ATHENS — Bruce Figgins‘ college football career began promisingly. He started the first game of his freshman season for Georgia in 2007 and even caught a touchdown pass in his debut. A few months later, he played in the Sugar Bowl as the Bulldogs routed Hawaii to finish the season ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?
“It seems like forever ago,” Figgins, 22, said. “We talk about it in the locker room, and I say, ‘Man, I’m too old; I got to get out of here; y’all don’t know what I’m talking about.’
“Guys are used to Memphis and Shreveport and the Capital One Bowl,” he continued, recounting the Bulldogs’ more modest postseason destinations of the past three seasons. “All bowls are nice, but I tell them, ‘Oh, that Sugar Bowl!’”
One of just two players on this spring’s roster who appeared in that Sugar Bowl –- offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant is the other -– Figgins now finds himself adjusting to a new position in hopes of finishing his UGA career with a flourish as a fifth-year senior in the fall.
Figgins has moved from tight end, where playing time would have been scarce behind Orson Charles and Aron White, to fullback, where the starting job is open.
“It’s going well,” Figgins said. “I’m doing a lot of learning on the run. Some things are clicking; some things are a little shaky. But we’re getting it done. . . It’s my last go-round.”
Figgins, from Columbus, has played in 37 games for Georgia but has started only four — the 2007 opener against Oklahoma State, two in 2008 and one last season. (He was redshirted in 2009 after shoulder surgery.) He has caught nine passes for 83 yards and three touchdowns, including a 12-yard TD pass from Matthew Stafford in the 2007 opener.
Now listed at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds, Figgins began the transition from tight end to fullback in December and played “a couple of snaps” at the new position in the Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida. This spring, he is battling rising sophomore Zander Ogletree for a starting spot. One thing that hasn’t changed for Figgins: his number. He is still proudly wearing No. 89, resisting suggestions that he might want to switch to a fullback-like number in the 40s.
Figgins “is seeing the possibilities of his new role and how it could be really good for him and very good for Georgia,” coach Mark Richt said. One potential advantage, Richt noted, is that when Figgins is in the game, opponents won’t know for sure whether he will line up at fullback or tight end. “It gives them less of a clue” what’s going on, Richt said.
Figgins just wants to be in the game — and to go out with a taste of the success with which he came in.
“That was great, playing in the Sugar Bowl my freshman year,” he said. “I just want to see a championship before I leave. So I want to do my part and contribute to the team the best I can.”
– Tim Tucker, AJC