The strangest part of D.J. Shockley's offseason is the strolls down the street, through malls, across campus. In his world, Georgia Nation is always around the corner and, often times, right in his face. But a kind of lap Dawg has emerged this summer to greet Georgia's quarterback.
"A lot of fans that I meet, that's one of the first things they say, 'Thanks for sticking around,'" Shockley said.
|D.J. Shockley didn't know he would have to wait four years for his first start. (Getty Images)|
Not without coming to an early brick-to-the-head realization that maybe things aren't going to work out.
"A lot of people could have left," admits Shockley, now a fifth-year senior."Should have left."
Dark words from a golden boy. D.J. Shockley was Mark Richt's first commit at Georgia in 2001. Arguably the best prep player in the country that year out of North Clayton High School in College Park, Ga., where his dad Don coached. A natural. Don Shockley had visited Florida State while Richt was there as an assistant, pouring over Charlie Ward film. That was the obvious comparison -- between his son and the 1993 Heisman Trophy winner who was coached by Richt.
"Coach Shockley designed his system around what we did at Florida State," Richt said. "D.J. wore No. 17 in high school because of Charlie. I'm sure it was a motivating factor for D.J."
Yes, D.J. was the perfect quarterback for the 21st century, and for Georgia in 2001. Mobile enough to break it downfield but also gifted with an accurate arm. Taken to the extreme, the next Charlie Ward. The kid rode into the perfect storm at Georgia, though. Tantalized with early playing time, Shockley never could get past the consistent Greene. Shockley was a better athlete but Greene won -- big, going 42-10 as a starter in his career.
In the midst of Greene's run of greatness, Shockley remembers Richt breaking out some old Ward cut-ups before the 2003 Sugar Bowl.
"We had a little laugh about it," D.J. said.
It had come to that. That year Shockley played in 10 games and threw 52 passes. His only pass in that Sugar Bowl -- against Florida State -- went for a 37-yard touchdown.
Before he knew it, Shockley passed the transfer point of no return. A redshirt season in 2001 burned what would have been that sit-out transfer year. In 2002, Georgia won its first SEC title in 20 years using both Greene and Shockley. But it was clear Greene was becoming the man, starting all 14 games and leading five fourth-quarter comebacks.
Meanwhile, Shockley had to be talked in off the transfer ledge with the promise of -- what exactly? Georgia was winning. Greene was leading.