The Afterthought

ATHENS - No one was interested in Jeremy Lomax, but that has all changed.

When Jeremy Lomax signed with Georgia in 2004, hardly anyone noticed.

The only defensive ends anyone wanted to talk about in that class were Brandon Miller and Charles Johnson. Both were five-star prospects who book ended that class. Johnson was the second commitment that year, and Miller, to much fanfare, was the last.

Right in the middle was Lomax, a three-star prospect from Lovejoy High School. Lomax was no bum. He had scholarship offers from Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisville and others when he committed to the Bulldogs. He was the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Clayton/Henry counties defensive player of the year as a senior, but he made hardly a blip on the recruiting fanfare meter.

Until recently, Lomax was concerned he wouldn't make much more impact on the field. In his first two seasons in Athens, Lomax totaled six tackles and one sack from his defensive end spot.

"I'm getting down to the end," Lomax said. "I'm going into my fifth year and really don't have anything to show for it."

But he does have hope that that is going to change. Thanks to a what he hopes was a breakout 2007 season, Lomax will be given the first shot to replace departed starter Marcus Howard.

"I feel like Marc left some big shoes to fill, so I'm trying to go out there every day and fight hard and fill them along with everybody else," Lomax said.

Heading into the 2007 season, the notion of Lomax as a starter was far-fetched. Ankle surgery in 2005 (to repair an injury which kept him out of the final nine games of his redshirt freshman season) and shoulder surgery in 2006 (which forced him to miss the spring practice before his sophomore year) left Lomax in the back of the defensive end rotation.

There were flashes of ability. Lomax had three tackles and one sack against UAB, but he had just two more tackles and no sacks in the other eight games in which he played.

There was another flash at the beginning of the 2007 season. Against pass happy Oklahoma State, Lomax had what still stands as a career-high four tackles, but from there he returned to his quiet ways.

Midway through the season, his frustration level started to rise.

"I wasn't producing like I should have, so I felt like it was time for me to do something," Lomax said.

He did finally against Auburn. He registered two tackles and a sack in the blackout victory over the Tigers, and head coach Mark Richt called it his best game as a Bulldog.

"He's not the biggest or strongest guy, but he played with tenacity," Richt said. "He played with spirit. He played with passion."

The key was an attitude change, Lomax said. For most of his career, he played with the wrong attitude, he said. Against Auburn, he worried less about angering defensive ends coach Jon Fabris and more about playing with the mind-set he had at Lovejoy.

"I went out there just laid back, playing like I was in high school again," he said. "I didn't really worry about keeping contain. Fabris talks about keeping contain, but I just went out there and played, just played relaxed. I was playing a little timid, didn't want to mess up, afraid (Fabris) was going to take me out, but I just went out there and gave it my all."

Fabris didn't mind the results, Lomax said.

"He gave me one of them ‘ol Fab smiles," Lomax said. "That's good enough for me."

The next week Lomax helped seal a tight win over Kentucky by joining with Geno Atkins to sack Wildcats quarterback Andre Woodson.

(Lomax excelled in the classroom before he made his mark on the field. He was accepted into Georgia's prestigious Terry College of Business before his junior season.)

And just like that, Lomax was back into his high school mode. In his senior season, Lomax had 100 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 21 quarterback hurries in his final season. That's not bad for a guy who came to the school planning to be its quarterback.

Lomax transferred to Lovejoy before his junior season and promptly informed the coach that he was there to play quarterback. He ended up backing up starter Kisan Flakes at that position, but he starred at defensive end.

Now Lomax finds himself with the perfect path to follow. Howard, who filled the spot before him, spent three years in relative obscurity before breaking out as a senior. Lomax plans to follow that plan as closely as he can.

"That's the game plan," he said. "That's all I've got, man."

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