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Green making an impact for Bulldogs
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ATHENS — A.J. Green could spend hours listing the lessons he has learned from Mohamed Massaquoi this season. From Green’s first hours in Athens, he has been at Massaquoi’s side, soaking in as much knowledge as possible. The relationship has helped Green become the SEC’s most prolific receiver as a true freshman and made Georgia’s passing attack one of the nation’s most dangerous.
What Green doesn’t talk about, however, is that he has rubbed off on Massaquoi, too. In fact, Green isn’t certain he has helped his mentor at all.
“I think sometimes,” Green begrudgingly admitted, “but mostly I’m looking up to him.”
The numbers tell a different story.
While Massaquoi’s lessons helped Green hit the ground running as a freshman, Green’s energy also rubbed off on the senior. After three steady-but-unspectacular seasons in Athens, Massaquoi’s senior campaign has been a giant leap forward. With Green lined up wide on the other side of the field, Massaquoi has blossomed -- grabbing 57 catches for 910 yards and eight touchdowns.
His success, Massaquoi said, wouldn’t have been possible without his freshman counterpart.
“I think one of the first things I told him coming in was that, as much as I can help him, he’s going to help me,” Massaquoi said. “I don’t even think he realizes it.”
Green may not acknowledge the impact he has had this season, but his fans and teammates do.
Since Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown left Georgia after the 2004 season, the Bulldogs have struggled to find a consistent threat at wide receiver. Dropped passes became commonplace. Big plays usually came on the ground.
With Green on the field, however, things have changed. Georgia boasts the SEC’s most prolific passing attack. In the school’s history, only one receiver had ever topped 1,000 yards.
This season, both Green and Massaquoi could accomplish the feat. Both players earned All-SEC nods, with Green landing a first-team spot in the Associated Press awards and Massaquoi nabbing a first-team selection by the coaches.
More than just the statistics, however, Green has changed the way Georgia’s receiving corps has played.
Green’s propensity for making acrobatic grabs has rubbed off on his teammates, who now seem to snatch overthrown balls out of the air and reach back to grab passes that have been a touch underthrown.
“I think guys just saw him every day making those kind of catches -- high, behind you, down low -- he just was making plays,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I think it did have a very positive effect on the rest of the guys.”
Green doesn’t see it that way. He said his biggest contribution this year has simply been showing up each day and working hard. That, of course, was a skill Massaquoi already possessed.
It’s Green’s natural ability, however, that has made the biggest mark on his teammates. What he considers routine leaves others astonished.
“He does a lot of things other people can’t do, so you kind of ask him, ‘What would you do in this situation? How would you handle it?’ You just try to learn from him,” Massaquoi said. “He’s just raw, and you try to learn from those raw talents he has.”
Richt said the rest of Georgia’s receivers have made a point of mimicking Green’s style, and the results have been profound.
“That’s a big compliment for me, just knowing that he thinks that way about me already coming in here having an influence on some of the older guys,” Green said.
Green’s influence, however, wasn’t simply about showing off what he could do. His presence forced Massaquoi to reevaluate his own game.
Richt knows firsthand how much having a protege can help the mentor. When he first started coaching, he landed a job at a passing camp for high school quarterbacks. In those first few days, he stayed up for hours planning how he would teach simple fundamentals like a three-step drop. Playing the role of teacher, he said, forced him to focus on the most basic details, something Massaquoi has done this season, too.
“I think guys understand when they get into that leadership role or a teacher role or a coach-on-the-field role, they know that it does help them because it makes them think through what they believe,” Richt said.
Green said he has spent this season motivated by the desire to impress his mentor. When he’s on the field, Green’s goal is to live up to Massaquoi’s expectations.
“I don’t want to let him down,” Green said. “To see him work and see the things he does on and off the field, that drives me to do good.”
As it turned out, however, that was the same thing that drove Massaquoi this year.
As a student, Green was expected to make a few mistakes. As a teacher, Massaquoi expected to be perfect.
“I just wanted to make sure I was a good model for him,” Massaquoi said. “I tried to make sure I worked hard and did the things to help him set a foundation for himself. In doing that, I guess it made me a little bit better, making sure I stayed honest and did the things that have gotten me this far.”
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