The Day We Discovered Pollack

Loran Smith writes about the day when David Pollack jumped into our consciousness for the first time

In my memory bank, there are many outstanding plays in Georgia football history that I, like other passionate alumni, savor with the passing of time.

When I am riding down the road, I often see great plays in my mind's eye. When I recall defensive gems, I flashback to Bill Stanfill clotheslining a running back, yanking with one arm a quarterback to the ground in Jacksonville and Jake Scott's one-hand stab of an interception in Knoxville. I'll never forget Terry Hoage's fingertip deflection of a potential touchdown pass that would have won the game for Vandy in Nashville. What an effort! Nor will I forget Scott Woerner fielding a punt against Tech, getting knocked unconscious yet holding onto the ball.

Throughout college football and in the NFL, you observe defensive players making a conscious effort to rip the ball from an offensive back or end as they make a tackle.

I don't know who should get credit for that technique, but the first at Georgia, in my recollection, was Bill Krug, who lettered in 1975-77. I can vividly see him chasing a ball carrier down the sideline, grabbing him over the shoulder with his right arm, reaching around with his left and ripping the ball out. Krug accomplished that trick throughout his Georgia career.

Take-aways are a standard objective in football today. It is taught on all levels, but when Davey Pollack's career is recalled many years from now, most who saw him play during his time in Athens will likely point to plays he made at Columbia as a sophomore and the last play of his career in the Outback bowl as his signature plays.

Pollack against Marshall in 2004 (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

Whenever he maneuvered to the quarterback, Pollack wanted to do more than collar him for a sack. He sought to strip the ball away. Cause a fumble. Give his team the advantage and momentum with possession. His remarkable agility, sense of presence and big-play-thought-process enabled Pollack to become the sack-and-steal master for the Bulldogs.

At South Carolina in 2002, when Georgia didn't score an offensive touchdown, Pollack's play was the difference in the game. When his Bulldog career is reviewed, we will recall his athletic leap upward on the Gamecock quarterback's throwing side, making contact under control to impede the Gamecock QB's throwing motion, gathering the ball off the quarterback's hand, cradling it to his stomach, and falling to the ground for a touchdown.

The Georgia players knew what had happened. They began cheering before the crowd became aware the Bulldogs had scored. Then everybody saw referee Steve Shaw's upraised arms. Touchdown! Replays for those watching on television confirmed to a national audience what a stunned sellout crowd was unsure of. Even a couple of people on the sideline asked, "What happened?"

When the game was over, I waited for Coach Richt to enter the bedlam of the locker room. "Whom do you want for Powerade Player of the Game?" I asked. At the time, we recognized a player of the game each week. I knew he was likely to pick a defensive player and anticipated it would be Pollack.

"Can you believe that play?" Richt said without ever mentioning Pollack's name. I didn't know the kid well at that point, but when I invited him over to be interviewed, he was all smiles. He looked innocent. He didn't appear to be an All-American in waiting. Didn't know it then, but later when I reflected back, that was an extension of the life of a kid who had grown up playing a game he loved for the pure enjoyment of playing.

Pollack following his final game in Athens - a 19-14 win over Georgia Tech. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

It was difficult to interview him with players and coaches roaming by and slapping him on the back and extending congratulations. His teammates and coaches will always remember that singular moment. And so will his classmates who follow Georgia football and evolve into passionate and loyal alumni.

Historians will focus on the play, too. It will go down in history as one of the great plays in Bulldog football. In an earlier day, that wouldn't be the case. There would have been no television to document the feat. If anybody's defensive worth was ever enhanced by television replay, it was Davey Pollack's.

In the Outback bowl he did it again. He grabbed the quarterback – a sack-in-the-making – but like usual, maneuvered for greater opportunity. That was always the Pollack objective. After collaring the Badger quarterback, he reached around and stripped the ball from the offensive player's grasp and transferred it to his own. Again, the referee was in position to make the call.

Pollack, predictably, was chosen for Powerade Player-of-the-Game honors. It would be the last time I would interview him on the Georgia radio network. He was more seasoned and introspective than he was that first time in Columbia. He thanked God, and he was also grateful that the referee was again in the right position at the right time.

My memory bank will include those two plays as long as I live. That is why I am hoping ardently for a cure for Alzheimer's disease. No Bulldawg who watched Davey Pollack play should ever forget.

Today, Pollack works with ESPN and college football on Saturdays in the fall. Hardly a day goes by that somebody doesn't bring up his sensational play in the South Carolina game.

"They lined up in a shotgun formation (at the Gamecock's seven yard line) with trips to my side of the field with a back offset to that side, too," Pollack remembers. "I had to beat the tackle and then get by the back who chipped me, but not enough. My objective was to get to the quarterback, and Coach Brian VanGorder (defensive coordinator) put me in position to make the play."

After maneuvering past the back, it was all Pollack who stole the ball from Corey Jenkins, the Gamecock quarterback, who remarked afterward to Pollack, "Did that really just happen?" Pollack, credited with an interception, often sees the play on sports shows when great college plays are recalled. It has been a fixture in the top 20 college defensive plays for years and is likely to remain. People meeting him for the first time are prone to ask, "How did you make that play?" The play jump started his all-star career. "I was well under the radar before that game," he says. "When I got home after the game, I had over 100 e-mails."

After a three-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals, Pollack gave up football because of a neck injury and moved to Atlanta and subsequently to Oconee County where he lives with his wife, Lindsey, and two kids: Nicholas, two, and Leah, born May 7th.

Pollack with good friend David Pollack following the 2004 Georgia Southern game. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

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