Stafford gets ready for spotlight

ATHENS – Most days, Page Stafford loves being Matthew Stafford's big sister. At just 16 months apart, they grew up hip to athletic hip, mostly in Dallas, Texas, and they're now best friends in Athens, Ga. There are times, though, when she'd rather just be Page Smith or Page Jones.

Like the night a fellow UGA student learned she was the sister of the most talked-about Bulldog freshman since Quincy Carter and got down on the floor of a restaurant and kissed her feet.

"It was awful," she said. "I was like, ‘Please get up.'"

It's still strange to Page, a sophomore, that Bulldog Nation is so willing to genuflect to her little brother, or, in lieu of that, anyone who played catch with him the backyard.

"I definitely get some people coming up asking crazy questions," said Page, a former high school and club volleyball player in Texas. "Most of the time I think it's really fun. I love having him here and just being able to go get lunch and do different things, but there are definitely some points when it might get a little irritating."

Matthew Stafford isn't sure his sister's choice of school would have affected his recruiting, but he's glad for the familiar face.

"I definitely wanted to be close to some sort of family," he said.

Matthew Stafford doesn't have any feet-kissing stories. He's tried to insulate himself as much as possible from the hype surrounding his position in the four-man race to be the Bulldogs' next starting quarterback, a race that began officially Saturday with the first practice of the 2006 season.

"I haven't really noticed," he said. "I don't really read too much. I mean I read, but not the paper. I hear it from a lot of different places, but you can't trust everything that somebody tells you that they saw was written."

More has been said and written about Stafford than probably any fourth-string quarterback in college football history. He's not expected to remain fourth string for long, but that's where he started Saturday, behind Joe Tereshinski, Blake Barnes and Joe Cox.

The initial pecking order was based solely on seniority, and Stafford expects that to be a factor throughout the competition.

"It's definitely something you can't get away from," he said. "When you're thinking, ‘We have this guy who's a senior, this guy's a junior, this guy's a sophomore, this guy's a … wow this guy's young.'"

He tried to age as quickly as possible this summer during the team's seven-on-seven passing drills.

"By the end of the summer, I was calling the plays and motions and all that kind of stuff to something I thought would work, not just something I knew was a play," he said. "I felt a lot more comfortable calling some double cuts and stuff."

NCAA rules forbid coaches from overseeing summer workouts, so Tereshinski served as the quarterbacks coach this summer.

"I had run all the basic plays, and I'd say, ‘I'm running out, tell me something,'" Stafford said. "He'd be like, ‘Here it is.'" Stafford professes not to be nervous about the upcoming month, which is something his sister can't claim.

"I was nervous in high school games," she said, "so I can't imagine what it's going to be like with my little brother playing football in the SEC."

Page Stafford enrolled at UGA one semester before Matthew, joined a sorority and had just enough time to make a name for herself with her friends before becoming The Other Stafford.

"When he comes up they're more like, ‘Oh, he's your brother,'" Page Stafford said, "not, ‘I'm his sister.'"

That won't last long if little brother becomes Georgia's starting quarterback. The foot-kissing line won't get any shorter either.

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