Editor’s note: This continues a regular feature on DawgNation called “Throwback Thursday.” It offers the chance to revisit the recruiting stories of former UGA greats. The first installment was on talented tailback Robert Edwards from Washington County in Sandersville.
D.J. Shockley is the answer to a handful of UGA trivia questions.
Name the last UGA QB to lead the team to an SEC title. Who’s a rare first-year QB to lead UGA to a Sugar Bowl? How about the best first start for a QB in UGA history?
He’s the answer to all of those. Those feats were achieved in his only season after taking the reins from then NCAA all-time wins leader David Greene. He authored an eventual SEC championship season by throwing for 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 2005. He finished third in the AP National Player of the Year voting and began that year with an electric six-TD game against Boise State.
This week’s Throwback Thursday installment centers on Shockley and a different year. This one was 2001.
Shockley chose UGA over Florida State and North Carolina. He holds the distinction of being the first player Mark Richt ever recruited after leaving Florida State to UGA head coach on December 26, 2001.
Shockley can sum that whirlwind up.
“I remember a time a couple of weeks before he took the Georgia job and he was still at Florida State,” he said. “That’s the funniest story I have got about my recruiting because I remember being recruited by Coach Richt when he was still at Florida State.”
Shockley and his family sat at the same table with Richt at the FSU team gala. The FSU offensive coordinator was peppering him about how great the program was. The future UGA team captain remembers that Richt was hired to take over at UGA about a week later.
“Then the same day he takes the job he’s sitting in my living room telling me how great Georgia is and how great I’ll fit fit in with him at Georgia,” Shockley said.
Shockley replied: “Weren’t you just telling me how perfect I’d fit in at Florida State?”
Shockley said that the two of them still laugh about that.
“The biggest thing I got out of it was that I was going to fit in well with his system wherever he was,” Shockley said.
Shockley was the son of a high school football coach. He was already attending recruiting camps when he was in the ninth grade. He actually won a QB skills competition competing against juniors and seniors when he was just a prep freshman.
“I didn’t make a commitment and I waited until Signing Day to announce where I was going,” Shockley said. “I think when Coach Richt got the job and was in my house that day I told him Georgia was my No. 1 after that visit.”
There was no Facebook or Twitter or DM’s. Shockley had a pager, but when college coaches called his house he was stuck.
“My parents told me you have to talk to these coaches,” he said. ‘They were calling my house wanting to talk to me and I had to talk to them. There was no getting away from those calls.”
He remembers a recruiting trip to his eventual third-place school. His UNC host was future NFL first-rounder Julius Peppers. Peppers was already 6 feet, 7 inches tall and about 250 pounds.
“I saw him and was like ‘This is the level I’m going to be playing at’ and just remember how big Peppers was,” Shockley said. “It was crazy to think I was going to play on a level with dudes that big.”
He only took three official visits. FSU wasn’t that far behind UGA and there was some National Signing Day intrigue. He never told the UGA staff he was coming no matter how hard quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo was working him.
Former UGA head coach Jim Donnan also offered Shockley, but he said he would’ve likely signed with Richt at Florida State or if he went to any other school.
“In my heart I knew I wanted to play for Coach Richt,” Shockley said. “I feel like I would’ve went to Florida State if he stayed there. I looked at Coach Richt’s track record. He’d coached Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward. Those are two opposite quarterbacks, but he got both of them to play at a high level and win the Heisman (Trophy). They both got to excel. That showed me he was the kind of coach I wanted to play for and then of course you knew what kind of man Coach Richt was off that field.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.