November 25, 2008

Seniors' last ride

Fullback Brannan Southerland remembers what it was like as a redshirt freshman when he watched seniors like David Greene, David Pollack and Thomas Davis run the gauntlet of teammates during Senior Day festivities in 2004.

Now it's his turn.

Southerland will be among 27 Bulldog seniors honored prior to kickoff Saturday against Georgia Tech, a list that includes starters Tripp Chandler, Mohamed Massaquoi, Kenneth Harris, Corvey Irvin, Jarius Wynn, Dannell Ellerbe, CJ Byrd and Brian Mimbs.

"It's going to be great. You sit back when you're a redshirt or a freshman and you're like 'Man, that's four years down the road from now.' Here it is, time for me. It sure doesn't seem like 4 1/2 years ago," Southerland said. "I can remember thinking when I was a redshirt that I've got almost 30 more games in Sanford Stadium, something like that and now literally I've got one more game. It goes by fast. When you're looking ahead it seems like forever, but when you're looking back it goes by in the blink of an eye."

Southerland and company have an opportunity to join an exclusive list of Georgia classes should the Bulldogs beat the Yellow Jackets. The seniors will be trying to become the sixth consecutive class to claim 40 or more victories in their career. They are currently 39-11 with one SEC title and two Eastern Division crowns.

The seniors are also attempting to become the fifth straight Georgia class to claim four victories against Georgia Tech during their Bulldog careers. One of those players, sixth-year senior Andrew Williams, will be attempting to claim six straight wins over the Yellow Jackets.

Another Bulldog who helped account for those previous triumphs is senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens, out for the year with a torn ACL. Owens, who is redshirting, is contemplating moving on to the NFL and will be introduced with his classmates, although he certainly hasn't ruled out coming back for one more year with the Bulldogs.

"I'd just get to walk twice then, wouldn't I?" laughed Owens said. "That would be alright, wouldn't it?"

Ellerbe admits his final game at Sanford will be somewhat bittersweet.

A sprained MCL suffered against Alabama kept the North Carolina native out for three games. He said Monday he's just now getting close to feeling 100 percent.

"I have to say it hit me because I think about it every day being my last home game. The whole season has hit me," Ellerbe said. "It's actually kind of been a depressing season but it can't do nothing but get better."

Ellerbe blamed his injuries and Georgia's failure to live up to its preseason expectations for that.

"The injuries, the expectations, me being hurt, it just took a toll on me," Ellerbe said. "I feel like I have to move on but I don't think I'll ever get over it. It's always going to be a bad taste in my mouth because I can't get it back. It was a lesson learned. There have been some highs and there have definitely been some lows. But it's made me a better man, all around."

Festivities for Saturday's Senior Day activities are scheduled to get underway approximately 30 minutes before the 12:30 kickoff.

Senior players (including walk-ons), student staff members and trainers, will then run through the gauntlet of teammates where they will be greeted by their parents and head coach Mark Richt for a quick picture and chance to soak in the cheers from the sold-out Sanford Stadium crowd.

For some, it can be an emotional scene.

"You never know," Massaquoi said. "You don't think about it until it hits you and it might not hit you until after the season or after the game that it's really your last one."

Even a tough guy like Ellerbe admits he's liable to feel a tug of emotion when he realizes that it will be his final home contest.

"It probably will," Ellerbe said. "There's not going to be any crying or nothing like that, but it will hit me."

Southerland joked that he probably can't say the same for members of his family.

In fact, he wouldn't be surprised to see some tears fall.

"I think I stay pretty even-keeled," he said. "But I can definitely see mom and dad get a little more emotional. It's going to be a big day."

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