ATHENS – It was the end of spring, and Jay Rome was finally heading into summer workouts healthy. Asked the last time that’s been the case, the senior tight end let out a long breath and smiled.
“It’s been about two years,” he said.
And this is why Rome shouldn’t be forgotten as a potential strength for Georgia’s offense next year.
It hasn’t quite come together for Rome, who was a five-star recruit four years ago. But factors out of his control are a big reason why: He was behind future pros his first three years, which included a redshirt year, and last year he was coming off a toe injury. While he was healthy enough to play last year, the toe surgery prior to spring practice kept him out of conditioning and offseason workouts.
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Put simply, it prevented him from getting better.
“Last year, the majority of my summer was devoted to rehab. So I missed all of winter weight-lifting and conditioning, and over half of summer conditioning and weight-lifting,” Rome said. “So when I was going into camp I hadn’t had any conditioning or hard lifting. It was just kind of going out there and just going.
“I didn’t really have a chance to fine-tune my game, or fine-tune everything and really get back healthy.”
Jeb Blazevich, the true freshman, ended up supplanting Rome as the starter, and Rome was limited to 10 catches for 59 yards, and one touchdown. (For comparison, Rome had 11 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2012.)
Asked how specifically the foot injury affected his game, Rome answered: “Almost everything.” Running, changing direction, anything that required him being on his feet.
“Even walking to class, walking up and down hills, walking up and down steps, pretty much anything that put pressure on it at all, it would bother me pretty significantly,” Rome said.
There were times last year Rome said he felt fine. Now, he says he was kidding himself a bit, as well as putting up a brave front. After all, he wanted to play. “It’s sometimes a mind thing, so I had to say I was better till I feel better,” Rome said. “I just went out there and played with what I had.”
But when the season ended, Rome finally had a chance to go through offseason workouts, and he’ll be able to do it again this summer. It’s refreshing for Rome, who will also graduate from UGA on Friday, and play this season as a graduate student.
Blazevich may still be the first-teamer, but Rome was healthy this spring, and has moved it closer to a 1A and 1B at the position. Plus, the dearth of proven players at receivers makes it likely that Georgia will depend heavily on its tight ends.
“We did have some injuries (at receiver), but I feel like the tight ends have been making a lot of plays, and we have proved ourselves this spring,” Rome said. “So we’ll see what happens in the fall.”