Georgia coach Kirby Smart has a new recruiting tool heading down the stretch leading up to traditional National Signing Day, and it's in the form of the biggest event in American sports: the Super Bowl.
Two former Bulldogs will be featured on Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta during Super Bowl LIII in Los Angeles Rams star Todd Gurley and New England Patriots rookie Sony Michel. Leading rushers for their respective teams, each will undoubtedly be featured prominently within the game plans, and one will come away with a shiny new Super Bowl ring and memories to last a lifetime.
For Georgia fans, memories of each in Athens are fresh in their minds.
Gurley was signed as part of the 2012 signing class with fellow hot shot prospect Keith Marshall. A four-star prospect out of Tarboro, North Carolina, Gurley's impact on the Bulldogs was felt almost immediately. He rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener of his true freshman year vs. Buffalo, returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score and never looked back as the feature back for the next three seasons. He led the Bulldogs in rushing as a freshman and sophomore, and was well on his way to making it three seasons in a row in 2014 before he was suspended four games for receiving impermissible benefits from autograph sales. He rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in his first game back vs. Auburn, but tore his ACL late in the game and declared for the NFL Draft following the season.
It was during that season that Gurley and Michel crossed paths, and Georgia became the true "Running Back U."
Freshman Nick Chubb became the primary running back during Gurley's absences, but Michel's work as a true freshman was a big part of the Bulldogs' late season charge. The five-star prospect in the Class of 2014 rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown during the final game of Gurley's suspension, and recorded 49 yards and 5.44 yards per carry against rival Georgia Tech. He followed it up by leading the team in rushing in 2015 with 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, and topped the 1,000-yard mark again in 2017 with 1,227 yards and a team-high 16 touchdowns. Michel and Chubb were the centerpieces of Georgia's rise to national prominence that culminated with an SEC title and berth in the College Football Playoff National Championship as seniors in 2017.
Gurley and Michel were only together for one season but set the foundation for Georgia's recruiting identity through the end of the Mark Richt era into Smart's time as head coach. Each were selfless, signed with other running back superstars in their classes and bled red and black until it was time to move on.
The Bulldogs are still building off of that foundation. Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien inked with Smart in the class of 2016, and five-star running back D'Andre Swift followed the duo to Athens the following year. All three played roles as reserves until 2018, when it became their time to shine. Swift led the Bulldogs with 1,049 yards, Holyfield posted 1,018 and bolted to the NFL and Herrien finished third on the team with 295 yards.
Like their predecessors, of course including the two starters in this year's Super Bowl, they were selfless, humble and dedicated.
It won't end anytime soon.
When you see Gurley and Michel on the field in Atlanta on Feb. 3, don't just think of them as starters in the Super Bowl. Think of them as two of the trend-setters who set the tone for this current golden age of Georgia football.