When the game ended and the devastation began to sink in, Jake Fromm jogged onto the field and congratulated Alabama’s players.
He weaved his way through throngs of people, shaking hands along the way. As Fromm made his way off the field, he was repeatedly stopped and congratulated by players and staff on either team.
“I love you,” Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker told him. “I love you.”
Fromm’s magical freshman season ended in a tough way, with a 26-23 loss to Alabama in the national championship game. Facing the nation’s No. 1 defense, Georgia asked Fromm, the star quarterback from Warner Robins, to do something he hadn’t done all season — air it out.
“He showed he could take over a game,” sophomore Tyler Simmons said. “He can come in here and take over this, man.”
The story of Fromm’s season has been well-told by now. He entered Georgia’s first game after starter Jacob Eason left with an injury and never surrendered the position. At different points during the season, opposing players questioned Fromm’s ability. South Carolina safety Chris Lammons said Georgia “can’t pass.”
The Monday before Georgia played Florida, Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner said Fromm throws “simple passes.”
“Anybody can throw a slant,” Gardner said.
The disrespect angled at Fromm melted away as Georgia kept winning. Still, he wasn’t asked to do much. Against the Crimson Tide, Georgia began the game with seven straight pass attempts. What had made Fromm so good this season was his efficiency with limited opportunities. He rarely threw more than 20 times in a game. Against Florida, he threw just seven passes.
Not so against Alabama. Fromm ended the first half with 23 pass attempts — six fewer than his season-high.
“He showed he can throw the ball,” junior Terry Godwin said. “Everybody doubted his arm, doubted his ability to pass it. He showed up tonight and played his ball and we all knew he was going to do that.”
Fromm was far from perfect. He threw two interceptions, one right after Deandre Baker intercepted Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to give Georgia positive field position. He also completed an 80-yard touchdown, his longest pass of the season, after Alabama scored its first touchdown.
“He certainly kept us in the game with his decision making,” Smart said.
As the game approached crunch time, Fromm did not play his best. On third down early in the fourth quarter, Fromm got sacked, forcing a punt. On Georgia’s final drive of regulation, with the game tied 20-20, Fromm went 1-for-3 and Georgia had to punt.
His final pass, his 32nd of the game, sailed over the head of D’Andre Swift and landed incomplete. In overtime, Fromm got sacked on third down.
“You can’t take a sack in that situation,” Smart said.
After the game, Fromm was the ultimate professional. He hadn’t played as well as he could have, and Georgia had lost in heartbreaking fashion. But Fromm remained in his pads and jersey for the entirety of a 30-minute open locker room.
There was no time for him to take them off. Reporters constantly asked him questions. He answered every one. Fromm almost became the second true freshman ever to lead his team to a national championship (Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway remains the only one).
Instead, his freshman season ended with a loss that can only serve as his motivation moving forward.
“I just wanted another chance,” Fromm said.