Georgia’s Geathers making most of opportunities on defensive line

At 6-foot-6 and 350 pounds, Kwame Geathers’ mere presence is a notable sighting on the football field.

But the junior nose guard’s stature has risen in recent weeks with admirable play in Georgia’s games against South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida, culminating with his first collegiate sack on Oct. 20 at Lexington, Ky.

“My best image of Kwame in the last two weeks was the Kentucky game, when he got that big sack, and (I) saw this giant athlete working up the field and having to change direction and just reach out and snatch (Kentucky’s Jalen Whitlow), and he didn’t go very far once Kwame got his hands on him,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

Geathers, who has three career starts at Georgia, has been pressed into additional duty due to the injury to senior defensive end Abry Jones and has responded in a way that has resonated with his teammates and coaches.

“I think I played pretty good, pretty stout,” said Geathers, a South Carolina native. “If I can keep that up and keep working in practice, I can play even better than that.”

Richt said he has been impressed.

“He’s playing extremely well,” Richt said. “We’ve probably played a little more of him and John Jenkins in the game at the same time due to Abry’s injury, and they’re both playing well, and Kwame does stay in there at the nose and John will move outside some. It’s the time of the year where the weather’s pleasant enough to play more snaps without the fatigue issue or the heat issue because the heat does hurt the big guys a little bit more. He’s been great.”

Recording the sack against Kentucky marked a defensive rite of passage that Geathers said he was waiting a long time for.

“That first sack felt good — it was a long time, trying to get that first sack, but I finally got it,” he said. “Now I’m going to try to work to get some more. The D-line will get on you a little bit every now and then, but once you get it, that’s a good feeling and everybody congratulates you for the sack.”

Junior defensive end Garrison Smith, who posted his first career sack earlier this season against Florida Atlantic, was ecstatic to see his friend and teammate break through with a sack.

“Kwame has done really well and is working really hard,” Smith said. “He trained hard this summer and it’s paying off. Kwame’s like my brother and we’re real close, so it made me very happy to see him get that sack and it’s always exciting to see somebody make a play.”

Geathers recognizes the concept that when talent and opportunity are matched, success is imminent, and he said he’s not the only person who must “step up” in the absence of Jones, who tore a ligament in his left ankle against Kentucky and will miss the rest of the regular season.

“Abry getting hurt opened up opportunity for everybody on the defensive line, not just me,” Geathers said. “Everybody has been practicing hard, working for their opportunity, and when Abry went down, that hurt us a lot, but we’re bouncing back and coming back from that.

“When Abry got hurt, I wasn’t just thinking that I had to step up — I was thinking that everybody in this room had to step up. We talked to each other and agreed we needed to pick up where Abry left off.”

A graduate of Carvers Bay High in Georgetown, S.C., Geathers was born into a football family and jokes that as a baby his crib was notable for the inclusion of a football and helmet.

Geathers’ father, Robert Geathers Sr., played at South Carolina and in 1981 was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. His brother Robert played at Georgia from 2001-03 and is now with the Cincinnati Bengals, and another brother, Clifton, played at South Carolina, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2010 and now plays for the Indianapolis Colts. His uncle James “Jumpy” Geathers played 13 seasons in the NFL and a cousin, Jeremy, played at UNLV.

“I talk to everybody in the family about every two days,” he said. “We do a good job keeping up with each other.”

Geathers’ experience is obvious to his teammates.

“He’s got a vast knowledge of this game,” Smith said. “It seems like his whole family played in the NFL. And he’s got explosive power on the field. He can do wonders out there.”

Geathers, who has 20 tackles – four for loss – and a blocked field goal this season, is well regarded not only for his recent play but also for his willingness to help the program in any way possible.

“Kwame has been very impressive this year,” senior nose guard John Jenkins said. “He’s been able to do a lot of things and has made some good plays this season. He’s a leader through his actions and he’s very accountable. (And he) has quite a sense of humor. If you don’t know him, he’s kind of quiet. But when he comes out of his shell, he’s hilarious, just like all the boys. Everybody has a unique personality and each personality triggers one another.”

“He’s kind of an unsung hero,” Richt said. “He does his job, does it well, doesn’t say a whole lot, works his tail off, (and) does what he’s supposed to do in school. He’s a great kid.”

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