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Chris White: With time and focus, Rambo catches a college football legend

Bacarri Rambo’s teammates paint a picture of someone with a switch for football.

AJ Reynolds/Staff
Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo (18) runs with the ball after an interception during the Bulldogs' 42-10 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Rambo now has 16 career interceptions, tied for most in program history.

Off the field, the senior safety can be a clown. At practice and on the field, though, he’s a deeply focused man.

When there’s a big test coming up, Rambo’s the guy you want to be studying with, cornerback Sanders Commings said.

“I sit right next to him in the film room and I’ll just ask him what he’s looking at, what does he see,” Commings said. “He’ll read everything, from linemen to how the quarterback’s pointing his shoulder to the ball. He just reads all that and it’s like he knows where he’s going to throw the ball and makes the play.”

It’s his attention to detail, his methodical approach to picking up quarterbacks’ subtle cues, that has helped Georgia’s defense return to its form as one of the nation’s most efficient, and it has landed Rambo atop the school’s all-time interceptions leaderboard. His pick in Saturday’s 42-10 victory over Georgia Tech was the 16th of his career, putting him into a tie with former Georgia All-American safety and Super Bowl VII MVP Jake Scott.

“I’ll tell you one thing: It’s not luck,” Commings said. “He’s a very hard worker, and with hard work comes great opportunity, and in football, great plays. He definitely puts in the hours, puts in the weeks, puts in the years, everything. He puts in the blood, sweat and tears. That’s why he makes those plays on Saturdays.”

Rambo also had eight tackles on Saturday, and he forced a pair of fumbles on Georgia Tech’s first possession, yanking one of them out of the grip of Robert Godhigh and returning it 49 yards to midfield.


That return, or at least it’s end, marked just about the only inkling of regret Georgia’s defense could have had on Saturday.

“I just wish I could have got that block because my dude’s the one that tackled him,” linebacker Jarvis Jones said.

Rambo’s second-quarter interception lifted him in into hallowed ground alongside Scott, whose name is revered in Georgia football lore, and not without good reason. His interception total took two years — he had six in 1967 and 10 in 1968 — and his eccentric personality made him a fan favorite.

“At each level of football, he’s a legend,” Rambo said. “Just to be tied with him for the career interception record, it’s just such a special privilege just to be mentioned with him.”

Through 45 games, Rambo has 221 tackles, six forced fumbles and the 16 interceptions. He’s been consistent, too, starting 26 consecutive games through his sophomore and junior seasons, a streak derailed only by a four-game suspension for reportedly failing a drug test during the offseason.

Maintaining that pace at safety is a taxing job in more than the physical sense.

“All of it’s mental,” said receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who said he often relied on help from Rambo while preparing to play cornerback early in the season. “Definitely playing safety, in this type of defense, you have to be physically fit. But it’s more mental than anything else. You’ve got to be able to know what you need to do and make plays.”

And Rambo’s made a lot of them, even if his climb has taken longer than Scott’s. That doesn’t make sharing the record any less impressive, Mitchell said.

“I ain’t surprised,” Mitchell said. “Ever since I knew him, since I came here last year and me and him bonded, I’ve known his love for it, his football IQ and his physical level, so I’m not surprised.”

About the only thing that was a shock to Rambo’s teammates was that it took someone so long to catch Scott’s record, which had stood alone for nearly half a century. But if someone was going to finally catch a college football legend, well, that wasn’t a surprise, either.

“If any guy, Bacarri Rambo is the guy to do it,” Jones said.

 

GEORGIA CAREER INTERCEPTION LEADERS

T1. Jake Scott, 16, 1967-68

T1. Bacarri Rambo, 16, 2009-12

T3. Jeff Hipp, 14, 1979-80

T3. Terry Hoage, 14, 1981-83

T5. Scott Woerner, 13, 1978-80

T5. Jeff Sanchez, 13, 1982, 1984

T5. Ben Smith, 13, 1987-89

T5. Kirby Smart, 13, 1995-98

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@barebackchamp Marshall update is here: http://t.co/veWW7zfo8u Richt hasn’t updated Scott-Wesley’s status for this week.

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