ATHENS — History does not record whether it was a full moon that night the Georgia outside linebackers discovered the wolf within.
Details in general are fuzzy as to the exact day and time. Just place the event sometime in the offseason.
Of this much we can be certain: While a couple of their number lounged about, watching a nature documentary that featured wolves on the hunt, Lorenzo Carter clamped onto the metaphor and wouldn’t let go.
“We watched how a wolf pack would hunt and stay determined and follow their prey for miles until it was time to actually go and attack,” the sophomore said.
“It kind of reminded us of all the work we put in before the season and before games. We watch everything our prey does. Then, once it’s our time, we go and attack.”
First, it was somewhat heartening to hear that college football players will spend free time actually viewing something educational. You know, reality programming that is actually real. “Lorenzo and Davin (Bellamy) will watch just about anything on Netflix, anything they can find,” Jordan Jenkins, fellow outside linebacker, said.
Secondly, how fortunate it was for the sake of the Georgia Bulldogs defense that it wasn’t a nature documentary on butterflies or bunny rabbits that captivated these young men. You want — no, you need — the predator speaking to them.
In the Bulldogs 3-4 defensively alignment, linebackers are required to chase the ball with a starving canine sort of intensity. At the two outside spots, where the most active of them live, Georgia is particularly blessed with players who have the athletic pedigree and the experience to be absolutely pivotal: The senior Jenkins; junior Leonard Floyd; and sophomores Carter and Bellamy.
They’ve all seen that nature show by now, and the wolf thing has taken a life of its own. It wasn’t long before the outside ‘backers gave themselves the nickname (with all due apologies to North Carolina State) of the Wolf Pack.
It is a very exclusive group. “Strictly outside ‘backers,” Jenkins said. “We can call the whole defense savages, but the Wolf Pack is for the outside linebackers only.”
In a short time, they have developed certain rituals. At the end of practice, the positions break down into their own little subsets for a final word. Then, before leaving the field, the Wolf Pack lets out a communal howl.
To be determined is whether will take the howling to game day, perhaps punctuating a big play by one of them with a throaty, animal cry.
The Georgia Wolf Pack has its own hand sign that can be flashed between members of the group. Kind of looks like the Hook-em-Horns gesture, only the raised index finger and little finger represent the ears of a wolf.
Already developed is a very strong bond between the pack.
“In the locker room if one is getting messed with, just do a little howl and the other wolves will come,” Jenkins said with a wide smile.
“If you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.”
It even has been celebrated through art. A friend of Jenkins’ from back home in Columbus, Jerramen Washington, does a lot with Bulldogs football. And among his paintings is one on the Wolf Pack.
What makes the nickname work is the cooperative dynamic of the outside linebackers, the way their diverse skill sets have the potential to mesh into a rather formidable football-hunting operation.
“It’s a little bit of everything. The good thing about it is that each one of us brings a little something different,” Carter said. Three of them have NFL possibilities scribbled in their margins, giving the Bulldogs a comforting luxury of depth at the position.
There’s Jenkins, the alpha wolf senior, the more compact, strongest member of the pack (6-3, 253). “He’s the bouncer, the big-bodied one,” Carter said.
Floyd (6-4, 231) is the Swiss Army Knife of an athlete, who, Carter said, “can play any position on the field, basically.”
And as for himself, Carter (6-6, 242) brings the straight-line speed that considerably shortens the distance between the line of scrimmage and the quarterback.
Put it all together — and Jeremy Pruitt’s designs will depend largely upon just that — and you have the possibility of a ravenous unit.
College football is not big on celebrating the individual, or even a specific clique of individuals. Nor is it set up for players to market themselves, certainly. Thus, there is a built-in limit to how far these fellows can take the Wolf Pack thing.
But on any level there are advantages to rallying behind an identity such as that.
For one, wolves can be a frisky lot. “When we’re out on the (practice) field, we’re making the most noise. We’re the ones that bring the most energy; the Wolf Pack brings energy,” Carter said.
And these wolves live in a highly competitive world, which tends to bring out the best in each. There are more talented bodies here than there are slots to use them on any given play.
“When you see someone else in the pack make a play you’re thinking, man, now I want to make a play,” Jenkins said. “You’ve watched him get his, now you want yours. Even while you’re doing everything totally towards the team, you like to feed off each other.”
In all the preseason punditry done on these Bulldogs, the outside linebackers inevitably get spotlighted as a real strength of the defense. The group is slathered in possibilities. Now, to put that potential to work.
“We sit in our meeting rooms and pictures of the great (Georgia) linebackers are posted on the walls. And we just try to work to earn our spot on the wall,” Carter said.
Besides, Jenkins reminds everyone, including himself, “If we want to keep calling ourselves the Wolf Pack, we got to keep putting in the effort to deserve that name.”