JACKSONVILLE – Faton Bauta grew up knowing about glamour and fame, but not in football. His family owned and ran a small Manhattan restaurant, Trattoria Alba, an Italian joint favored by athletes like Randy Johnson and Tiki Barber, and stars of shows like “Law & Order” and “Sex and the City” – notably Sarah Jessica Parker.
“My mom and her were pretty good friends at one point in time,” Bauta said last year. “It’s a quiet little place. Awesome food.”
The family restaurant closed on May 31, after a quarter-century in business, according to a message posted by Myra Bauta. But if reports and other indications are to be believed Bauta himself is about to be the star of another network show.
Bauta’s history and personality would indicate he shouldn’t be awed by the limelight that comes with playing quarterback for Georgia against Florida, Saturday on CBS. Not only did he grow up around famous people, but in the nearly four years he’s been at Georgia teammates have described him as at ease with being a leader. Nor should he be unprepared. He’s universally described as a film room rat.
Those qualities, along with good mobility for a quarterback, are what Georgia saw in Bauta four years ago when it signed him – despite an arm not regarded as SEC starter-caliber – and what apparently is leading coaches to prepare him to play Saturday.
“We all know how athletic Faton is and the intangibles he has,” then-Georgia starting quarterback Hutson Mason said last year. “He’s so different than really any other Georgia quarterback we’ve had in a long time, as far as his athletic ability. So he kind of brings that intangible ability to the game.”
It bears noting that when reports began to circulate Thursday night that Bauta might start against Florida, several ex-teammates took to Twitter to nod their approval.
“Happy for my boy Faton,” tweeted former Georgia tailback Todd Gurley. “The hardest working guy I ever been around, now it’s finally paying off. Congrats you deserve every bit of it.”
“That boy good!!” tweeted receiver Justin Scott-Wesley.
“Hardest working teammate deserves it,” tweeted former offensive tackle Xzavier Ward.
This past spring, safety Quincy Mauger also mentioned Bauta – who has already graduated – when asked to name a few of the team’s new leaders.
“Just his hard work. He shows hard work academically, on the field, when we’re working out. He gives us 100 percent,” Mauger said. “He’s always looking out for us. I know Faton loves every teammate the same way.”
It helps that Bauta has been around the team awhile: He enrolled in January of 2012. At the time he was only a three-star recruit who many analysts pegged as a linebacker or a fullback. But he wanted to be a quarterback, and not just one who was known for his running ability.
“I consider myself a pocket guy,” Bauta said last year. “I don’t consider myself a guy that just has to run around all the time. My abilities, I think I’m definitely capable of running this offense. Whether I do it well or not, that’s up to the coaches. No doubt in my mnind I can run this offense, pro style or whatever.”
He was asked if it bugged him that people said he could never be a quarterback in Georgia’s pro-style system.
“Did it bug me? No. Did it motivate me. Absolutely,” Bauta said. “Everybody has their doubters. I don’t care who you are everybody has their doubters . … All you’ve gotta do is keep your head down and keep on with the process.You’ve just gotta keep an even keep and keep your eyes on the prize.”
It appears the prize is near, or at least some reward for patience and hard work.
Two years ago Georgia head coach Mark Richt told the story of seeing then-starting quarterback Aaron Murray working on his footwork with a teammate during the bye week, and ordering Murray to go relax. The other teammate with Murray that day was Bauta.
“People say the guys the hardest worker or whatever. I do it because I want to be good,” Bauta said last year. “And honestly I don’t want to hear he’s the hardest worker, I want to hear he’s the best player. But that’s the motivation. You’ve got to want to be the best in whatever you do. Football or not.
“In the end all that hard-work nonsense, it’s good, but if you can’t do it on the field what’s the point?”