ATHENS, Ga. -- It’s the question everyone has been asking Bruce Figgins since the move became official: Is he going to switch his jersey now?
That No. 89 works great for a tight end -- but at fullback? The former Shaw High standout, however, has held firm: No matter how weird it looks, he will line up in the backfield with a number not usually associated with a back.
“Everybody’s been asking me if I want 40-this or 40-that. But no, I’ve had this number too long,” Figgins said. “My mama, and grandma and granddaddy, everybody in my family has 89 jerseys made.”
Figgins is shown wearing that number on the back of the Georgia football team’s spring media guide. The fact the Bulldogs decided to feature him, along with a dozen other teammates, is a sign that the move to fullback may already be paying off.
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Staying at tight end would have relegated the Columbus native to near obscurity as he entered his senior year. Orson Charles and Aron White have that position almost locked down, and the Bulldogs also signed one of the nation’s top tight end recruits, Jay Rome.
But at fullback, Figgins has a chance to start. The Bulldogs lost Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmeier to graduation, leaving Zander Ogletree, who played mostly on special teams as a freshman.
So, yes, fullback might be less glamorous than tight end. But when head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo suggested the move, it was an easy call.
“I wasn’t getting reps at all at tight end last year, very few. So when they approached me about fullback, I was all for it,” Figgins said. “Coach Richt and coach Bobo sat me down and told me the different things they see me doing in the future. So we’re working towards that. They’re throwing different things at me. I’m getting help from all angles -- coordinator position, position coach, running back -- so it’s going well.”
The hardest adjustment, according to Figgins, is pass protection. At tight end, he was used to blocking only the man in front of him. But at fullback, he has to keep an eye out for blitzing safeties or other edge rushers that break through the line.
Richt said Figgins is doing well.
“I would have to think he’s beginning to enjoy it,” Richt said after Tuesday’s second day of spring practice. “He’s seeing the possibilities of his new role and how it could be really good for him and, you know, really good for Georgia.”
Richt added that Figgins still could work at tight end or at least in alignments that have him on the line. The coaches like Figgins’ versatility.
As for his teammates, they are happy to see Figgins getting a shot. Just like they were happy for him last year when he caught a touchdown pass against Georgia Tech -- his first touchdown since his freshman year, 2007.
“The reason why we did that is he’s been through so much and he’s still here,” Charles said. “He’s still fighting.”
Shoulder injuries have hindered Figgins throughout his career. Then players such as White and Charles surpassed him on the depth chart. But judging by how his teammates mobbed him after that touchdown catch against Georgia Tech, Figgins is a popular story in the locker room.
“Bruce has had a rough road, just like a lot of us have,” White said. “I’m glad that he’s able to finish out his career here and hopefully see the field.”