ATHENS -- Ray Drew has an analogy for his career. It’s delicious.
“I say we’re living in a microwave era. We want it quick; we want it now,” said Drew, Georgia’s junior defensive end. “But some of the best food comes out of the Crock Pot. It has to sit and melt for a while. I guess you could say I’ve been on the Crock Pot plan.
“It hasn’t been as quick as a lot of people would’ve liked. It hasn’t been as quick as I would’ve liked it. But I believe something good is gonna come out of the Crock Pot.”
Three years ago Drew was one of the top recruits in the nation, a player destined to be a star, or so it was said by analysts. It hasn’t happened yet.
Drew is at peace with his career, whether or not he ever lives up to the five-star hype. The ordained reverend feels he’ll land on his feet whether or not he succeeds in football.
But in the microwave era’s rush to now write off Drew’s career, something else might be happening.
His coaches think Drew can still do it. Oh, maybe he will never be the kind of star who would justify the recruiting hype. But he can still be a success.
“I believe Ray can be a really good SEC football player,” Georgia defensive line coach Chris Wilson said. “And when you can say that, that says a lot. You’re one of the top players in the country.”
Wilson wasn’t at Georgia when Drew signed. But upon being hired after last season, Wilson has seen what made Drew draw the hype: a 6-foot-5, 276-pound player with athletic ability.
“From a physical standpoint, obviously we know he has all the tools,” Wilson said. “But really what he’s developing is the maturity, and he’s embracing the process. So I think as long as he does that, Ray’s gonna have an outstanding career here.”
That career is now in its second half and has started out pretty well. Drew started for the first time, in Georgia’s win over South Carolina and has seven tackles (six solo), one tackle for loss and two quarterback pressures. He came close to a sack.
Yes, not quite Jadeveon Clowney numbers, but it’s a pace to easily eclipse Drew’s combined numbers for his freshman and sophomore years -- 31 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles-for-loss, 11 quarterback pressures.
Drew is getting a lot more snaps than he did his first two years, thanks to all the attrition on the defensive line.
But he and his teammates say he’s also playing a bit more free, having moved past all those hefty expectations.
“Coming in he had a lot of weight, being a five-star,” fellow defensive end Sterling Bailey said. “But now that’s weight been lifted, and for the past two games, he’s been playing really well.”
It’s a crowded group on the defensive line, including Bailey, so Drew still has a long way to go. He still can’t even be considered a starter. That seems a game-by-game decision at this point.
The knock on Drew his first two years was he was too nice and didn’t have the tenacity to fully harness those physical skills. Drew isn’t going to change, however, and he remains one of the team’s most fun-loving players.
“Whenever it’s time to work and practice it’s time to work and practice,” Drew said. “But when it’s not, let loose and have fun. That’s me. I guess you could say I’m the clown on the team.”
Drew also has plenty of fall-back plans, given his priestly calling. He freely admits that whether he makes it to the NFL or not, he will be successful in whatever he does.
But that doesn’t mean he’s giving up on the NFL.
“I have not lowered my expectations, not one bit,” Drew said. “One of the worst things you can do is give up hope on what you originally set out for. But hey, if it comes, if it doesn’t, all glory be to God, we’re gonna do all we can.”
The crock pot remains on.