Wide receiver Tavarres King has played in more football games for Georgia than anyone else in school history. The Capital One Bowl will be his 56th — and his last.
“The time flew by,” King said recently. “It feels like just yesterday I was getting dropped off by my parents over there at ECV (East Campus Village).”
King has squeezed about as much into his college career as possible. He graduated early from Habersham Central High School and enrolled at UGA in January 2008. He played in the first four games of the ’08 season before a season-ending ankle injury resulted in a medical redshirt. He played in 12 games in 2009, 12 in 2010 and 14 in 2011, and the Jan. 1 bowl game against Nebraska will be his 14th this season.
UGA confirmed it all adds up to a school career record for games played, and it will be a tough number to top because King played the maximum games allowed in a medical redshirt season.
King has been productive, too. With 2,498 career receiving yards, he is No. 4 in UGA history, behind Terrrence Edwards (3,093), Fred Gibson (2,884) and A.J. Green (2,619). With 20 career touchdown catches, he is tied with Gibson for third in school history, behind Edwards (30) and Green (23).
After all his games, including 40 starts, King feels there is unfinished business to take care of in his last one. Although he was held out of several practices last week with a strained hamstring, Georgia expects him back for the bowl.
“We’ve lost our last two bowl games,” King said. “This senior class wants to win its last bowl game. We don’t want to go out with a bad taste in our mouth.”
King came in with Georgia No. 1 in the 2008 preseason polls. He goes out with the Bulldogs as high as No. 5 in the polls (pending the bowl). In between, he experienced the ups and downs of a tumultuous period for Georgia football.
“You can’t get any lower than the season we went 6-7,” he said, referring to the 2010 season that ended with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl. “Knowing the tradition around here, the way things used to be, it was just a very low point at that time.”
But since starting the 2011 season with back-to-back losses, Georgia has won 21 of 25 games and two SEC East championships.
“I think my class and the class before mine changed the culture around here, got Georgia back to its winning ways,” King said. “It’s very satisfying. I think the way Georgia used to be, the way Georgia used to be thought of, is back. … During that 6-7 year, we didn’t have a swagger, an edge, about us. I feel like we’ve gotten that back.
“I think this thing is just going to continue to progress and flourish; I really do. I think we’re leaving behind a program that is headed in the right direction.”
The Bulldogs would be headed to the BCS national title game, of course, if they had beaten Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. But they fell four points and five yards short, and King described himself immediately afterward as “crushed, to be honest.”
“It was the toughest loss I’ve ever been a part of,” he said weeks later. “We expected to win. We expected to win the whole time. We felt in that one-minute drive (at the end) we were going to win the thing.
“I’m not fully over it. But you’ve got to keep moving.”
King, who graduated last spring with a degree in social studies education, will begin training for the NFL draft after the bowl game.
“I think I’m ready,” the 6-foot-1, 200-pound flanker said. “I’m looking forward to embracing it and enjoying the ride.”
“We think the world of TK, and I’m very confident he’ll end up getting drafted and have a good pro career,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He’s been very crucial, and we’ve counted on him. … We expect him to be able to get deep. We expect him to be able to stretch the defense. And he’s done a very good job of that.”
King has an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next month. “It’s going to be a great time to showcase my talents and make a name for myself,” he said.
But first, there’s one more game for UGA. In last season’s bowl — an Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State — King set the UGA single-game record for receiving yards with 205 on six catches.
“It’d be fun to go out with a big bang like that,” he said, adding that he’d script it in a winning cause this time. “I want to leave these guys with a little present of (a bowl win).”