. Georgia’s greatest tailbacks generally have, going back to the precedent-setting Herschel Walker after the 1982 season.
But whenever they do, Georgia’s current tailbacks are certain their legacy will be in good hands.
“Brian and Elijah are two talented guys,” Michel said. “Even though Brian is getting most of the publicity right now, because Elijah got hurt in the beginning, you can expect great things from both of them.”
History tells us we should.