(Updated 8:30 p.m.)
ATHENS — One Georgia football player comes to spring practice directly from his eighth-grade classroom.
Wide receiver Kris Durham is an education major who’s doing his student-teaching this semester at nearby Oconee County Middle School.
He will graduate from UGA in May and begin work on his Masters degree this summer, but he has one season of football eligibility remaining because he sat out last season after shoulder surgery. So this spring he is rushing between his Georgia History classroom and football practices.
“He comes in all dressed up, late for the meetings,” freshman receiver Marlon Brown said fondly.
Durham, who is at the middle school from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day, said he tries to compartmentalize his two roles, although he admits his students identified him as a Georgia football player “after about the first 20 minutes.”
“I had to get that out of the way real quick and make sure they saw me as not just a football player, but [saw] that I’m here to help you guys learn,” he said.
One thing Durham has learned in the classroom this semester: “I used to think I was getting away with a lot of stuff, but teachers do see it. You don’t get away with as much as you think you do.”
Durham plans a career as a teacher and coach, but first the 6-foot-5 receiver from Calhoun hopes to end his UGA football career on an upswing.
He caught 32 passes for 450 yards from 2006 through 2008 and was redshirted in 2009, which otherwise would have been his final season, because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder. His return should bolster a wide-receiver group that is thin in terms of quantity.
“So far so good,” Durham said of his comeback. “I’m taking it in strides, trying to work my way back into condition and just getting used to the speed of the game and strength of the game after being out for a year.”
As for the shoulder, Durham said: “It’s fine. . . . I’ve rehabbed it, done everything I was supposed to do. Now I’ve just got to let it go.” He seemed relieved to report that he fell on it at practice last Thursday without incident. Later, speaking of that same practice, coach Mark Richt said: “Durham had a big day catching the ball, made some tough catches.”
Durham’s student-teaching role extends to the team, where younger receivers say they respect his experience and knowledge. Of course, they also take friendly jabs.
“If something happens and he says, ‘Well, I remember when I was a freshman . . .,’ we’re, like, ‘All right, Kris, we already know you’ve been here seven years,” Brown said.
Update from Thursday’s football practice:
– The team practiced in a light rain at Sanford Stadium, with a large audience of high school coaches watching from the sideline and the field. The coaches are on campus for a two-day clinic.
– In passing/receiving drills, the best catch –- no surprise here – was made by A.J. Green, who soared for a leaping grab of a high Aaron Murray throw.
– There were a few dropped balls, too (including one each that I noticed by Rantavious Wooten and Tavarres King).
– For the second consecutive practice, Georgia had only four healthy scholarship wide receivers — Green, Durham, Wooten and King. The other two, Brown and Israel Troupe, were sidelined with a bruised shoulder and a strained hamstring, respectively.
– Tailback Caleb King, who missed practice with an upset stomach on Tuesday, was back at work.