Carry a Big Stick

ATHENS - After suffering a setback to start the preseason, Chris Mayes made a big impact during his first start against LSU.

Mayes, a junior college transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast, enrolled at Georgia last January. Though Mayes had the advantage of practicing with the team throughout the Spring, he suffered a concussion at the beginning of Fall Camp. Rebounding was tough, but Mayes said his first start made all his work worthwhile.

"It was a great game for me because I haven't played in a while it really seems like," Mayes said. "Getting the amount of playing time I did and making a few plays to help the team win, it felt like I contributed my part."

Perhaps the most impressive feat surrounding Mayes' performance in his first start was his recovery from a preseason concussion. It's not always easy to stay in game shape, especially when working out is not an option.

"The concussion set me back and delayed me from working out or running or anything so I had to get back in practicing shape and then football conditioning," Mayes said. "I just worked to this point to be able to start."

Defensive line coach Chris Wilson has had the pleasure of working with Mayes since his arrival at Georgia. Wilson has seen plenty of defensive linemen, so he knows how hard it is for them to stay in shape following an injury.

"He spent the time with Ron [Courson], and we're always cautious on the side of safety for the players," Wilson said. "Once he got through with that process the greatest thing I think they did was keep him in shape. Anytime you miss 10 days and come back in quality shape; for a big guy that's really important."

Once Mayes finally made his return to the field against LSU, Wilson said the transfer's impact was almost immediate.

"I thought Chris performed pretty good; especially in an environment like that to get your first start," Wilson said. "The biggest thing was just him getting used to the speed of the game and playing in a game of that magnitude, but once he settled down you could see his physical ability start taking over."

Of course adapting to the game speed of the SEC is a big part of making that first start, but Mayes also had those pregame nerves to deal with.

"We knew coming in LSU was a good team, but our crowd came through and supported us and it was hyped," Mayes said. "I've never been in an atmosphere like that before in my life. Once the game started the butterflies let up and we just did our thing and played."

Georgia definitely did its thing in the 44-41 victory over conference foe LSU, and according to sophomore defensive end Josh Dawson, Mayes played a big role in that team win.

"He did a great job being a stout nose which is something we need," Dawson said. "In the 3-4 defense you need a stout nose who's going to build a wall for our linebackers to get downhill like Amarlo [Herrera] and Ramik [Wilson]. He did a great job with that."

Along with playmakers like the aforementioned Herrera and Wilson, Mayes has some big play abilities himself. He made a sack for a three-yard loss against the Tigers, but didn't have much to say about it.

"He's been working very hard," Dawson said. "He's one of those guys who's quiet, but works. You might not hear him talk too much, but every day he's working just like everybody else on the defense. It's just a grind every day and that's what he sees it as, and he produced last game."

Unlike penetrating the offensive line, celebrating is not one of Mayes' stronger points.

"Chris Mayes did real good," Garrison Smith said. "I'm real proud of him and he's doing better and improving. He's just got to work on his celebrations."

Smith wants to see more showmanship out of his teammate.

"That guy got a sack and said 'yippee,'" Smith joked. "He's got to work on his celebrations."

However, Wilson is more focused on Mayes' production, but says he still has a humorous side.

"Chris is a guy who walks quietly and carries a big stick," Wilson said. "That's Chris and he's a very mature guy. That's what I enjoy about him more than anything, but he's got some personality and the more you talk with him the more you get a chance to see it."

Fortunately for the Dawgs, the Griffin, Ga. native decided to bring that personality to Athens, and the decision has paid off for Mayes in more than one way.

"It's close to home," Mayes said. "I feel like a family with the coaches and staff and everyone in the organization. The fans and all showed me so much love and it just made me feel like I was a part of something."

This organization is pleased with Mayes, especially after his performance against LSU. Wilson says Mayes' work ethic will allow him to have plenty of games like that in the future.

"He's a big man and a good guy," Wilson said. "Not only that, but he's come in and really just adapted to the role we've asked him to play. He'll do anything and play anywhere you need him."

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