August 9, 2010

Faloughi still has heart of a walk-on

Yes, Reuben Faloughi now has a scholarship. Head coach Mark Richt awarded him one back in the spring.

But the way the former Evans walk-on tells it, there's still an awful lot that he needs to prove.

"I feel like I still have the heart of a walk-on, even with the scholarship play," Faloughi said. "I just go out and give it my best. I'm still a raw player, but I feel like with the coaches we have and the effort I'm going to put in, I can't really go wrong."

Grantham is counting on Faloughi doing just that.

As the Bulldogs begin their second week of preseason drills, Faloughi continues to work as the No. 2 Will linebacker behind starter Justin Houston, and with Grantham's plans to rotate players, Faloughi is assured of regular playing time.

"Reuben's going to have to do his part," Grantham said recently. "I've been impressed with his hustle; obviously, there are still parts of his game that he's got to continue to work on, but the effort is there."

Bulldog fans might do a double-take when they see Faloughi take the field for the first time this fall.

When he first arrived on campus as a true freshman the summer of 2009, Faloughi weighed just 220 pounds. Today, the 6-foot-5 Faloughi checks in at 250.

His knowledge of the game has also improved considerably.

"I've came a very long way. When I came here, I didn't even know how to rush a passer. It just wasn't something I was taught, but I worked at it and I worked at it," Faloughi said. "Last year I didn't know what I was doing and we had some coaches who were down my neck, it was hot, too. But that's just being a freshman."

Getting to play behind Houston has been a benefit as well to Faloughi, who was named the team's Most Outstanding Walk-On for Defense following the spring.

"Justin's a great player. He'll probably go the NFL very soon. When we watch film I listen to his critiques and he listens to my critiques and try to get better off of that," Faloughi said. "He's just has a great technique that I can watch; I can't wait to back him up this year."

Faloughi said Grantham's arrival has brought about plenty of change, too. He's not just talking about the fact the Bulldogs are switching to the 3-4. He's talking about attitude as well.

"It just a swagger. When you feel confident and you know what's expected, you can't go wrong," Faloughi said. "He brings confidence to this defense. We just feel we're going to be successful."

It seems Faloughi has already become somewhat of a celebrity in his hometown of Martinez.

Friends who come across the former Evans star are thrilled to see the progress he's made, plus that he proved so many experts wrong who predicted he could never cut it on the major college level.

Granted, he hasn't played in a game yet, but that hasn't seemed to matter.

"When I'm in Athens it's not a big deal, but when I go home it's like I'm some kind of superstar and I was not ready for that," Faloughi said. "I'm a humble guy. I'm not into stardom. I just want to play in Sanford Stadium and make my parents proud."

Getting the word that he had earned a scholarship certainly brought a tear to more than one eye.

"The first person I told was my dad. I told him that he didn't have to struggle any more to pay my tuition," Faloughi said. "I was trying not to cry, I was trying to suck it up, but it was a blessing. I didn't expect anything. I just expected to work hard every day. I figured hard work would eventually reach some kind of benefits. I just thank Coach Richt, my family and God for supporting what I did."


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