Massaquoi for Dawgs

ATHENS – Mohamed Massaquoi has established himself as one of the SEC's top receivers this season, but the play Matthew Stafford said best defines his senior wide receiver wasn't touchdown catch. It was a touchdown-saving tackle following an interception, when Massaquoi chased down Florida's Joe Haden at the 1-yard line.

Massaquoi has racked up 730 receiving yards this season, but tailback Knowshon Moreno said the wide receiver has accounted for hundreds more yards with key blocks downfield while other players had the ball in their hands.

Junior Kris Durham considers himself a veteran on the team, but he said he's still learning the intricacies of playing receiver from Massaquoi nearly every day.

"He's a football player," Durham said. "That's just a good word. Some people are receivers, he's a football player. He's on special teams, he's on punt return, he's out there blocking so someone else can get the big play. You see Knowshon break one, who's the first guy to congratulate him? Who's making the key block? It's Mohamed."

The little things are what make playing football so much fun, Massaquoi said. The long touchdown catches get the cheers, but the bone-rattling blocks and the crisply run routes – those really bring a smile to his face.

Of course, if Massaquoi's on a football field, he's almost always smiling. As the lone senior to have started every game for Georgia's offense this season, he's been around long enough to know the good times don't last forever, so he makes a point of enjoying them while he can.

"I just enjoy the journey and everything that has come with it," Massaquoi said. "It's the people I've had a chance to meet, the education I've had a chance to get, all those opportunities I've had a chance to be a part of."

Georgia has a program called "Brother's Keeper" in which veterans are each assigned a freshman to mentor each season.

At the beginning of the summer, Massaquoi was paired with freshman phenom A.J. Green. The two were almost immediately inseparable, with Green instantly relating to Massaquoi's humble demeanor and intense work ethic.

It was a perfect match for Massaquoi, too. He loved being pushed by the talented freshman, whose raw skills made him an instant fan favorite.

For a player who does so many things well, the role of mentor might be the one Massaquoi embraced the most.

"(Green) really has a high regard for Mohamed," head coach Mark Richt said. "Mohamed is not the only one out there helping, but Mohamed in general has been a true leader on and off the field."

With Massaquoi's help, Green cracked the starting lineup by Georgia's second game. He had his first 100-yard receiving day just two weeks later. He currently leads the SEC in receiving and his touchdown grabs have been the deciding scores in each of the past two weeks for Georgia.

It's easy to look at Green and assume his natural ability put him in position to achieve such immediate success, Durham said, but it never would have happened without Massaquoi's influence.

"I know a lot of people don't really see it a lot, they just see (Green) out there making plays," Durham said. "But his development has just dramatically increased. He's gotten so much better since this summer it's not even funny, and it's because Mohamed took him aside and has been like his big brother."

Massaquoi's one-on-one work with Green, however, is the exception to his usual leadership style. The senior has always been the quiet type, and while he never shies away from giving advice, he's not likely to chew a teammate out for a mistake.

As clichéd as it sounds, freshman Tavarres King said, there may not be another player who does a better job of leading by example than Massaquoi. He just loves playing football, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Against Kentucky, Massaquoi hauled in two key receptions in the fourth quarter, but in an effort to pick up yards after the catch, he fumbled both times.

When Stafford approached him on the sideline after the second fumble, Massaquoi wasn't hanging his head. He waved his quarterback off, not wanting solace. He just wanted a shot at redemption.

"I was frustrated I put the defense in a bad situation," Massaquoi said, "but at the same time, I knew that I had to be composed, that the young guys were looking at me, and that I had to get over it."

On Georgia's next offensive play, Stafford went right back to his senior receiver, and Massaquoi's catch gained 78 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown.

None of Massaquoi's teammates were surprised.

"Even if he messed up, he's still smiling," King said. "He's just out there having a good time. He doesn't look back on his mistakes. He just goes forward and keeps pushing."

The smile doesn't leave Massaquoi's face often when he's on the football field. There's really no place he would rather be.

Durham compares Massaquoi to former Georgia star and current Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who has made a career out of dishing out hard blocks in the NFL for a decade. It's those little things that make the game so much fun for Massaquoi. And next to winning, there's nothing he wants more than to have fun.

"At practice, out of practice, on the field during the game, Mo likes to have fun, and he gets after it every play," King said. "He'll look like he's about to die out there, but once that ball is snapped, it's a whole different mind-set."

Massaquoi has infused that intensity into the Bulldogs' offense for four years now, but he said he isn't interested in any grand send-off when he wraps up his final home game as a Bulldog next week.

The way he sees it, his hard work during the past four seasons were his payment for the privilege of playing at Georgia – and he has enjoyed every minute of it.

"You don't play this game for the accolades or the spotlight," Massaquoi said. "You play this game because you enjoy it, because you have pride in your school. I'm always going to be a Georgia Bulldog."

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