Being Who You Are

ATHENS - When it comes to football, Amarlo Herrera is all business.

Georgia's linebacker likes "playing straight up," hard-nosed football. He speaks softly and often only when spoken to. He's limited in his dialogue, whether it be in interviews or within the huddle. He curbs himself in that regard because he wants others to value them when he voices his insight.

"If you talk less that means when you say something, everybody knows you mean it and will listen," he said.

Amarlo Herrera's personality is one of many on Georgia's defense that comes together to form a collective variety of leadership. There are the vocal characters like Jordan Jenkins. There are the teachers like Damian Swann. Then there's Herrera, who leads by example, teammates said.

"Each one of us brings different things to the table," Swann said. "You've got quiet guys and vocal guys, and Amarlo in a way can be both at times. He can get after a guy whenever he feels he needs to, and sometimes he can just sit back and watch and make sure things are going the right way."

The avid Georgia fan knew about Herrera when he committed almost a full year before Signing Day. But his name spread nationally following Shawn Williams' vibrant speech before the 2012 Florida game.

"We're playing too soft as a defense," Williams said at the time, roughly mid-way through the season. "Personally, if I was the coaches, I can't tell them what to do, but I'd have Amarlo Herrera in the game more. I wouldn't bring him out."

Williams, now playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, is comparable to Herrera in that he doesn't voice his emotions often. In fact, Williams only did a handful interviews. So when he made those comments about Herrera, they reverberated throughout the college football landscape.

With Williams and seven other starters gone from 2012, Herrera entered spring practice in 2013 aware that much more than performance would be asked of him. He knew it was his time to lead.

Heading into Georgia's top-ten tilt with Clemson, many expected both teams to post a lot of points, and they did, combining for 73. Herrera said the next week that he wasn't displeased with the output, though, noting that they expected a lot from Clemson.

He did say, however, that there would be a flare lit before South Carolina – and hinted that he'd be the one igniting it.

"You'll hear about it before the game – there'll be a spark," Herrera said leading up to Georgia's 41-30 win over the Gamecocks. "It'll be before we walk out there. You'll hear about one, probably me."

Before Herrera arrived in 2011, he was unseasoned, and said he had much to learn. But the Georgia coaches had their eye on him early and wanted to make an appropriate impression to reflect their high interest.

Mark Richt trekked to Herrera's North Clayton High School in January of 2010, bringing his entire defensive staff in tow. Herrera was a little taken aback – not because he was intimidated, but rather amused.

"At first, I didn't even know who he was because I didn't watch college football," Herrera said. "Then everybody else knew, and then I realized it was a pretty big deal."

Herrera committed within just a few weeks. He completely shut down his recruiting by announcing that he wouldn't consider any other schools. Because he committed so early – the third of the class – Herrera spent much time recruiting his peers.

His pitch: stay in state.

Swann recalled when the two met at a scrimmage before the start of their senior seasons and said they remained in touch from then on. The two formed a close-knit bond that eventually led to them becoming roommates.

"We used to talk a lot during recruiting," Swann said. "He'd call me and ask if I was going to Athens on weekends, just tried to get me out. He was persistent."

Georgia retained 20 in-state prospects that year of its 26 signees, tying for second most of the Richt era. Five of those players were listed as starters on Georgia's first depth chart of the 2013 season.

"I knew that if we kept everybody in state how good we could be," Herrera said. "The talent we have here in Georgia is tremendous. We could make something special happen."

The 2011 class was pegged the ‘Dream Team' by many, including a pack of the signees. And though they haven't yet accomplished their ultimate goals, Herrera said, they feel that they still have a worthy shot.

"Everything is always still possible," he said. "All you have to do is win the next game and don't lose any more. We keep winning, and we can attain anything."


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