Harrison is all grown up

ATHENS -- Arnold Harrison has earned his cliché.

The senior was admittedly immature when he came to Georgia in 2000,but he has turned himself into the No. 3 Bulldogs' most studious and stable linebacker -- the epitome of the "coach on the field."

"Just like anything worthwhile, it took time for me to find my fit," Arnold Harrison said. "I hope I've surprised people in a good way."

Harrison was known as a loose cannon his first two seasons. He punctuated that title in the 2001 Georgia Tech game when he was ejected for fighting. In the last three years, though, he has turned his image around to the point that his coaches point to him as an example of the right way to do things on and off the field.

"He's a guy the other players can look at and really admire," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said.

Harrison is sharp both on and off the field. He earned his degree in finance this summer and is now taking classes to finish a minor in Spanish. And he's the player every other defender goes to when they have a question about the scheme.

Not only is he more familiar with VanGorder's system than any other Bulldog, but he also does a great VanGorder impersonation.

"If (Harrison) walks up behind you, you would think it was (VanGorder)," safety Thomas Davis said.

"I know he does it," VanGorder said, "but I haven't heard it."

Harrison does most of his work like that, out of the way where folks don't notice. He has just 71 tackles in his Georgia career. Forty-eight of those came last year, when he started nine games at strongside linebacker.

Coming into the spring practice, he was overshadowed by fellow returning starters Tony Taylor and Odell Thurman, but Taylor suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring game and Thurman has been suspended for the first three games of the year.

The good news is that if VanGorder and Coach Mark Richt had to pick a player to tutor new starters Derrick White and Danny Verdun Wheeler, it would be Harrison.

"I think he's going to play big this year," Richt said. "I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him be a good pro prospect."

Harrison also wants to be a leader in off-the-field issues. He's come by that kind of knowledge the hard way. He admits the transition following the firing of Jim Donnan was hard on him and says he and Richt had more than one talk about what his place in the program was going to be and what he needed to do to get there.

"Through trials and tribulations, you learn wisdom," he said. "I just want to pass on what I know. It would be a travesty for me to let my young teammates make the same mistakes I made."

"Arnold has been a huge mentor in my life," Verdun Wheeler said. "He always speaks about his past and how he struggled some. He feels like Georgia has made him a man."

With his degree and an SEC Championship ring in hand, Harrison needs just one more thing to complete his journey.

"Hopefully," he said, "I can win a national championship and have a storybook ending."

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