MEMPHIS – He provided Georgia fans with memorable catches for the past three seasons, so maybe it’s fitting that A.J. Green’s most famous reception was captured in a framed drawing that he carried with him one day last week in the Butts-Mehre building on campus.
Georgia receiver A.J. Green has been the featured performer in the Bulldogs’ offense for the past two seasons. The junior could be playing in his final game as a Bulldog against Central Florida, however, as he’s projected as a high NFL draft pick.
The Bulldogs’ resident artist, safety Quintin Banks, came up with this rendering of Green’s masterpiece – a leaping one-handed touchdown catch against Colorado that is among college football’s plays of the year.
It’s the one that stands out most among Green’s 158 as a Bulldog.
“Most people would probably say Colorado, but we all see stuff like that every day in practice,” tight end Bruce Figgins said. “Everybody’s just throwing up the touchdown sign.”
Of course, check back after Friday’s Liberty Bowl against Central Florida to see if Green – a projected top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft – can top that catch it in what is widely expected to be the junior’s final game in a Bulldogs uniform.
“That was an unbelievable catch,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Being able to shed a defender the way he did and go up and catch it – not only with one hand, but with his left hand. It wasn’t even his dominant hand. That was pretty spectacular.”
Green ranks his blocked field goal that helped Georgia beat Arizona State last year as his No. 2 favorite play and his game-winning 11-yard touchdown catch from Matthew Stafford with less than two minutes to play at Kentucky in 2008 as his No. 3.
Senior receiver Kris Durham ranks Green’s 16-yard touchdown catch against LSU last year right behind the catch in Boulder. That catch is remembered more for the controversial excessive celebration penalty that came with it in what became a 20-13 Georgia loss.
“Yeah, the one that got the flag,” Durham said. “That was a great catch. So was the Colorado one. He’s made a lot of those. … He does a lot of spectacular things.”
Three starting quarterbacks have thrown passes to Green at Georgia – Stafford, Joe Cox and Murray. He could team with a fourth different passer next year in the NFL.
Green doesn’t have a favorite NFL team, although he’s from Summerville, S.C., which is Carolina Panthers territory.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t watch a lot of NFL ball now.
His favorite wideouts are Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Houston’s Andre Johnson.
“I feel like if I made that decision that I could translate to that level and be successful,” said Green, who leads Georgia with 49 catches for 771 yards and nine touchdowns. “They’re a little bigger right now. When I get up there, I’d probably put on a lot of weight. That’s who I’m molding my game after.”
Like Stafford and Knowshon Moreno before him, Green’s career will end without any championships if he enters the draft, but his impact is apparent in the numbers the Bulldogs have put up with him and without him while he served a four-game NCAA suspension.
In the first four games of the season without Green, Georgia averaged 24.3 points and 352.3 yards per game. In the last eight games with him, the Bulldogs are putting up an average of 39.3 points and 414.5 yards per game.
“When you look at the record and the stats we put up this year, you’re like, ‘Man’ we should be in the SEC championship game,’ ” center Ben Jones said.
“Getting A.J. Green back helped a little bit,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said when asked about the reason for the Bulldogs’ responding after a 1-4 start.
Green said he won’t dwell on the games he missed for selling his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000.
“Stuff happens in life,” Green said. “It’s made me a better person. I’m not going to sit over and be depressed about it. It happened, it’s done. I had a great season this year. I came back strong. It’s behind me now.”
Green still was named a Walter Camp second-team all-American.
Despite missing four games this year, he can match Terrence Edwards’ 2002 UGA single-season receiving touchdown record (11) if he gets two in the bowl game.
His 23 career touchdown catches rank second on Georgia’s career list behind Edwards’ 30. He’s third in career receiving yards with 2,542, behind only Edwards and Fred Gibson.
“We all know he’s a dynamic player and just a humble kid for the type of ability he has,” Richt said. “He’s just a great player and a great person.”