When he made a big splash last Saturday with an 85-yard touchdown reception that effectively put the nail in South Carolina‚Äôs coffin, Georgia split end Justin Scott-Wesley officially put his signature in the big book of Bulldog Nation lore, an honor which brings with it more attention than can be imagined.
But the redshirt sophomore from Camilla has not lacked for kindness during his three years in Athens. Tim Cummings and his family have seen to that.
As part of a program developed by Dave Van Halanger, Georgia‚Äôs director of player welfare, freshmen football players are matched with individuals in the community who serve as mentors, providing guidance, an open ear and anything else permitted by NCAA guidelines. As a result of their shared interest in track, Scott-Wesley and Cummings got together at Van Halanger‚Äôs suggestion three years ago.
Scott-Wesley, who grabbed three passes for 116 yards in Georgia‚Äôs 41-30 victory over the Gamecocks and has seven catches for 171 yards this season (and also has a fumble recovery), said that he has greatly enjoyed the time he‚Äôs spent with Cummings, who has coached cross country, track and numerous other sports at Athens Christian for some three decades.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a great guy ‚Äì he opened up to me, he opened up his home to me and he introduced me to his family,‚Äù Scott-Wesley said of Cummings. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a great Christian man who accepted me with open arms ‚Ä¶ Some guys shy away from their mentors, but Coach Cummings and his family treated me like I was one of their own. I definitely appreciate them.
‚ÄúWhen I first came in, it was a smooth transition because I didn‚Äôt have to wander around just to find out where things were.‚Äù
Cummings, whose son Levi is a wide receiver in the fall and a pole vaulter in the spring for Athens Christian, reciprocates the good vibes, saying the two have remained close, even though Scott-Wesley knows his way around town now.
‚ÄúJustin is like one of the family. My daughters are all out of the house and we‚Äôve got Levi,‚Äù Cummings said. ‚ÄúWe just love him. He comes over and hangs out with us and we have a good time. We have to be mindful of all the NCAA rules and we follow them closely, but they just want to make sure these kids have somebody who can help them and talk to them.‚Äù
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been successful,‚Äù Scott-Wesley said of his kinship with the Cummings family. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôve given me advice and taken me to church a few times. And I‚Äôm friends with Levi. He asks me things and I tell him some of the things I‚Äôve picked up from being here at Georgia. I‚Äôve been to a couple of his football games and a basketball game, and he‚Äôs pretty cool. They‚Äôve got some talent over there.‚Äù
The time, event and place for the first meeting between Scott-Wesley and Cummings came in 2010 at the Georgia Olympics in Jefferson. During that weekend, Scott Wesley won Class AA state titles in the 100 and 200 meters while Athens Christian finished third in Class A.
‚ÄúI got to spend some time with Justin at the state track meet and I really liked him,‚Äù Cummings said. ‚ÄúI know everybody says stuff like this, but he‚Äôs such a great kid. So when Van Halanger found out Justin was going to come to Georgia, he said he was going to put him with me since we already knew each other.‚Äù
Although highly touted coming out of Mitchell High School, Scott-Wesley was redshirted his first year and played sparingly in 2012. He did, however, have some memorable moments, including his first touchdown catch (against Georgia Southern) and his impressive play (three receptions for 67 yards) in the Capitol One Bowl against Nebraska.
Cummings said many of their discussions centered on Scott-Wesley‚Äôs distress in not cracking the depth chart, although he was well aware of the bloc of talented receivers on the Bulldogs‚Äô roster ahead of him.
‚ÄúI think it was tough on him when they redshirted him, but there were a lot of good people ahead of him,‚Äù Cummings said. ‚ÄúMalcolm [Mitchell] is his buddy. They were roommates and Malcolm had a that breakout freshman season and they redshirted Justin, which I know was disappointing. But he hung in there and we kept encouraging him and telling him it was all going to work out.
‚ÄúHe has such a great attitude. We kept telling him to keep working and good things would happen. And look what happened ‚Ä¶ He‚Äôs a special kid. He‚Äôs one of those kids I really like for my son to be around. He‚Äôs living proof that if you don‚Äôt quit, things will work out.‚Äù