Garrison Smith said he‚Äôs relieved to be back at full strength after sustaining a left ankle injury during Georgia‚Äôs double-overtime win over Georgia Tech last month.
The senior defensive lineman was limited when the Bulldogs began bowl practice two Saturdays ago, but said he was back to 100 percent early last week.
Smith said he injured the ankle on what he called a questionable hit by a Yellow Jackets offensive lineman.
‚ÄúThe guy, when I got past him, he came from behind and like chopped me in the back of my ankle,‚Äù Smith said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know, it was kind of a dirty play. I think it was intentional, but you know, it‚Äôs all good. It‚Äôs part of the game. I should‚Äôve got out the way but you know, I don‚Äôt have eyes in the back of my head.‚Äù
What‚Äôs ironic is that a near identical hit in near identical fashion propelled Smith‚Äôs career two years ago as a sophomore. Smith took over for DeAngelo Tyson when the former Bulldog endured a cut block from a Yellow Jackets‚Äô defender during Georgia‚Äôs 2011 win in Atlanta.
Smith seized the opportunity and recorded seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss while becoming SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week in the process.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been a long journey but I‚Äôm happy,‚Äù Smith said. ‚ÄúI did everything I set out to do here.‚Äù
Smith said it‚Äôs been the most emotional season he‚Äôs endured at Georgia.
He was in tears of joy following the Bulldogs‚Äô third straight win over Florida. He sulked to the turf after their heartbreaking loss at Auburn. And he beamed a wide grin during the overtime coin toss before the Bulldogs‚Äô topped Georgia Tech despite wearing street clothes after leaving with the ankle injury.
‚ÄúI was hurt physically and emotionally just from being hurt just because I wanted to be there for my teammates so bad,‚Äù Smith said of the Georgia Tech game. ‚ÄúThat game means a lot to me just on a personal level.‚Äù
Smith said his ankle injury was painful, and that he likely wouldn‚Äôt have played if the Bulldogs had a game the following week. He was glad to endure some down time in preparation for the Gator Bowl.
He enters the New Year‚Äôs Day game with 58 tackles (fourth on team), nine tackles for loss (third), six sacks (third) and two forced fumbles (tied first). In last year‚Äôs Capital One Bowl against Nebraska, Smith posted two tackles and a quarterback hurry.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs going to be fun, man,‚Äù Smith said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm glad that we got selected for this bowl game. It‚Äôs a good one. We‚Äôre going to do our best to represent our school well.‚Äù
Smith said during bowl practice that he has no immediate training plans for the NFL Draft in May, and that he‚Äôs ‚Äústill making decisions.‚Äù He wanted to keep all his focus on the Cornhuskers.
If the pros don‚Äôt pan out, Smith said he could think of nothing better than settling on a farm in Nebraska, where he plans to go when his football career has concluded.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm still going to get me that farm, and a tractor, drink some of that good water,‚Äù Smith said of his aspirations. ‚ÄúYou know, I just want to be able to live good. I respect all the farmers of America because they built the foundation of this country. I‚Äôm a history major, so when you look back and see how the country was built up, it was built off farmers. I have great respect for people who still do that.‚Äù