Besides the offensive leadership of quarterback Aaron Murray, one of the constants of the last four Georgia football seasons has been the vision of Blake Sailors racing down the field on the Bulldogs’ punt coverage squad.
Fifth-year senior Blake Sailors has been a staple on special teams the past three seasons.
The 5-foot-11, 179-pound Sailors is one of six Bulldogs — including Murray, offensive guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee, split end Rhett McGowan and outside linebacker Chase Vasser — who are redshirt seniors in 2013. But the specialist admitted that his time has flown by.
“I can remember all the times when I was redshirting and I saw all those guys who were seniors and I was like, ‘Man it’s going to be a while,’” said Sailors, a standout at nearby Oconee County High School. “You think it’s going to be a long time, but the next thing I know, I’m a fifth-year senior and I’m feeling a little old. It’s been surreal, a great experience and it’s going to be really sad when it ends. But like everybody says, something feels really good about this year and I feel if we can start strong, things will look bright for us.”
He admitted that it also feels pretty good to be one of just a handful of players now in their fifth year.
“There aren’t many,” said Sailors, who in 2012 was named one of the team’s most valuable special teams players. “It feels good to feel like a true veteran here. People look up to me and ask me for advice, especially on special teams because that’s what I’ve always done. I’ve put in my time and I’ve put in all my effort and have been able to play and letter these four years and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Although he’s never started, Sailors has played in 41 consecutive games and has recorded 26 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He’s been a consistent special-teams performer in his career and figures to continue the fight in his final season.
“He’s been a great special-teamer for us and we expect more of the same,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose fifth-ranked Bulldogs kick off the season tonight at No. 8 Clemson. “He’s a dynamic cover guy and he’s made a bunch of big plays and we hope he makes some more.”
When asked about his most memorable games, Sailors had a number of contests to choose from.
“Obviously, I’m going to remember Alabama because it was the greatest game I’ve ever been in,” he said. “I’ll also remember Florida because I got my face all bloodied up. I also remember four years ago at South Carolina when I made my first tackle, and Tennessee, when I recovered a fumble on a punt. There have been a lot of great memories and there are a few things I’d like to forget.”
Sailors’ Georgia experience has been a family affair of sorts. When he started his college career, he was teammates with his older brother Josh, and their father, David Sailors, ran cross country at Georgia and is one of the team’s clinicians. In addition, his aunt Rhonda Kilpatrick (David Sailors’ sister) is the associate director of compliance and student services for the athletic association.
“I’ve always had a whole line of Georgia people in my family, except my mom, who went to Clemson,” he said. “She’s a Clemson alumni but she’s pulling for the Bulldogs. It’s cool knowing my brother was here and my dad ran track a long time ago and now my sister and I are here. There’s a big Georgia bloodline. A bunch of my cousins also went to Georgia, so we’ve got red and black running through our veins.”
Sailors, who had three different head coaches at Oconee County, said that with a predominately untested secondary that has had its share of dings during fall practices, said he thinks he could play an at-times critical role at cornerback.
“It’s really only one or two plays and I can be in there,” he said. “I feel I’ll have more of a role in the secondary this year, especially with so many of these guys being so young. I’m helping them out with coverages and things like that, but it feels good. I’ve got to be ready to play and if my time comes, I’ll go out there and do the best I can and play ball.”
In 2010, Sailors was named to the Southeastern Conference Honor Roll and in 2009 he was on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll. His diligence in the classroom (he’s majoring in consumer economics) has enabled him to have an enviable senior schedule.
“Blake is a senior and is underloading,” Richt said. “If you’re a senior and all you need to graduate is three hours or six hours, that’s all you’ve got to take. Normally you’ve got to take at least 12 hours to be NCAA-eligible, but if you’re a graduating senior, you can go under that. So he’s got one credit hour. He has mastered the skill of underloading. That’s been nice for him this fall, and Blake has earned the right to do that academically.”
“I’ve got one-hour — an online P.E. course,” he said. “So I have to take some health and fitness quizzes online. I got all my other stuff done and saved that for my final semester, so I go to bed when I want to and wake up when I want to. I haven’t had much free time the last four years, so it’s great — it’s like being a professional college football player. I wake up, study some playbook, watch some film, eat a late breakfast, play some XBox and play with the dog. Whatever I can find to do, I try to do.”