Bacarri Rambo has watched the highlights several times and he can’t remember the play at all. But his defensive teammates vividly recall Rambo’s hit against Mario Fannin in last year’s Auburn game.
The hit might have meant the difference between Georgia winning and losing as the Bulldogs pulled out a 31-24 victory at Sanford Stadium.
"It probably saved the game and a touchdown for sure," Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "I think everybody came together. He sacrificed his body and made a good play, so we wanted to come back and finish strong and win it for him."
Georgia led 31-24 with about 1:25 left in the game when Auburn snapped the ball at the Bulldogs’ 23-yard line. Fannin, a running back, split the middle of Georgia’s defense and Chris Todd found him inside the 5-yard line. But before Fannin could secure the pass, Rambo belted Fannin and knocked the ball loose with 1:16 left.
The hit knocked out Rambo, who was carted off of the field, spent the night in the hospital and missed the next game against Georgia Tech.
"The only thing I remember is Georgia winning," Rambo said. "I was at the hospital and they told me Georgia won. Then I passed back out and went to sleep. I remember playing. I remember running into (Bulldogs safety) Reshad (Jones). That’s what kind of gave me my concussion. Then when I hit Fannin, I just went ahead and went to sleep."
Rambo lay motionless on the field for several minutes. He was able to hold his arms up much of the time he was on his back. But it was a scary moment for the fans and his teammates.
"I didn’t know he was hurt at first," Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. Robinson and Jones were the closest Bulldogs to the play. "I actually jumped over him. A lot of people thought I stepped on his neck, but I didn’t. I was celebrating and I thought he was still down because he’d just made a big play. Then everybody got quiet and he was still down. That play was the deciding factor, I think."
A concussion kept Rambo out of Georgia’s next game against intrastate rival Georgia Tech. But he wasn’t in much condition to play, anyway, as he battled the sometimes blinding headaches that accompany a severe concussion.
The headaches finally went away after Georgia beat Georgia Tech. Rambo returned to action in time for the Independence Bowl against Texas A&M.
"At first it was tough because I didn’t want it to happen again," Rambo said. "But against Texas A&M, I got a good shot on somebody. I didn’t have any headaches or anything. So I told myself, ‘I’m OK, let’s go.’ Then I started playing back to my old ways."
Although he felt better, he needed time to feel fully comfortable playing a position where physical hits are part of the job description.
"I came into the spring and started making hits. I finally pushed it to the back of my head by the time summer camp opened," he said. "I’m fully recovered from that. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen."
Rambo won a starting safety job and is Georgia’s second-leading tackler with 64. He also has two interceptions and ran one back 39 yards for a touchdown last week against Idaho State.
But Rambo feels best about returning to the field with his teammates after only being able to watch immediately after the concussion.
"I’m just excited to be out there with the guys again, man," Rambo said. "I was excited when I first got out there with the guys against Texas A&M. I was so excited, I didn’t know what to do. I was just like a little puppy, happy and smiling. People would ask me what’s wrong and I’d say, ‘I’m just happy to be back with the guys.’ "