With his final game as a Bulldog on the horizon, Sanders Commings has begun to reflect on his college career.
After redshirting his freshman season, the 6-foot-2, 216 pound Augusta native saw regular action for the last four years at the cornerback position. He has built a reputation as one of the top corners in the conference at breaking up passes, and has come up with some of Georgia’s most pivotal turnovers the last few years.
“It’s been a good, long journey,” Commings said. “I think that’s how I would describe it. I’ve had ups and downs — both on and off the field.”
The downs that Commings experienced were put into the spotlight in January this year when he was arrested on domestic violence and simple battery charges after an incident in downtown Athens. Less than a month later, head coach Mark Richt suspended him for the first two games of the season, and in March he was sentenced to probation, community service and anger management counseling.
Now, almost a year removed from the incident, Commings admitted he has learned a lot from that night. One of his biggest takeaways was to put the right kind of people around him.
“This taught me I just need to surround myself with positive people,” he said. “I need people who are going to bring the best out of me. (I also learned) that you’ve got to one day grow up and be a man. I think I’ve reached that point.”
Regardless of the troubles that ailed him off the field, Commings is pleased with where his career at Georgia has taken him.
“If you look at the overall picture, I think I’m pretty happy at where I stand,” he said. “I’m leaving here with a degree … (and) I have a pretty good opportunity at the next level, so I’d say it’s been a pretty successful journey.”
Heading into the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska, Commings has recorded 146 total tackles, eight interceptions, 17 pass break-ups and three fumble recoveries in 53 games.
When asked what his favorite moment as a Bulldog was, he struggled to pick just one. He mentioned his first career interception against Texas A&M in the 2009 Independence Bowl, the two fourth-quarter picks against Tennessee this year that earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors and recovering a fumble that clinched a victory against No. 3 Florida in October.
But if there was one moment that stands out a little more than the rest, it came in the SEC championship game, he said.
“Personally, the interception in the Alabama game,” Commings said. “That was pretty big for me.”
His interception came halfway through the second quarter with the defense’s back against the wall and his team up 7-0. It was third-and-goal from the Georgia 5-yard line when Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw a back-shoulder pass that Commings jumped on, caught and ran out of bounds with for a touchback. It was the third interception thrown by McCarron all season.
From a team standpoint, he savored the victories against his rivals the most. Beating Georgia Tech every year that he played and toppling the Gators the past two seasons were at the top of his list.
The Jan. 1 matchup against the Cornhuskers will be Commings’ fourth trip to a bowl. His bowl game experiences, overall, were also some of his favorite moments at Georgia.
“As a team, all the bowl games we’ve played in … all those were fun even though we only won two,” he said.
As his final game approaches, the number of practices are getting to the point where he can count them on one hand.
Some players start realizing the magnitude of that early. Commings said he hasn’t gotten to that point just yet.
“I don’t think it has hit me yet that it’s my last game,” he said. “It probably won’t hit me until I walk off that field after wearing the red and black for the last time.”
The graduating seniors and NFL-ready players on defense will leave a very young group in their wake. Commings said he sees nothing but success for next season’s unit and has seen flashes of its potential in 2012.
“This is Georgia. I think we recruit very well here,” he said. “People like Damian Swann starting this year and having a hell of a year. People like Ray Drew and Garrison Smith stepping up. I’m very confident in what our defense, and our team, is going to do (next) year.”
As a projected early round draft pick, Commings will have a good shot at being a successful cornerback in the NFL.
Regardless of how it all plays out, it will surely be a bittersweet moment once he hangs up his gear for the last time on New Year’s Day.
“I’m going to miss everything about being here and playing in Athens,” Commings said, “(but) I’m excited about the next chapter of my life.”