James, Pollack share respect

Star defensive ends met each other on awards banquet circuit

TAMPA, Fla. — The star attractions on the Wisconsin and Georgia defenses that will square off in Saturday's Outback Bowl have a recent history with one another. While traveling to award banquets for the Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik trophies in early December, Badger defensive end Erasmus James and his Bulldog counterpart, David Pollack, saw quite a bit of each other.

Texas' linebacker Derrick Johnson won the Nagurski award, but then Pollack took charge, winning the Bednarik and Lombardi and, later this month, the Hendricks awards. James finished second in the balloting for the three honors Pollack won.

"Oh super guy, super guy," Pollack said of James. "Real humble, real down to earth. Just a class act. You could tell why he's there. He works hard. I could tell just by talking to him he's got a good work ethic. He's a great guy."

"He's a nice guy. He keeps the motor going," James said of Pollack. "That's why he won a couple awards and that's why he was where he's been for the last couple years."

Georgia coach Mark Richt attended the Lombardi Award ceremonies and also got along well with James.

"You don't like to like the opponent much but he's a terrific person," Richt said.

James returned the compliment but said he would not have a hard time competing against his new acquaintances.

"When you get on the field that's when you've got to distinguish where you are friendly and not friendly," James said. "When I'm on the field, I don't care. If you are lined up across the ball from me, I'm doing what I've been doing. I'm going 100 percent."

James, the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year and Pollack, the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year, were each consensus All-Americans. Pollack has 48 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss this season. James goes 34-8-11.5 in those categories.

"When you watch [James'] highlights…he's very much like David," Richt said. "He gets off the line of scrimmage faster than everybody else. He plays great with his pads and he's got the athleticism and effort that it takes to be a great player game after game after game. I think they're very much alike. They're body types are a little bit different. But some of the things that make Pollack great, makes Erasmus great too."

Pollack appreciated all of the hardware he reaped this month but the awards were not the most important part of his trips. Pollack proposed to Lindsey Hopkins while in Houston for the Lombardi Award. They will be married May 21.

"Getting engaged meant the most to me," Pollack said. "Finding a life partner. My best friend and somebody that's so special in my life. That was the best thing about all of the banquets."

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