Being Brice Ramsey
By BJ Bennett
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Considering he was committed to Georgia prior to being named the starter for the Wildcats, Brice Ramsey was essentially an SEC QB before he was one in high school.
College football recruiting has turned into the pursuit of the prototype. Here, with coaches guarding entry like a height minimum sign at a roller coaster on-ramp, only those meeting a certain physical threshold even get to audition for a ride at the next level. Restrictions are tightest at the quarterback position. The off-season camp circuit prods and probes potential passers in search of the slightest slip in technique. Game competition serves as a final straining in evaluation. Make it through the wash, and the next round of critiquing will be yours.
At 6'3'', 205 pounds, with a 4.8 forty-yard dash time, Georgia freshman Brice Ramsey fits the mold. It's his unique story that goes out and breaks it.
The southernmost tip of the Georgia coast is no stranger to gridiron success. The Camden County Wildcats, most recently region champions in a new 1-AAAAAA collection deemed the best in high school football by many, have won three AAAAA state championships and claimed ten consecutive region titles from 2001-2010. This is a program that holds the state of Georgia record with 58 consecutive regular season wins and, in recent years, has tangled out of state with the likes of Glenville (OH), Miami Central (FL), First Coast (FL), Hoover (AL) and Aiken (SC) and come away victorious. Since 2001, the Wildcats are 145-15.
Over the last decade, 14 Camden County products have signed BCS conference football scholarships. Two Wildcats are currently committed to Alabama for the class of 2014. Ramsey, perhaps, has the most intriguing tale of all.
The son of a Navy Chief and an all-pro mom, Ramsey committed to UGA at "Dawg Night 2011". Due to his workout performances and showings when compared to other top signal callers, the rising junior prospect was a national name being pursued by Georgia and Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Florida State, among others. Ramsey was lauded by recruiting services ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247 Sports. He had top coaches vying for his services. His arm strength had drawn comparisons to 2009 top NFL Draft pick Matthew Stafford. At that time, Ramsey had never started a single prep football game.
"It was interesting because I played in the Wing-T system and didn't get a lot of recruitment until my junior year. I had been known from going to camps and things like that but nobody knew me on the field because I only threw the ball probably two or three times a game," he explained. "And then my junior year, everything blew up and I just took advantage of it all. I feel like if I was in a different system though, my freshman year, I might have had um-teen offers. But I’m proud of where I am and it all has all paid off."
Considering he was committed to Georgia prior to being named the starter for the Wildcats, Ramsey was essentially an SEC quarterback before he was one in high school. Even in an offense built for running the football, the foreshadowing proved fitting. In two years at the helm of Camden County's famed Wing-T attack, Ramsey completed 155 of 262 passes for 2,704 yards, 36 touchdowns and five interceptions. Despite limited passing opportunities, Ramsey validated what he showed in simulated drills: poise, precision and great zip on his downfield throws. More so, he showed a selflessness, team-first commitment and penchant for winning that transcends any style of play.
By comparison, Ramsey's ascension was far from traditional. Of the other top quarterbacks in the class of 2012, his production was much different. Oklahoma-signee Cody Thomas, for example, threw for 4,154 yards his senior season. Texas A&M's Kohl Stewart compiled 3,138 yards passing as a junior. Max Browne of Southern Cal topped 4,100 yards and 50 touchdowns as a sophomore. Current Georgia starter Aaron Murray, who missed most of his senior year due to injury, threw for over 4,000 yards and 51 touchdowns as a high school junior. Murray's current backup, Hutson Mason, passed for a Georgia state record 4,650 yards and 54 touchdowns his senior year.
"Going to camps, I was just as good as the kids there if not better. Just putting in the extra work was what really helped me out a lot," Ramsey continued, addressing doubters. "I don’t think the Wing-T hurt me, it just maybe kept me from breaking records. But I feel like when I was at Camden I knew I was only going to get eight or nine throws a game so I had to make them count."
Ramsey's talents are not as statistically-quantifiable, perhaps the pinnacle of all compliments considering how heavily he was recruited. This past spring served as a baptism-by-fire for that diverse skill set. Ramsey was an early-enrollee at Georgia, getting a jump on the adjustment to college life and taking part in spring drills. He was able to learn, on the fly, and a few months before most of his peers, what college football is all about.
"Coming in early I got to play in the spring game, got the playbook and got to dig right into it. Coming in the fall you have classes, football games, football practices, workouts and everything, but coming in the spring, I just eased into it all," Ramsey recalled. "I only had workouts and class, so it wasn't too bad."
Providing a down-home buffer during the move was Ramsey's Camden County teammate J.J. Green. A 5'9'', 185 pound dynamo, Green was recruited as a running back, wide receiver, cornerback and return specialist. Think of a Jack Russell Terrier let loose after two days in a crate with energy drinks and Skittles. He and Ramsey both impressed coaches during practice sessions with their toughness and athletic ability. For Ramsey, Having an ally from deep in south Georgia up with him in Athens helped lessen the learning curve.
