Nick Chubb and Sony Michel went tubing together, pitting the two standout running backs in the same two-seat flotation device down a river.
As one athlete leaned one way, the other had to move another. It was yet another exercise in teamwork for the two, something they have become familiar with since arriving to Georgia’s campus together.
Chubb was taught how to tube by some friends and was helping Michel learn during his first attempt.
As Michel recalled, the activity was similar to the common goal on a football field.
“Tubing, it’s like teamwork,” Michel said. “If you lean too much you’re going to flip over. We had to come up with a game-plan while we were on the tube.’
Being on the same page has been a common theme for the two Georgia stars in their prior three years on campus. The two didn’t talk too much during the recruiting process. Even so, both former five-star prospects elected to commit to Georgia as a tandem, as opposed to accepting a scholarship offer elsewhere to be the feature back.
On top of that, both backs knew their first year would more than likely be spent playing behind Todd Gurley, who was entering his junior season in 2014.
The love of Georgia outweighed any of those factors, however. Both backs made their way to Athens to ultimately form what can be considered the best returning backfield duo in the nation entering the 2017 season.
Chubb and Michel may not have been too familiar with each other before stepping foot on campus as college athletes the first time. It didn’t take long, however, for the two to become instant friends, despite the fact both play a position where only one can receive the ball on a running play at a time.
That first August, during preseason practice, was when the two backs became close. As Chubb remembered, they “didn’t have a choice but to talk.” They roomed together and spent a lot of time on the practice field and in meetings with their position group.
That’s when the friendship really clicked.
“We were together for 21 straight days of football,” Chubb said. “We bonded then.”
The two backs have continued to room together since that’s first season at Georgia. It’s been a great sense of balance for both of them.
“We got very close,” Michel said. “Just from the aspect of our friendship of being real good friends from the standpoint of holding each other accountable in all phases, on the field and off the field. Knowing what’s right, knowing who we are, knowing when we are acting out of character. I think that has really helped build our friendship.”
As football players, the two have taken their turns making plays for the Bulldogs. As a freshman, Chubb, with a suspension and injury to Gurley, ended up leading Georgia in rushing with 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns. But during his sophomore season, Michel took over as Georgia’s leading rusher with 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns with Chubb sustaining a major knee injury.
Both backs were healthy as juniors, combining for 1,970 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. While the struggles of the offensive line were apparent, sharing the load like that is something both Chubb and Michel prefer.
By doing so, both backs stay fresher late in games and don’t take as much of a pounding.
“Probably just the wear and tear,” Chubb said, when asked how rotating backs is beneficial to an offense. “But not even that, it’s playing with great people. I look forward to playing with Sony and sharing the carries and not just being the main guy.”
Chubb and Michel surprised a lot of folks by announcing they would return for their senior seasons. But since neither had a first round draft grade, head coach Kirby Smart believes they made the best choice.
“Those two guys have a mutual respect,” Smart said. “They are very different personality-wise but they are both very talented.”