ATHENS — Georgia’s new starting quarterback says he feels as if he spent the last decade watching others play the game.
Joe Cox, a 2009 fifth-year senior, says he took notes and hopes to make use of leadership lessons he learned from two of his favorite quarterbacks — D.J. Shockley and Brett Favre — now that it’s his turn to lead Georgia.
"It feels like I haven’t played football in about 10 years," said Cox, next in line to quarterback Georgia following Matthew Stafford’s decision this month to enter the NFL draft.
Cox signed with Georgia in 2005 and was held out his first year in Athens. He watched as Shockley led the Bulldogs to the 2005 Southeastern Conference championship. But Shockley also had to wait until his senior season for his chance to start.
Cox, who said he admired the way Shockley stepped in as a leader after a long wait, faces a similar challenge after making only one start in Stafford’s three years.
Cox hopes to follow the path of Shockley, now a backup with the Atlanta Falcons.
"There’s not a better person to try to be like, especially in my situation having one year to play and waiting all this time to get a chance," Cox said.
"I hope it ends up just like D.J. I definitely looked up to him my freshman year and tried to emulate everything he did. I imagine I’ll probably be in contact with him throughout this next year to try to talk to him about how he handled certain things and try to do the same things he did because I think he handled it perfect."
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Cox, like Shockley, won the respect of his teammates as a backup.
"He’s similar to D.J. Shockley in that even though he wasn’t a starter, he was one of the leaders on our football team," Richt said. "Shock was able to take on a leadership role without being a starter and Joe has those same type of abilities."
Cox was 11-for-15 passing for 151 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in three 2008 games.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, Cox was 31-0 as a starter at Independence High School in Charlotte, N.C., and had 4,509 yards passing as a senior. He has five touchdown passes with only one interception at Georgia.
"Joe does a lot of stuff well," said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo. "He hasn’t played in a lot of games but he’s had a lot of practice time and he’s a senior. He’s seen some things. I think he’s plenty ready to go in and lead this football team."
Cox said he won’t by shy.
He described himself as "a rah-rah guy" and said he has always admired Favre’s animated on-field leadership style.
"I like being vocal," he said. "I like being loud. That’s just how I play and hopefully if I can transfer that to just a couple other people on the team it could spread like wildfire. ... I always looked to Brett Favre and how he played and how he went crazy on the field and that’s just the type of guy I want to be when I play."
Cox said Georgia lacked fire "maybe at certain times" during its 10-3 2008 season.
"Now is it something that I feel if I would have been in would it have been changed?" he asked. "No, but I felt at times, really throughout my career you could see just certain games where it looked like we were flat. It just needed somebody or something to spark it. Hopefully I can bring that spark the way I like to play. Hopefully that can change some things and maybe bring some fire to us."
Logan Gray, who will be a sophomore in 2009, will enter the spring as Cox’s top competition for the starting job. Gray returned punts and played on other special teams in 2008.
Cox and Gray will be joined by incoming freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger.
"Somebody is going to have to knock Joe out of the box," Richt said.
"Joe understands our system very well. He’s a very accurate passer."
Bobo said Cox "is number one by far."
"Joe is one of our main leaders on this football team and Joe hasn’t played a lot of football," Bobo said. "That’s a tribute to him and the way he carries himself around this place and around the players. He’s a team guy.
"I’m definitely disappointed Matthew did not stay, but at the same time I’m very excited for Joe Cox and his opportunity. I think the whole team is excited."