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Blog: `These guys are just young and not thinking about some of the decisions they make’

Whenever a Georgia football player makes the news for being arrested, fans speak up on Twitter. They usually express displeasure with any of the following: the player, the police or the media for reporting it.

So it was when freshman defensive lineman John Atkins was arrested last Friday by UGA police for not having a valid driver’s license when he was pulled over on a minor traffic stop for not wearing a seatbelt.

Some follow-up on issues raised in this case that won’t result in any suspension of games for Atkins from coach Mark Richt:

–Athletic director Greg McGarity said Georgia continues to keep up with football player’s license issues since some player arrests back in 2009. That now falls into the lap of football administrative staff member Bryant Gantt.

Georgia said that Atkins was driving to an appointment in his hometown of Thomson to get a proper license when he was pulled over for not wearing a seat belt.

“The process caught that, but we still had a loophole there because we still had an issue with it, but that’s how it was discovered was during our check of the licenses,” McGarity said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work like we had planned but we went in with the right intent. We saw a license that needed to be corrected.”

–Atkins was pulled over by a UGA officer who was “watching for stop sign and seatbelt violations at the Joe Frank Harris Commons loading dock on Carlton Street,” according to the arrest report.

Atkins was driving a black GMC Sierra and wearing a bright yellow shirt. He was pulled over at a parking lot at the back of the Ramsey Center.

Atkins told the officer that he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt because he thought he didn’t have to wear it while driving a truck, according to the report. Atkins, who was alone in the vehicle, only had a learner’s permit. Under Georgia law now, driver’s who don’t have a valid license are arrested.

McGarity isn’t taking issue with an arrest coming after not wearing a seat belt.

“There are several prominent people on this campus that didn’t wear a seatbelt that get popped,” McGarity said. “It’s a lesson for us all to wear our seatbelts. …People just wish law enforcement could just look the other way, but they are sworn to do certain things. These people could lose their jobs. We’re at fault here. Make no mistake about that.”

–When I spoke to UGA police chief Jimmy Williamson after the arrest, he wanted this out there: “If you think about the last decade of athletes and particularly the football team, they are not malicious troublemaker kids, they’re not. I don’t think they pay attention to some of the details of requirements that they have to meet. They just don’t rise to their level sometimes. The accountability for that in our state now is much higher. It’s not like 12 or 14 years ago when we had some (players) that could be considered troublemakers. These guys are just young and not thinking about some of the decisions they make. They’re good guys. They’re friendly, they’re respectful, they just don’t always think about their decisions.”

–Please follow me at Twiter.com/marcweiszer