Auburn football: Georgia natives on Tigers' roster taking Saturday's game 'personal'

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 12, 2013 

Auburn defensive tackle (and Carver alum) Gabe Wright (90) has taken reps at end this spring. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said the move has been more out of necessity than anything else.


AUBURN, Ala.C.J. Uzomah has avoided responding to texts this week.

His high school friends have been texting him constantly, ribbing Auburn's tight end about this week’s matchup against Georgia. Growing up just 50 miles away from Athens, Uzomah was just a stone’s throw from Georgia’s campus. And with many of the Suwanee native’s friends from home attending Saturday's game, Uzomah has heard about nothing but the Bulldogs all week.

Hence his lack of interaction.

“They’ve grown up Georgia fans and (it’s) ‘Georgia this, Georgia that,’ (so) we’ll see,” he said. “I don’t really respond to it right now. I’m just going to text them back after the game and see how that goes. Growing up, all I heard (about) is Georgia, so I’m definitely amped up about this game for sure.”

Uzomah is one of 26 Peach State products on the Tigers’ roster. For each player, there are varying levels of anticipation for the game. None is likely as excited for it as Jonathon Mincy. The Southwest DeKalb alum cheered for the Bulldogs in his younger days, but the love wasn’t reciprocated; Georgia didn’t recruit him heavily.

He remembers.

“It is just really going out there and showing them what they missed out on,” he said. “I was blessed with the opportunity to come here and play. I love being here and just ready to go out there and pound up on them.”

Not that Mincy believes he is alone in that category.

“I feel for everybody from Georgia, this is a personal game,” he said. “Just us being there, being (from) in-state and for folks that weren't recruited and just being able to play against people you know, it's going to be a fun game. I'm excited to go out there and play.”

Simply taking the field again has motivated Gabe Wright this week. But he recalled that at one point, he could have donned red and black himself. During his sophomore year, the Carver graduate had Georgia at the top of his list. If you had asked him then, he said, there was “no doubt” he would one day become a Bulldog.

As things so often do, events unfolded to knock Georgia off that lofty perch, and eventually, off the teams Wright considered altogether.

“With them switching defensive coordinators, I didn't really want to be a 3-4 guy,” said Wright, alluding to Georgia’s dismissal of Willie Martinez and the hiring of Todd Grantham. “It didn't work out for me.”

Little has gone right for the junior trio of Wright, Uzomah or Mincy in their careers against Georgia, losing each of the past two years by 38-point margins, 45-7 in 2011 and 38-0 last season.

Uzomah said it hasn’t been easy to get over those lopsided defeats, either, noting it’s been especially difficult given his home-state ties.

“As a team, we are disappointed in those last two seasons,” he said. “We’re going to use that as fuel for this game. We were shutout last year. Two years ago, we got seven points. We know that’s what the outcomes were. We’re going to use that as fuel and motivation for the next few days.”

Of course, Uzomah couldn’t help but note the irony of where the two teams stand entering Saturday. It is the Tigers, not the Bulldogs, who still control their own destiny. It is the Tigers, not the Bulldogs — who were ranked No. 5 at the outset of the season — who are still in contention for the SEC Championship, and possibly more.

Sure, Uzomah felt Auburn would be better this season. But to own a 9-1 record at this juncture in the season, and to be favored to win once more this weekend?

No, he conceded, even he didn’t see this coming.

“We knew that we were going to have a successful season — maybe not as successful as this — but we knew we were going to have a great season,” Uzomah said. “Coming into this game, we knew that there were going to be a lot of implications, but I guess the tables have somewhat turned. We’re just going to have to bring our A game and get after it.”

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