University of Georgia tight end Derek Rich snapped to attention during a team meeting this season. After already spending one full season grinding it out on the scout team with the Bulldogs, the redshirt junior got word from his position coach he’d be playing in their next game against Tennessee Tech.
“Coach told me that I was going to be playing that weekend,” Rich said. “And, at first, I was like, ‘yeah, good one coach.’”
In all, Rich finished the season with approximately 20 reps as one of the Bulldogs’ wedge busters on the kickoff squad.
Meanwhile, Rich’s Bulldogs teammate and fellow North Hall High grad Jackson Griffeth, a walk-on linebacker, felt a physical jolt from a collision at the line of scrimmage with Georgia running back Richard Samuel this season.
The end result of that hit was a concussion and a season of thankless work on Georgia’s scout team preparing those who would play Saturdays for action. If there was any satisfaction during the season for Griffeth, it was getting to dress out for three home games and eight so far in two years in Athens.
Of course, no one ever said life as a non-scholarship athlete at a major Division-I school like Georgia would be easy. It is centered around building a reputation for working hard toward the possibility of gaining real playing time in future seasons.
“My goal now for next season is to make it onto the field,” Griffeth said.
Despite the less-than-glamorous positions with Georgia’s football program, Rich and Griffeth were both honored at the University of Georgia football banquet last Friday in Athens.
Rich was one of two players recognized as the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, and Griffeth was one of two tabbed as the Special Teams’ Scout Team Player of the Year.
“It was an honor to win an award like that and for them to know that I’m still here,” said Rich, who transferred to Georgia after two years at the University of Connecticut.
Rich, who redshirted in 2008 at Georgia, did make it onto the field in four games this season. After making it on the field for the Bulldogs against Tennessee Tech, he also saw playing time on kickoff returns against Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech.
His highlight of the season came when he was able to spring a block for Georgia’s kick returner against Georgia Tech.
Rich first found out about his move into the rotation for playing time against Tennessee Tech from his position coach John Lilly during a routine position meeting. He wasn’t expecting such news at the time.
Playing behind some other talented tight ends on the depth chart, he says the chance to hit the field in a special teams role makes all the hours on scout team work worthwhile.
“It’s just an honor to be able to get on the field,” Rich said. “The opportunity to wear that ‘G’ and to play for coach (Mark) Richt is a great experience.”
Griffeth is going through much the same process as Rich did in 2008.
In his second year with the program, his time is divided between scout team meetings, lifting weights, and simulating the defensive game plan of Georgia’s next opponent for the offensive starters.
The most intense action for a scout team linebacker, like Griffeth, comes with full-speed drills on kick off simulation, as well as working with the running backs on picking up blitz’s.
Griffeth was unaware that the end-of-season award was coming his way but, like Rich, certainly appreciated the recognition.
“I was definitely very happy with the award,” Griffeth said. “When you do all that work on the scout team during the season, there isn’t much recognition.”