Over the past couple days, a number of the SBN-affiliated blogs -- EDSBS and Burnt Orange Nation among them -- have been posting about their favorite players from their respective teams. Not the players with the best stats, mind you, or even the players who won the most, just the guys they most enjoyed watching, the guys who put smiles on their faces and made them think, "OK, that dude makes me proud to be a [insert team name here] fan." Particularly at a time when the nauseatingly contrived spectacle of last night's Lebronathon makes us wonder if it's worth it to even call ourselves sports fans at all, it's nice to be able to pick out guys we do like and give them the credit they deserve just for brightening our days.
So I decided to make this week's +5 my own list -- not definitive, by any means, since I only came to UGA in 1995 and hadn't really had anyone indoctrinate me into the ways of the red and black before that. But these are the guys I got most excited about watching, the guys who would put the proudest grins on my face when somebody would ask me, "So, hey, what do you think about . . . ?" Herewith, simple, short and sweet, my Five Favorite Georgia Players:
5. Tony Taylor
Tony never seemed to get quite the same national media attention that, say, Rennie Curran or Odell Thurman got. But he always seemed to have a knack for being in on the play. If you needed a sack, he'd get one. If you needed an interception, he could come up with that too. And if you needed one of the weirdest, wildest scoop-'n'-scores in Georgia football history to flip the momentum of a game -- i.e. the play against Georgia Tech in 2006 seen above -- he'd pull that off, too. Never talked a lot of shit to his opponents, even though he'd usually earned the right to; just worked his ass off every single play, and more often than not had a big grin on his face afterward.
4. Hines Ward
The 2006 Super Bowl MVP did it all, too, just on the opposite side of the ball: He caught passes, he carried out of the backfield, he returned kicks, and just for good measure, he passed quite a bit too, taking over at QB midway through his sophomore season in '95 after both Mike Bobo and Brian Smith got hurt. (As a result, he holds Georgia's record for passing yards in a bowl game, with a 31-of-59, 413-yard performance in the '95 Peach Bowl.) Oh, and he'd block a bitch into the earth's mantle, too, if he had to, a talent he has continued to display with great relish in his justifiably lauded career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. In both Athens and Pittsburgh, he's always seemed to have a big smile on his face as he climbs out of a pile of tacklers, and the smile just gets bigger the harder he's been hit. If this was an "I Hope He Plays Until He's 60" list, he'd probably be at the top.
3. D.J. Shockley
Shock was the perfect story: Hypertalented recruit commits to the Dawgs, ends up having to wait his turn for four years behind the guy who would eventually set a new record for wins by a I-A starting QB, then has an absolute dream season -- 24-5 TD-INT ratio, another four TDs on the ground -- that culminates in an SEC title. He had every opportunity to turn into either a cranky, resentful also-ran or a raging egotistical douchebag, yet somehow it never happened; he was such a good kid that, if someone gave me a time machine but said I could only do three things with it, I'd stop the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, then go back to October 2005 and convince Mark Richt to bench him for the second quarter of the Arkansas game. Seriously, Shock deserved an undefeated season that year (or at the very least deserved to go out with something other than an utter defensive collapse and loss to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl). I still hold out a glimmer of hope he's gonna break out and do something incredible in the NFL one of these days.
2. Knowshon Moreno
Man, what isn't there to like about this kid. He had awesome moves in the backfield; he bounced right back up after tackles, Hines Ward-style; he pulled off highlight-reel plays like it was nothing; he danced a mean Soulja Boy; he played with Legos. But even with all that, I think my favorite thing about him was how much fun he was obviously having every minute he was out there. Ideally, all our players would be enjoying themselves that much. Do I wish he'd stayed around two more years? Oh, clearly, but I can't quite begrudge him leaving; I'll just root my ass off for him with the Broncos and hope that our paths cross one of these days when I'm wealthy and revered beyond all reason.
1. Champ Bailey
If we'd had one or two like him in the secondary the past few years, even Willie Martinez couldn't have found a way to make us give up points. Schooled opposing wide receivers while playing defense, then turned right around and schooled his fellow cornerbacks while playing wide receiver (and schooled any of those guys who dared try to cover him on kick returns). Wore my lucky number. Dated one of the hottest gymnasts on campus. And then, just to ensure that we would be forever bonded in an irrevocable star athlete/groveling fan relationship, he went and got drafted in the first round by the Redskins. Champ's with the Broncos now, but he's still one of the bigger badasses in the NFL, I still have his jersey . . . and yeah, I named one of my dogs after him. There have been a lot of damn good Dawgs in Athens since I started school there, but he's the damn goodest.
Honorable mention: Jeff Owens (Georgia's own "huggy killbear"), David Pollack, Jon Stinchcomb, Rennie Curran, and Boss Bailey.
And now the (other) Ten:
1. Lifelike, "Discopolis" (Chris Lake remix)
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Fugitive" (7" mix)
3. Hard-Fi, "Hard to Beat" (Axwell mix)
4. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Sir Psycho Sexy"
5. Underworld, "Born Slippy.TELEMATIC"
6. Dr. Octagon, "3000"
7. U2, "City of Blinding Lights" (Hot Chip 2006 remix)
8. Morcheeba, "Shoulder Holster"
9. Boogie Down Productions, "Jimmy"
10. Pet Shop Boys, "It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas"
Your turn: Your Random Tens and/or shortlists of favorite athletes from whichever team you call your own, in the comments, please.