ATHENS -- Marlon Brown remembers well the first catch of his Georgia career. He hauled in a 9-yard catch – and was promptly booed ... very loudly.
“I already knew it was gonna happen, so when it happened, I just smiled it off,” Brown said of that moment in 2009.
Da’Rick Rogers also recalls the boos. It came last year when the Calhoun native and one-time Georgia commitment had his name announced at Sanford Stadium.
“Being booed by the whole stadium, that was new to me. That was crazy to hear that,” Rogers said of that moment in 2010.
Rogers hopes to get a lot of cheers at home Saturday. Brown, however, would consider multiple boos to be a sign his career is back on track.
Brown is a Tennessee native playing receiver for Georgia, and Rogers is a Georgia native playing receiver for Tennessee.
As their paths converge again Saturday, Rogers’ career is on the upswing, the go-to receiver for his chosen team. But Brown still trying to become a factor, and he is running out of time.
Brown was a highly recruited high school star out of Memphis. He grew up six hours from Knoxville and even further away from Athens. So it’s not like this is really a trip home.
But he did grow up a Volunteers fan, and he liked former head coach Phillip Fulmer enough that he told him as a high school sophomore he was likely to join the Vols. But when Fulmer was forced out two years later, Brown signed with Georgia.
“I already knew, as soon as I committed, the day I committed, when I was just chilling with my family and friends, I was like, ‘Man those two times I play in Tennessee, I’m gonna get booed. I know I am,’ ” Brown said.
But Brown never actually committed to Tennessee. Rogers did commit to Georgia, only to renege right before signing day. The Bulldogs ended up using his scholarship on guard Kenarious Gates, a one-time Kentucky commitment who is likely to start Saturday.
Rogers said he had to go where he was happy, and that was Knoxville. And he said some of the ill feelings of his hometown of Calhoun have calmed down.
“At first, it was bitter because I went to a rival school,” Rogers said. “But now it’s like, ‘We’ll just cheer for Da’Rick wherever he is, we’re still Georgia fans but we’ll be Tennessee fans, too.’ ”
Rogers enters the game second in the SEC in receptions (27) and receiving yards (442) and has a touchdown in five consecutive games. The sophomore was thrust into a larger role when Tennessee’s top receiver, Justin Hunter, suffered a knee injury Sept. 17 at Florida.
It seemed Brown was headed for a bigger role during the preseason, when his play drew raves from coaches and teammates. Now a junior, he had spent the previous two seasons waiting behind current NFL receivers like A.J. Green, Kris Durham, Mohamed Massaqoui and Michael Moore.
But a sprained ankle has derailed Brown’s first half of the season, and in the meantime ,freshmen Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett have jumped into the top rotation.
Brown admitted he felt antsy about losing ground.
“Definitely I do. Because if they’re 100 percent and I’m not 100 percent, they’re gonna have the edge over me,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to get back in the groove of things, get back to 100 percent, so I can just earn my spot back. That’s what I’m trying to do now.”
When Brown’s teammates are asked about his production, they point to injuries as the factor and expect him to still be a big part of the offense. They also say he would love to announce his return on Saturday.
“I talked to Marlon the other day as far as him going back to Tennessee, and he was very puffed up about it,” junior tight end Orson Charles said. “He said he was going to treatment three times a day to get his ankle right so he can go out there and play full speed.”
Brown was candid about it, too, saying he’d like to have a big game any time but especially Saturday. And he also was honest when asked if he was beginning to feel the urgency as far as his overall career.
“Oh yeah, definitely, because I have this year and next year, and that’s it,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to start making more plays.”