When discussing teammate Rhett McGowan’s contributions to No. 15 Georgia’s offense, Bulldogs tight end Arthur Lynch described his teammate succinctly and accurately.
Wide receiver Rhett McGowan runs with the ball after making a catch against South Carolina.
“He has always been a security blanket for us,” Lynch said. “He made a big play for us on a 2-point conversion against Nebraska (in January at the Florida Citrus Bowl) and he’s made countless plays on third down. And he blocks very well.
“Rhett’s role has expanded over the course of the last two or three seasons, and I think that’s what he wanted most out of his career. Who knows where he’ll go from here? He’s the type of kid who is unselfish and whatever the team asks, he delivers.”
After joining the Bulldogs as a preferred walk-on in 2009, McGowan has slowly but surely reached a point where he’s part of the Georgia fabric as a steady receiver and punt returner. And with front-line players like Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett out with knee injuries, McGowan — who was unavailable this week for an interview — has spent more and more time on the field on Saturdays.
“Rhett’s been here a while and he found his niche here at Georgia,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “It’s hard to break through as a walk-on in any position and find your way into some playing time on the field, whether it be special teams, offense or defense. A lot of times you’ve got to do it well for a long enough time that the coaches finally go, ‘You know what? The guy’s dependable, the guy’s talented enough to get it done. Let’s let the guy play.’
“And it’s a great tribute to him and his persistence and his abilities. Sometimes that opportunity happens in the spring game or in spring practice, when a couple of guys may go down and then all of a sudden they’re thrown in there and they play well. It’s been a combination of all those things for Rhett.”
The senior split end from Calhoun first showcased his value to Bulldogs fans in 2011 when he grabbed an 11-yard pass that kept a drive alive in Georgia’s 24-20 victory over Florida. That same year, he had a career-high four receptions for 51 yards against New Mexico State, and this fall he’s recorded key catches against South Carolina and Tennessee.
During his time in Athens, McGowan has played in 29 games, grabbing 26 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
McGowan, who earned a scholarship in 2012 after three years as a walk-on, isn’t as well-known as other Georgia receivers (a partial list of his teammates through the years includes Mitchell, Scott-Wesley, Bennett, Tavarres King, A.J. Green, Marlon Brown and fellow Calhoun native Kris Durham), but he’s earned the respect of many teammates for his dependability.
“He’s very reliable,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “You know what you’re going to get from Rhett, day in and day out, at practice and in games. I have a lot of trust in him. I know that no matter what, (in) off-coverage or press coverage, he’s going to be able to find some way to get open.”
“Rhett is a guy who’s been around a long time and he’s been a consistency guy and a guy we can rely on,” flanker Chris Conley added. “I like the phrase Arthur used — ‘security blanket.’ He has been that to this offense and he’s been able to step up in situations that are not ideal, and perform.”
A point guard at Calhoun, McGowan knew he was taking a calculated risk by walking on at Georgia when he had offers to play basketball elsewhere.
“I think it’s just part of the walk-on tradition here,” Lynch said. “The program is so beloved and respected throughout the state that a lot of kids will pass up a free education to come here and give walking on a shot. It takes a certain type of special kid, somebody who’s not afraid to give it a shot. Because for a lot of kids it doesn’t work out and they don’t play during the time they’re here. But for those guys to get a shot, it’s an awesome experience to kind of live out their dreams.”
“Rhett’s one of those guys who came in and wants to be great,” added flanker Rantavious Wooten. “He was on scout team a couple of years ago, but you could tell he wanted more — he wanted to play. Over his career, he’d work, work, work and he learned the plays and got over the hump. He gives 100 percent all the time and he makes plays when his number is called. It’s been great to see his development over the years. He’s put in the work and he deserves every minute that he gets out on the field.”