Stafford playing it cool

ATHENS – The last time Matthew Stafford was out of sorts on a football field was 2003 in the Texas state semifinals.

He was 15 years old and his Highland Park team was playing Denton Ryan and its defense loaded with college prospects.

"They were just rocking me every play," said Stafford, Georgia's true freshman quarterback. "I wasn't rattled, but I'm sure I got frustrated."

Matthew Stafford lost that day 45-21, and he learned a lesson. Getting frustrated doesn't do any good, and that's the last time it happened. Even in his collegiate debut, which came in the fourth quarter of No. 12 Georgia's 48-12 win over Western Kentucky on Saturday, Stafford never broke a sweat.

"He's probably the most laid-back guy I've ever seen in my life," said tailback Danny Ware, who shared the field with Stafford much of the final quarter. "At the same time, he's so focused. It's like he's meditating as he's playing. It's really fun to watch. I like the way he carries himself."

Stafford was 3-of-5 for 40 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass, and thrust himself into the running for the Bulldogs' backup job heading into this weekend's game against South Carolina (1-0). He may have gotten into that race sooner if not for his outward nonchalance.

"He's so laid back and calm sometimes it's hard to tell if he's just a laid-back cat or if he's not into it," quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said.

In the decisive scrimmage of the fall for Georgia quarterbacks, Stafford threw two interceptions on his first drive. Afterward, he said he felt like he was in "a daze" and acted as if it was no big deal. "I think it was just a matter of us getting to know Matthew a little better," Coach Mark Richt said. "A lot of guys maybe take it a little too serious, but it looked like he had a good time (Saturday)."

Georgia's coaches have come to understand that Stafford is as competitive and fiery as any of his teammates, but he rarely lets it show, Bobo said.

"Coach Bobo is a really, really intense guy, which is good," Stafford said. "It's good to have those kind of people around, but I think he understands I'm my own person. I'm not going to change."

In his mind, there's no need. In fact, he cringes when he thinks about playing his position any other way.

"I think it definitely serves me well out on the football field," he said. "You go out there, you throw an incompletion, you throw an interception, it's not hard for me personally to shrug that off. I know that that happens, you have to look at the big picture."

That lesson has been taught mostly by his dad John, who tells his son before every game "let it come to you."

"People have told me that, that I'm a laid-back person," Stafford said, "but there are a lot of laid-back people in this world. I don't think that's a big character flaw."

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