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‘You gotta have it’: UGA’s Ben Cleveland talks pocket knife habits, offensive line talent and more

A few weeks back, Georgia’s Ben Cleveland went viral at SEC Media Days without being in attendance. His offensive line counterpart, Andrew Thomas, shared a unique story about Cleveland’s constant companion: a pocket knife.

Cleveland and his burly 335-pound frame sticks true to his Southern roots and uses the knife for anything and everything from hunting to cutting toenails. It’s the same knife regardless of the task.

So, could such a quirk — one that personifies rural northeast Georgia for the Toccoa native — be true for the Bulldogs’ offensive guard?

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Cleveland said. “Everybody’s gotta have one.”

After hearing the story, reporters became antsy to ask Cleveland about his love for a knife during his first interview of the new season. It was only the beginning of a lively conversation with Cleveland and his bold southern drawl. He had fun with reporters and gave authentic responses about Georgia’s emerging offensive line.

He answered each question as post-practice sweat trickled down his face, but it likely wasn’t from nerves. A confident Cleveland delivered a memorable session on a wide range of topics.

Here’s a glimpse at Cleveland’s personality in some highlights from Tuesday’s media availability.

What’s the story of the knife? Do you pick your teeth with it?

No, it’s just growing up you always had a knife in your pocket. That transferred to college, and you gotta have it. I always carry it wherever I go. … Yeah. Do you ever get something stuck in your teeth and ain’t got a toothpick? I know y’all wanted to see it, but it’s not with me.

I know you guys are looking for playing time. What’s the offensive line competition like?

It’s phenomenal, and competition drives everybody. Not only to get better, but perfect what we’re trying to do. It’s great for everybody to have that common goal. We try to push each other. And the guy behind you can push you out to make you better.

Do you have a moment where it hits you that Georgia has brought in so much offensive line talent under Sam Pittman?

We are pretty much reminded of it everyday. Each one of us is replaceable because we have so much talent. One guy can get pushed out just as easily as the next. We think about it constantly — just how great our coaches have done. They keep bringing those new guys in and putting them where they need to be.

How is the morale kept up in the position room? There might be two or three guys who would start at other schools who won’t at Georgia.

I wouldn’t say it’s about that. Every guy in here, just like last year when I broke my leg, somebody had to step up. You know just as well as I do that it could happen at any moment. These guys who could start at any other SEC school, they’re just one play away from getting their call into the lineup.

All we hear about with Andrew Thomas is his talent. What’s another quality with him that’s impressive?

I can truthfully say this to anybody. Andrew is one of the most genuine, all-around people I’ve met. He cares for the well-being of others and looks out for everybody. We are a family, and he sure does treat it that way. Anything anybody needs, they know they can go talk to Andrew. He’ll be there for them and be positive about it.

How is (Houston County product) Trey Hill looking at center?

Trey had to fill a really big role last year with jumping in at times (for former starting center Lamont Gaillard). He’s taken that and ran with it. I have no complaints about what he has done, and he looks very confident out there. He’s loud, verbal and does a great job out there.

I’ve noticed how detail-oriented Jake Fromm is in everything. Is he like that in areas away from football?

Everybody knows the common ground we have with hunting. Even whenever I go over to their house, we’ll sit down and watch hunting videos. He’d talk about what we could do different, where we could set up better and stuff like that. It definitely transfers away from football.

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