Everyone's All-American

ATHENS -- There are places nobody wants to be, in a long line at the grocery store, in the waiting room of any doctor's office or sitting in nose-to-tail traffic. In the last three years, Georgia's football players have added another entry to that list -- behind <b>David Pollack</b> in the Dawg Walk.

It's akin to being stuck in traffic and the less-loved sibling of the coolest kid in school all at the same time -- the wait is awful and you're only in the way of the person everybody wants to see anyway.

"You'll think they are cheering for you," defensive tackle Kedric Golston said, "but they're cheering for him."

David Pollack is part of a six-man senior class that will play its last game in Sanford Stadium on Saturday against Georgia Tech. That class includes the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history and one of the most genuine guys in the sport, David Greene. It includes two of the Southeast's most highly recruited wide receivers ever, Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson.

And, yet, without question, the one who will be missed most by the average Athenian is the recruiting-day afterthought who is on the verge of becoming the school's first three-time All-American since Herschel Walker, not to mention approaching sainthood in parts of town.

"It does seem like he has a real strong bond with the Bulldog Nation," Coach Mark Richt said.

Women from 7 to 77 want to marry or want their daughters to marry Pollack, who is very outspoken about his Christian beliefs. Richt's 7-year-old daughter Anya -- one of the hopeful suitors, according to her father -- cried when Richt told her Pollack would be leaving town when this football season is over.

"She said, 'Dad, why did you tell me that?'" Richt said. " I said, 'Honey, that's just the way things are,' and she said, 'You still didn't have to tell me that.'"

That harsh reality is setting in all over Athens. After Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game, Pollack never will play again in Athens. After April's NFL Draft, he'll be a memory. He'll be missed on elementary school playgrounds and in church sanctuaries and Sunday school rooms throughout Northeast Georgia.

Jana Kinnersley is the associate paster at Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, which is three blocks from the Bulldogs' practice facility, and is in charge of all the church's youth programs. All her charges, she said, know exactly who David Pollack is.

"They look up to him because of his athletic ability, but he's also a great example of how character makes an even better role model," she said. "I think part of it is how he is so determined, how he does not quit no matter what. When a person gives all that they can every second of the day, that is completely admirable. I do think part of it is his personality too that he is so easy-going and silly. In one sense, he acts so childlike, but at the same time, he acts so mature and full of wisdom. That combination makes him very approachable. That's why you have kids who love him and parents who adore him."

Kinnersley is the mother of a one-week-old baby and the child, surely like many before him in town, already has been given his first Pollack jersey as a gift.

Pollack's No. 47 jersey outsells all others at the Hibbett Sports in the Georgia Square Mall by an almost two-to-one margin, according to store manager Randy Parks, and it adorns the body of everyone from infants to truckers.

"I don't think you'll ever get a better feeling on this earth than seeing little kids wearing your jersey and screaming your name," Pollack said.

Pollack's teammates don't say they begrudge all the attention he gets, but they certainly notice.

"He kind of like the Golden Child, man," center Russ Tanner. "Everybody has seen all of those 'Pollack will you marry me?' signs. He's a magnetic guy. He has a great personality, people are drawn to him, not to mention he's a three-time All-American. That helps, too."

Those signs have gotten Pollack in some trouble with his longtime girlfriend, Lindsey Hopkins.

"She's like, 'Did you see those signs?'" Pollack said. "She'll get jealous."

But the placard proposals are only one expression of the love he receives every day and in every way. Pollack has autographed mailboxes, cellphones and foreheads, among other things. He can't even think of the strangest thing a fan has done or asked because "nothing seems like it's out of the ordinary anymore," he said.

Pollack alone controls the volume in Sanford Stadium on game days. Team chaplain Kevin Hynes watches as other defensive players jump and wave both arms, exhorting the crowd to make more noise, and are greeted by mild cheering. Then Pollack raises one arm and his troops immediately respond with a deafening roar.

"They worship him," Hynes said.

It's not that Pollack does more for the people of Athens than any other player. Greene does just as many community speaking and charity events, said Robert Miles, Georgia's assistant athletic director in charge of the Life Skills program, and Hynes said Pollack could have done more in the community with his unique celebrity.

"I don't think he's taken full advantage of the platform God has given him off the football field," Hynes said.

Still, there's something about Pollack that has the fans smitten. "The perception is he loves Georgia, he loves playing for Georgia, and he just loves life," Richt said. "Those are all positive things. I say it's perception, but it's the truth of the matter, too."

Cathy Padgett is the public information coordinator for the Athens-Clarke County Services Department. The last event she can remember Pollack speaking at for one of her causes was in the fall of 2002, but it sticks with her vividly. He addressed 120 elementary school students.

"The children just embraced him," Padgett said. "He just exudes warmth. The minute I met him, I just immediately liked him. I was just struck that this seemed to David to be the most important thing in the world was to speak to these kids and (Georgia's) undefeated record was on the line the next day in the homecoming game."

Pollack said all the right things, like he always does, telling the kids to obey their parents, do their homework and even go to the library.

"The whole energy level raised in the room when he came in," Padgett said. "After it was over, there were four children literally climbing on him, and he was fine with it."

Pollack clearly has been buoyed in the last three yeas by all his support. In 2002, following his breakout game against South Carolina, he was shy and awkward in public appearances. Now, with public mandate in hand, he's brash and perpetually bubbly.

"It's not an 'I' game," Pollack said, "but it is special when the fans love you."

At least 12 players -- six on scholarship and six walk-ons -- are expected to be recognized Saturday during the Bulldogs' senior day
ceremonies. There are only six scholarship players on the list, and only two of the group -- Fred Gibson and David Pollack -- were recruited by Mark Richt and his staff.

"It's not like it's a big class, but it's a great class," Coach Mark Richt said. "It's going to be sad to see those guys go. They have been tremendously productive but they've also been good citizens." The four-year seniors have won 40 games, more than all but one senior class in the school's history, and they will finish their careers 15-2 on an opponent's home field. "They really brought us back to national prominence as a program," center Russ Tanner said.

WR Reggie Brown
WR Fred Gibson
QB David Greene
LB Arnold Harrison
WR Jake Honeycutt
OL Jake Hooten
OL Bill Koehler
OL Porter Lady
S Phillip Nix
DE David Pollack
TE Gary Rymer
FB Jeremy Thomas
WR Evan Wells
QB Tommy Wilson

Dawg Post Top Stories