Big Max is back

HOOVER - Max Jean-Gilles was stylin' and profilin' through the lobby at the Wynfrey Hotel in his black pinstriped suit and studded earring, dwarfing teammate Gerald Anderson.

The guy flat looks like a big-time football player, which works out well because he is. That he's back for his senior year is almost a surprise — to him and to his teammates.

"Stop playing. Stop joking around," Jean-Gilles related Wednesday as to the reaction of teammates when he told them he would hold off on the NFL for his senior season in Athens.

Max Jean-Gilles joined Anderson and coach Mark Richt as Georgia's representatives Wednesday at Southeastern Conference football media days. The Miami native researched his position, and expected to hear more promising expectations from the pros as to where he'd be drafted.

"The key factor was the NFL committee," he said. "I turned my papers in, (and) wanted them to say first or second round, but it came back and said third or fourth. My position is overlooked in the draft. Guards don't get drafted as high."

Jean-Gilles has played tackle and guard at Georgia, and was eventually moved back to guard, seemingly his more natural position. But his athleticism, versatility and experience could easily lead him to a left tackle spot.

Regardless, any quarterback would feel safer with Jean-Gilles nearby. And he knows it. The first person Jean-Gilles called with the news of his return? Quarterback D.J. Shockley.

"I said, 'I'm blocking for you next year,'" related the 6-foot-4, 340-pounder.

Shockley's simple reply: "Thank you."

Indeed, the big Dog — considered by some as the top guard in the country this year — is back, and he's almost a little defensive of the questions about Shockley's ability to maintain what Georgia's offense has accomplished the past four years.

"They'll just have to wait and see him the first game," Jean-Gilles said.

You get the impression that it was that much easier for Jean-Gilles to come back with that challenge waiting.

"I thought he was going to leave," Shockley said. "I really want him to succeed."

And Jean-Gilles is almost in awe of Shockley for the patience he exhibited by staying at Georgia and waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

"That's what you want on your team," Jean-Gilles said. "All the stuff he's been through the last couple years, he's a better person than I am."

Heady praise from a veteran, But Jean-Gilles will remain calm, for he has one clear way to take his mind off any Saturday bummers: a wife. He's been married since September of 2002 to Maggie Joseph. She's a criminal justice student at the University of Tampa.

"We've known each other since 10th grade," Jean-Gilles said. "We see each other about every other month. She keeps me focused, helps me get rid of all the temptations. We talk all the time.

"She's my baby."

The veteran lineman admitted this hasn't been a memorable summer, considering the number of teammates or future teammates making off-field news in not-so-positive ways.

"It was the worst one ever," he said. "Seemed like week in, week out... somebody was getting in trouble."

So he's one of the Bulldogs trying to keep his teammates on something of a leash. Jean-Gilles said there have been team meetings and conversations.

"Coaches can't be with us every day," he said. "We need to hold each other accountable."

Getting the message through remains a sticking point.

"Sometimes it does," he said, almost with a sigh, "sometimes it doesn't."

He's got about five more months to strengthen his role as a disciplinarian. Should prepare him well for fatherhood.

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