Shockley's night beyond his wildest dreams
It's a night that D.J. Shockley had been waiting three long years for and it's one that neither he -- not the Georgia faithful -- will soon forget.
ATHENS, Ga. -- D.J. Shockley wears a thin, blue-beaded bracelet around his left wrist. He got it during a summer visit to Camp Sunshine, a site for cancer-stricken kids.
It was a gift from one of the campers. Shockley wears it all the time, even on the football field.
"Once they put it on you," the Georgia quarterback said, "you don't want to take it off."
|“||There's no way in my mind I could even create something like this. It would be too big to come through. ... This is something you can't even dream up ”|
|— Georgia's D.J. Shockley|
Saturday night, one of the college game's class acts turned Sanford Stadium into his personal Camp Sunshine. He spread smiles among 90,000 Georgia fans and warmed hearts on the Georgia sideline, where his teammates literally jumped for joy as the immensely popular Shockley made play after play.
"Don't nobody love him like his team does," said running back Danny Ware. "We've always got his back."
The eternal Quarterback In Waiting finally got his chance to start a game for the Bulldogs and established himself as the Quarterback In Residence. Shockley blitzed Boise State for 289 passing yards, 85 rushing yards and accounted for a school-record six touchdowns (five passing, one running) in a 48-13 defrocking of the Broncos. This was an emphatic validation of Shockley as the worthy heir to David Greene's seemingly endless tenure as the Georgia QB.
"He deserves it," coach Mark Richt said. "He deserves people to believe in him. He's just that kind of a player and that kind of a person. Those of us who see him in practice every day knew what he could do. None of our guys were surprised about what happened today."
The list of the unsurprised included Shockley's dad and coach at North Clayton High School, Dan.
"I'll be honest with you," he said after hugging his son at the edge of the field. "I was expecting this. Him and I have talked and I told him, 'Hey, it's your time.' "
Everyone around No. 3 might have seen this coming, but Shockley shocked himself. For a fifth-year senior finally starting his first college game, this was a dinner-with-Beyonce-level fantasy moment.
"There's no way in my mind I could even create something like this," Shockley said. "It would be too big to come through. ... This is something you can't even dream up."
Shockley's calamitous counterpart, Boise State's Jared Zabransky, can only wish this night was a dream. Zabransky, the guy who started 12 games last year and was on the Maxwell Award watch list, was the one who played like he'd never taken the first snap in a game.
His first pass was intercepted. His second pass was intercepted. His fourth and fifth passes were nearly intercepted. His first run resulted in a fumble. By the time the first half was over, a completely shaken Zabransky had thrown four picks and fumbled twice and was looking for a spot under the hedges to hide.
Shockley, meanwhile, was error-free -- no interceptions, no fumbles, no brainlock moments. The world wondered about his ability to throw the ball accurately, and Shockley responded by completing 16 of 24 passes -- with five dropped balls by his receivers. If there was an overriding reason why Georgia is ranked 13th, its lowest ranking since 2001, it was doubts about Shockley as a passing quarterback.
"We've been dealing with all the people talking bad about him," Ware said. "We had full confidence in him."
Saturday night we saw why.
"I think it's going to justify a lot of things for a lot of people," he said. "Everybody knew I could run, but they didn't know whether I could pass or be the starting quarterback.
"Now they know, 'Hey, he can get it done. He can be the starting quarterback at the University of Georgia.' "
If Shockley keeps this up -- and that remains to be seen, since strafing Boise's defense is not an unprecedented feat -- he'll be considered more than just a capable starter. His name will be entered alongside Vince Young's, Reggie McNeal's and Brad Smith's in the discussion of the nation's best dual-threat quarterbacks.
He's alone in the discussion of the nation's most patient quarterbacks.
The fact that a hyped high-schooler like Shockley was willing to hold a clipboard for as long as he did says something about his miniscule ego. The fact that he's a close friend with the guy he could never beat on the depth chart, Greene, says something about his character. The fact that he never transferred -- despite thinking about it long and hard -- says something about his loyalty to Georgia.
"[His teammates] have the ultimate respect for him, as a player, as a person," Richt said. "He's a marvelous, wonderful guy. I know there was a lot of attention paid to the two Davids [Greene and Pollack], and they deserved it, but you really can't get a better example of a student-athlete [than Shockley]. He's a great representative for the University of Georgia."
Shockley was looking forward to this game for so long that game day became, in his words, "probably the longest day of my life."
"As the game started getting closer and closer, the butterflies came," he said. "About five minutes before kickoff I was getting really edgy."
But when Zabransky put the ball in Georgia's hands on the first play from scrimmage, Shockley was ready for his moment. After a handoff to Thomas Brown on first down, Shockley kept the ball on a designed run from the shotgun for 13 yards and a huge ovation. Two plays later he kept it again and scored from 14 yards out, and the ovation was even bigger.
After that came the touchdown passes: a 40-yard rope on a post pattern to Kenneth Harris; a 20-yard wheel route to Ware out of the backfield; a 56-yarder that backup tight end Martrez Milner took to the house; a 31-yarder to Sean Bailey; and a five-yard out pattern to Bailey.
"Somebody on the sideline told me that's five touchdowns," Shockley said. "I was like, 'Are you for real?' "
The proof was on the scoreboard. After TD No. 6, Shockley returned to a familiar position: standing on the sideline and watching another Bulldogs quarterback play. Only this time it was deliciously different.
This time Shockley was reveling in the starter's fourth-quarter afterglow, watching backup Joe Tereshinski get the garbage-time snaps that were his for three long years. For once, he'd gotten all the work he wanted in Sanford Stadium.
"This," Shockley said, "was well worth the wait."
Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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