Posted: 1:59 pm Thursday, February 20th, 2014
By Chip Towers
ATHENS – Just had what I’d have to call a very productive and entertaining interview session with two of the newest Bulldogs over at Georgia’s football complex.
Jacob Park is a quarterback and UGA’s only early enrollee in the Class of 2014. He comes to Georgia from Goose Creek, S.C., but originally hails from Watkins Glen, N.Y. He was available to talk for the first time since arriving on campus on Jan. 6. I’ve already posted one video as a separate blog and will add some more of the interview later. But I found the young man to be very engaging and pretty relaxed and open considering he was sitting at the front of a room with a bunch of reporters and cameras bearing down on him.
Likewise, new assistant coach Mike Ekeler came up to the interview studio on the second floor of the Butts-Mehre about 30 minutes later and he, too, was a fun guy to converse with. You likely saw some of the tweets from me and other media members sent out from from that session. I’ll share most of them here but one of the best was Ekeler saying of buying a house this time rather than renting like he did with his wife and four kids in California, “They’re going to have to take me out of here at gunpoint.”
So for now, let me just share some of the highlights from those two interview sessions and I’ll be coming back with some stories that will provide more context over the next several days or so.
QB JACOB PARK
On coming in early ….
“The reason I came in early is my position, quarterback. I wanted to get used to the offense and get a little extra time to get used to school and not just be thrown into football and taking classes. I came in early to get a little jump start.”
Thoughts when you first received the playbook …
“It was a little overwhelming. But you get in there with them, I’ve been in there studying with Hudson and (others) a couple of times and that makes it a little easier. It’s still very difficult but I’m starting to get the hang of it.”
On being the only early guy …
“At first it was strange, but I already knew Tramel Terry. He’s from my hometown, so he kind of took me in and showed me the roopes. But everybody here is cool and nobody really picks on you. It’s like a giant family. It was rough the first couple of days but you kind of get used to it and I feel like part of the team now.”
On mat drills …
“I never really had that many coaches yelling at me at the same time. We had something similar in high school we had to go through, conditioning and things like that just to be on the team. But it was a little different. We didn’t do it at 5 in the morning. So it’s a little bit of a shock.”
On possibly second-guessing decision to come early because of mat drills …
“Definitely. I didn’t know anything about mat drills. Nobody told me ’tils I got here. Bryce told me I was going regret coming here early.”
Describing himself as quarterback …
“I consider myself a pocket passer but if you watch my film in high school, I kind of had to get used to running and extending the play with my feet. I didn’t have a sgtrong offense line. They were kind of young. They all have bright futures, but I had a sophomore center and the majority of them were sophomores. So I kind of got used to dropping back and, before I could even read anything, I’d have to take off running. But it kind of helped me and probably helped me get recognized. … People tell me I play like Aaron Rogers or Collin Kapaernick. But I think I bring my own little twist to the game.”
INSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH MIKE EKELER
On where he’s currently settled …
“I’m settled into the Georgia Center (hotel) over there about a block away. And that’s been good. Coming in as a new defensive staff, we’re spending a ton of time over here. So it’s been really good. My family’s still back in L.A. We just bought a house the other day.”
On moving into the same neighborhood as fellow UGA assistants Mike Bobo, Will Friend and Jeremy Pruitt …
“We have four kids ranging from our oldest boy, who’s 13, and three little girls, 12, 10 and 6, so we wanted a place where we could really settle in there are kids everywhere. Where we live now in California, it’s one of the most beautiful places probably in the world. But there’s not a kid around, not within three or four blocks. So we can’t wait to get moved and really raise our family in a little more normal setting instead of 33 million people.”
On putting down roots at UGA …
“Yeah, I bought a house. They’re going to have to take me out of here at gunpoint. This is where I want to be and the people I want to be working with. I’ve worked 12 years in this profession and I left the University of Nebraska in kind of a spring because I wanted to be a head coach. I wanted to go be a defensive coordinator and make that next move and so on and so forth. And you know what? I’ve gotten to a point right now, and I say it very humbly, where I want to be the best linebackers coach in football. That’s where my focus is. I want to be at a university like the University of Georgia and work with great people. Coach Richt, if there’s a finer human being coaching this game, I haven’t met him. Working with Jeremy Pruitt, that guy reminds me of someone I played for and coached with starting out, Bob Stoops. I mean he’s got amazing qualities and is a tremendous leader, vbery focused and knows what he wants and he has no ego. … So we’re all buying houses here. This is where I want to be.”
I’ll add more later. I have something else to do now. So check back for updates.