"I think for the first time all year he's getting close to being healthy," tight ends coach John Lilly said. "It's kind of an up and down, so halfway through the year he really wasn't healthy. I think he's starting to get a little bit healthier, getting in some decent shape, and it comes at a good time."
While Rome has experienced a noticeable improvement in his ankle recently, he said getting to that point hasn't been easy.
"It's definitely been a battle and all; something that really kind of held me back for the majority of the year," Rome said. "It's really one of those things you feel good one day and come back and it wasn't where you thought it was, but I feel pretty strong; pretty confident about it."
To say Rome's recovery comes at a good time is an understatement. Georgia's receiving corps has faced various changes through the first half of the season due to injuries to Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett. Lynch suffered his injury last week, but Rome's presence and improved health provides depth for Georgia's offense.
"It definitely feels stronger than it did last week and a whole lot stronger than it did two or three weeks ago," Rome said. "I guess that's why it's good to have such good players and depth. If Artie [Lynch] goes out or I go out you don't lose anything either way."
Rome currently has just six catches for 75 yards in the seven games he's played this season. Those numbers may seem a bit low for such an athletic tight end, but he's not even at full strength yet. He's been playing through the pain. Excuse the cliche, but he wants to get on the field every chance he gets.
"Different guys handle things different ways, and I think he tried to push through it and fight through it," Lilly said. "I think the toughest thing, especially when you're on one leg, sometimes you develop some bad habits, bad fundamentals just because of overcompensating sometimes."
Rome doesn't seem to have developed any noticeable bad habits, though. Lilly said the time Rome's had back on the field is just a testament to his desire for improvement.
"You have to work through some of those things, but obviously he wanted to be out there and he wanted to play," Lilly said. "He didn't want to miss opportunities."
The will to get better isn't Rome's only motivation for playing hurt, though. Georgia has played its fair share of exciting games this season. The adrenaline brought about by those situations may have been enough to make Rome forget all about the ankle. Lilly said Rome just likes competition.
"He's played sports all his life and he comes from a family that's been around sports forever, so I think most guys when they get to this level and you get involved in the kind of games we've played week in and week out you want to be in them," Lilly said.
There's a lot of upside in having Rome on the field; his size being an obvious advantage for Georgia's passing game. Rome gives Murray that comfort a quarterback needs in tight coverage.
"You love big tight ends and both our guys are about 6-foot-5, big targets, both can go up and get the ball," Murray said.
Rome's size isn't his only advantage. He's a former two-sport athlete for Georgia, playing on Georgia's basketball team during his redshirt freshman year. Rome appeared in seven games that season and scored a total of three points. He did snatch seven rebounds on the year, though. Rome approaches hauling in Murray's passes the same we he approached grabbing boards.
"I always joke with Jay," Murray said. "I was like, 'man half the time whenever you catch a football it looks like you're going up for a rebound,' which is a good thing because he really does a great job of getting up, using his body to shed off the defenders and make the catch."
Playing one sport in college is demanding enough for a student-athlete, much less playing two. There are different types of conditioning players have to go through depending on the sport they play. While football requires short bursts of eight seconds or more, basketball demands constant strides up and down the court. Rome has been able to adapt to both styles, but now gets to focus solely on football.
"The following year I wanted to do it [basketball] again, but it wouldn't be so easy that year with me playing and the seasons overlapping so that's what really made my final decision," Rome said.
Whether it's through rebounding or route running, Rome is a target Murray said he feels safe throwing to.
"If I know he's out there, one he's athletic and two he does a great job of using his body to pretty much box out defenders to make the catch," Murray said.
Rome will have a chance to show that ability on Saturday against Appalachian State, and you can bet he's looking to make the most of his opportunity.
"I just want to play to the best of my ability and give the team everything I have," Rome said.