The text messages started hitting Garrison Smith’s phone while he was still in Tuscaloosa on the Alabama campus.
“Are you really at Alabama?” he was asked. “Are you there on a visit?”
The answers were “yes” and “yes.” But the five-star defensive tackle from Douglass High, one of the prize commitments in Georgia’s 2010 class, assured one and all that the Bulldogs have nothing to worry about.
Smith went on to explain that while he did attend the Alabama-Tennessee game as a guest of the Crimson Tide, he was there mainly to support former Douglass teammate Jonathan Atchison, a freshman linebacker at Alabama.
I’ll let Smith explain:
“I was free this weekend,” he said. “I didn’t have a game on Saturday. So I had been talking to John and he’d been telling me to come down. He told me his family was coming down to see the game and spend a weekend with him and I should come. I told him it wasn’t problem, it was cool. So they told me I could ride with them and get away for the weekend. I decided to go down, hang out with them and have some fun.”
So Smith and a Douglass teammate rode over with four members of the Atchison family and picked up two complimentary tickets as Alabama’s guests. Of course, that meant that Smith was given the full-on recruit treatment at the game.
“Yeah, I talked to pretty much everybody while I was there,” the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive tackle said. “Nothing major. They understand. They said they respect that I’m committed but they still want me to take a look. They showed good sportsmanship.”
So, to be sure, I asked Smith if the Bulldogs have anything to worry about?
“No,” he said. “I’m still committed to Georgia.”
Georgia fans are a bit paranoid of late. With the Bulldogs struggling this season and defensive coordinator Willie Martinez drawing increased scrutiny, some recruits are starting to waver on their commitments.
Last week, longtime cornerback commitment Nickell Robey of Frostproof, Fla., said he had concerns about whether Martinez would be there to coach him and he’d decided to take a look at Tennessee and South Florida. Likewise, linebacker commitment Deon Rogers of Port St. Lucie, Fla., took a visit to Ohio State this past weekend. In each case, the players insist they’re still committed to Georgia.
Smith assured me that the Bulldogs’ struggles are not making him second guess his decision.
“No, it’s not affecting me at all,” Smith said during a visit to his Collier Heights home on Monday. “That’s part of the game. You’re going to have good seasons; you’re going to have bad seasons. The players are the ones that have to go out there and play on the field. The coaches are a great big part of it but at the same time it’s the players that have to get it done. So, no, it’s not affecting me at all.
“Look on the professional level. A team might go 16-0 one season and come back and not have the same outcome the next season. It’s just a part of football. It just makes you come back and try to play even harder.”
As for Alabama, Smith said he went there to see a good game. And he got one.
“I wanted to see some great college football,” Smith said. “That’s a great rivalry. It went down to the wire so it WAS a great game to go see.
“I love football. I love to watch all the games. I go to Falcons games, I go to other high school games. I just enjoy watching football, no matter who the teams are. Georgia was off for the weekend, so it was just a great opportunity to see two great teams play. That was the way I looked at it.”
Be sure to check back later this week as I profile Smith and his family and write about his travails as Douglass struggles through a challenging season.