Dallas Lee spent a good portion of his Sunday afternoon attacking his flowing hair by shaving it down to a more presentable appearance for photos that will be snapped with family and teammates before his final home game in Sanford Stadium.
“I cut off like a foot,” the Georgia starting left offensive guard said. “I wanted my senior picture to look like what I normally look like.”
Much of the focus Saturday, naturally, on Senior night will be on the player Lee and his fellow offensive linemen protect: quarterback Aaron Murray, who holds four Southeastern Conference career passing records, including touchdown passes and passing yardage.
Lee, left tackle Kenarious Gates and right guard Chris Burnette — all in-state products — have been there along the way. The seniors have combined for 100 career starts heading into Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
“I love those guys,” sophomore right tackle John Theus said. “Last year, we didn’t have to send anyone off. “This year, it’s going to be a little weird.”
Georgia doesn’t have the most feared offensive line in the SEC.
Coach Mark Richt has said the line may not physically dominate a team, but need to “fight like mad” to be successful.
That’s sometimes produced mixed results.
The offensive line has protected Murray well enough for the Bulldogs to rank second in the conference in passing at 309.4 yards per game, but he’s been under duress and had to scramble out of trouble at key times as well. Still, Georgia is tied for third in the SEC in fewest sacks allowed with 12. The Bulldogs ranked seventh in that category in 2012 and eighth in 2011.
“That bond you build playing, sweating, bleeding with everybody, especially those two in particular, every day, every drill, it’s become like a second family to me,” Lee said. “Extra brothers on top of my real brother. It’s going to be really emotional on Saturday knowing it’s our last time at Sanford and I’m really trying not to think about it until I get there because I don’t like being emotional.”
Murray has taken his linemen out for ice cream and to dinner.
“Those guys are awesome,” Murray said. “Every single one of them.”
“It’s a great group of guys,” Gates said. “I wouldn’t trade it for nothing in the world.”
Gates went from a late signee who switched from a Kentucky commitment to a player who was plugged into the starting lineup for three games as a true freshman in 2010.
“It’s been a long journey, a long four years for me,” he said. “Coming in here as a freshman, I didn’t know I would start playing (in his first season).”
Georgia has gone 34-17 since Gates arrived at Georgia, with two SEC title game appearances. Kentucky has gone 15-32 during that stretch.
“I made a good decision,” Gates said. “They always remind me every time we play Kentucky. You know the coaches messing with me. ‘You almost went there. They almost had you in the blue up there.’”
Burnette, who got married this past spring, said he’ll cherish the moments cutting up in the locker room before practice or games with his fellow seniors.
Gates is on track to graduate in the spring. Lee and Burnette, who each redshirted, got their degrees last year.
Lee, like Murray, is taking undergraduate classes this semester.
“We told Burnette not to be an overachiever and go to grad school, but he did that and he’s been suffering in classes and keeps telling me and Murray that he should have gone our route,” Lee said.
Burnette is in the Terry College’s MBA program with an eye toward upper-level finance, he said.
Georgia will honor 28 seniors before the game, 10 arrived on scholarships, including Burnette and Lee who were in the 2009 signing class, and Gates, who was part of the 2010 class.
“They’ve been some really consistent guys who have worked extremely hard,” receiver Chris Conley said. “They’ve put in the time, taken the beatings and bruises and have been steadfast to this team and this offense. We’re going to miss them tremendously.”