The perfect walk-on

semerson@macon.comSeptember 8, 2013 

Kicker Patrick Beless (93) looks on during Georgia's preseason practice in August.

STEVEN COLQUITT — UGA

ATHENS - Patrick Beless just points it out matter-of-factly, not seeming to realize how amazing it sounds: He wasn't the starting kicker on his high school team.

"I had a couple of great guys ahead of me who were excellent kickers," Beless said.

How often did he get to kick?

"Not too often," he said.

So Beless was unrecruited out of Marist, a high school in Atlanta, and enrolled at Georgia, where his older brother attended. His second semester on campus he decided on a lark to try out for the Georgia football team. He describes what happened in another matter-of-fact way.

"Honestly, a buddy told me they were having a tryout," Beless said. "And I showed up, and they called me back."

He never could've known it would lead to what's happened the first two weeks of this season.

When Marshall Morgan was suspended for the first two games, many expected Adam Erickson, a more experienced walk-on, to fill in. But head coach Mark Richt decreed there would be a kicking competition in camp, and Beless won it.

"Adam Erickson competed for that job too, and competed well, both of them did. I could've flipped a coin, really," head coach Mark Richt said. "As it turned out we went with Patrick, and he made every kick that we asked him to make. And if he didn't make every kick we asked him to make, we would've been in jeopardy of losing this last one. It would've been a different type of game at the end."

Now two games into his college career, he’s perfect.

Beless made field goals of 37 and 22 yards in Saturday’s win over South Carolina He also made every extra point, just as he did last week at Clemson.

Georgia's leading scorer this season is tailback Todd Gurley, a Heisman trophy candidate, with 24 points.

Its second-leading scorer after two games is Beless, the unrecruited walk-on, with 16 points.

Beless was asked how he fended off nerves before the field goal.

"I just tried to kick it like an extra point,” Beless said. “Every kick you try and hit it the same way every time. Same swing. I'm just glad I was able to make it. It was a great hold and snap. Great blocking also."

Beless wasn't lying about having good kickers ahead of him in high school. One of them was Austin Hardin, who is now the kicker for Georgia's arch-rival.

Two years ago Hardin was rated the top kicker in the state of Georgia, and the Bulldogs were interested. But first they offered Morgan, the top kicker in Florida, and when Morgan committed, that closed the opportunity for Hardin, who then committed to the Gators.

Last year Hardin redshirted. So far this year Hardin is two-for-three on field goals, making his only attempt in the Gators' loss at Miami on Saturday. Morgan returns from a two-game suspension in Georgia’s next game, against North Texas, and Richt said Morgan would be the starter again.

"But it's good to know Patrick is capable and has been in big games and could come in in a pinch if we need him to," Richt said.

Beless was happy to get the chance while it lasted.

"I'm glad I was able to take advantage of an opportunity,” Beless said. “I mean on the stat sheet it shows the makes and misses, but really there's so much more that goes into it. Really the blocking was fantastic, the snaps, the holds, everything was great. It was a great, efficient operation tonight."

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