"I had decided I was going to go in early, then he ended up committing to Georgia and decided he was going to go in early also. So we were very happy about that," Ramsey acknowledged. "We have been together since we were in pee-wee and playing rec ball. We were roommates at Wing-T camps and everything. We got up there and were roommates, so everything was real smooth."
Though still filling out some physically, Ramsey has a distinct look and feel. He wears a size 16 shoe. He has hands that engulf. He has a voice, soft-spoken and deep, that doesn't quite match his wide smile. He's honest and upfront, "yes sir" and "sure thing". Part of Ramsey's transition to relative stardom his been his development where folks know him best. He's currently mentoring younger players in the area, a key part of his celebrity transformation in Small Town, USA. Coastal Georgia isn't metro Atlanta and the region's new SEC quarterback, even if uncomfortably at times, has stepped right up on stage.
Ramsey is a big part of the future at one of college football's most consistent powers. Respectfully, it's clear that he knows it. In his short time in Athens, he has been able to learn from one of the most productive quarterbacks in Georgia history, Murray. Ramsey, who arguably has a higher ceiling than other college signal callers, has learned on and off the field from the soon-to-be four year starter for the Bulldogs. The two have an important relationship that dates back prior to Ramsey arriving on campus.
"Aaron is a great guy, he has definitely helped me out a ton. He helps out the team, it doesn't matter if you are a quarterback, a lineman, a defensive back, he is going to help you. He was actually my counselor for the Elite 11 this past summer. We had the playbook when we were out there and we were going through it and he said, 'these are some of the same concepts that we use at Georgia'," he reflected. "When Aaron decided to come back, that was great. He’s the leader of the team."
Those specific Elite 11 experiences still stick with Ramsey. There, he worked with some of the top evaluators in the country. There, his outlook grew. Playing alongside other premier passers, Ramsey turned heads and had invaluable keys to success hammered into his own.
"It was huge. I went out there and learned a ton. Those guys were professionals at one point, helping out high school kids. I like getting coached by different people just so I can get new perspective and hear different things on how they feel like I can enhance my game. I went out there and learned a ton and it was great," he stated.
Settling in as a Georgia football player has been easy for Ramsey, thanks in part to teammates like Green and Murray. Furthermore, it's what Ramsey has been groomed to do. After all, this is a quarterback who verbally committed to an SEC power while having more offers than career touchdown passes. For years now, Ramsey's goals have centered on being under center. His high school head coach, Jeff Herron, once told Michael Carvell of the AJC that "...it’s like God looked down and said, ‘This is what a quarterback is supposed to have’ and gave it to him". That, it's Ramsey insistent inner-drive that anchors his success.
Of all of the college coaches who saw that desire early, UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was one of the first to buy in. Georgia was the first school to offer Ramsey a scholarship and, from day one, the former and future quarterback of the Bulldogs have seen their paths as intertwined.
"Coach Bobo is definitely the reason I committed to Georgia. He was awesome when recruiting me. He has been awesome since I have been up there. He's a great offensive coordinator," Ramsey nodded. "The language with the offense is definitely different and Coach Bobo has been helping me out a lot with that."
Bobo and head football coach Mark Richt, a former quarterback at Miami and offensive coordinator at Florida State, appealed to Ramsey's tight-knit support system.
"My mom played a big role in my recruitment. She liked Coach Bobo a lot. I wanted to stay a state from home so I was either going to Alabama, Florida or Georgia. I ended up staying in-state because everyone in the family felt like we had a family relationship with all of them," Ramsey detailed of the UGA staff. "Coach Richt is a good guy too. He and Coach Bobo were the two guys that definitely solidified my commitment. He is real family-oriented and a good Christian and I love him."
For a 19-year old football phenom, the big picture evolution continues to be staggered. One moment, Ramsey is taking pictures with grown men and smiling with babies. The next, he's double-folding pieces of pizza in a backwards hat and giggle fit. Such is and has been life for a player whose urban legends, at one point, overshadowed a rural truth.
Walk around town and people will still whisper about Ramsey. A 65-yard field goal in practice, an 85-yard punt. Injured hands for receivers, broken ankles for defenders. This is the same kid, remember, that threw it over the fieldhouse, from his knees, from midfield. Though the overall spotlight is bigger, dealing with enormous is nothing new.
Somewhere along the Georgia coast, Ramsey is in a camouflage hat and cheap shades. Maybe he's gone golfing. Fishing, possibly. From the outside, he seems quite content. Like the tide along the Satilla River, Ramsey, at times, just goes with the flow. But this is a young man very keen on where he's going and, in some ways, even more aware of where he's been.
"I feel real proud and blessed to be able to represent Camden," Ramsey exclaimed. "J.J. and I were first big-time recruits to come out and enroll at Georgia. We are on the road to success. I just feel proud to be one of the ones to do it."
Accurate and insightful, strong and quick; Ramsey acts and looks the part. When breaking down the tape, when talking face-to-face, there is a lot to like about the first-year freshman. So much so, that he very well may be the University of Georgia's next-in-line. In an era dominated by pattern measurements and standard metrics, Ramsey's attributes come with high marks. His high potential, however, isn't just rooted in what makes him so similar. His real promise lies in what makes him so different.
Photo credit: Redandblack.com