No Regrets for Figgins

ATHENS – Bruce Figgins was getting in a few extra reps in the weight room last week when Mark Richt and Mike Bobo stopped to chat.

The three talked about Figgins' shoulder injury, which has limited his production this season and will require surgery after Georgia's bowl game. More importantly, however, they talked about the future, and how this season's struggles could be the foundation for next year's success.

"I made up my mind talking with some strength coaches trying to get good bowl practices in and have a complete game in the bowl game to start off 2009," Figgins said. "I plan to come out strong after this surgery and come out 100 percent to start the season off."

This year, Figgins has been anything but 100 percent. He began the year on the bench for disciplinary reasons. He didn't see much playing time after that, and against Arizona State in September, he injured his shoulder and figured the rest of his season would be lost.

Figgins sat out Georgia's next game against Alabama, but starting tight end Tripp Chandler went down with a shoulder injury of his own in that contest. With freshman Aron White the only other available player at the position, Figgins decide to see if his body would hold up through the rigors of SEC play long enough for him to fill the void.

As it turned out, not only did he play through the injury, but he managed to hang on to the starting job even after Chandler returned.

"I'm glad I made the decision," Figgins said. "No regrets. It hasn't given me any trouble, hasn't slowed me down. I'm glad I've been able to play the games I have this year, and I'm glad I'm going to be able to play in this bowl game."

While Figgins has managed to remain relatively healthy – he'll still have surgery on the shoulder the first week in January – Chandler has fallen victim to a nagging array of injuries. Even White suffered a shoulder injury that limited him in practice for several weeks.

The carnage among the tight ends has made Figgins sacrifice to stay on the field that much more important for the Bulldogs – both in terms of his on-field play and his off-field resilience.

"Everybody's been kind of down, but we've been working together, trying to motivate each other," Figgins said. "Coach (John) Lilly's been checking up on us, trying to keep our spirits high. When we're down, we've got to try to lift each other up. We're in the training room a lot altogether trying to get better."

The decision for Figgins to delay the surgery and stay on the field wasn't an easy one. Family and friends warned him to protect his future. He had the opportunity to take a medical redshirt if he had elected to have the surgery following Georgia's game against Tennessee in early October.

"I told Bruce in the middle of the season, you've got to make whatever is the best decision for your future," Chandler said, "and he put that aside and took an unselfish approach to do whatever needs to be done to help the team. I've got a lot of respect for that."

The way Figgins sees it, however, the decision helped him as much as it helped his team.

While his numbers this season have been far from staggering – he has just two catches this season – the adversity he has overcome has taught him some important lessons.

He has treatment on his shoulder every day. He tapes his body up and straps on protective harnesses and braces before he can step on the field. Those two catches have been predicated on an enormous amount of effort and willpower.

"My mind has definitely had to betray my body to keep going and keep fighting," Figgins said, "but it has just showed me how bad I want it myself."

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