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Joe Cox: UGA's leader of the pack

Mark Richt has told the same story throughout this offseason. At the end of spring practice, each player was given an exit interview that included a question asking who the leaders on the team were.

Of 110 interviews completed, 107 players included quarterback Joe Cox on their list.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that a team’s quarterback is implicitly considered a leader, but Cox isn’t exactly a star in the passing game. He’s never thrown for 300 yards in a game or hit A.J. Green down the sideline for a long touchdown. In fact, the last time Cox started a game, most of those 107 players who voted for him weren’t even on the team.

So, how is it that a fifth-year senior with little playing experience has so quickly gained the respect of his teammates? I did an informal poll of my own, and here’s what more than a dozen of Georgia’s players had to say about their quarterback:

Defensive tackle Jeff Owens, whose name turned up often on the list of leaders, as well...

“Joe’s been here a long time and everyone always wanted him to get his opportunity. Now he has it, and you can see that fire that he has and how bad he wants to be out there and play. And especially in the quarterback role, it’s a leadership role in itself. He’s going to be a great leader for us and a great quarterback for us.”

Tailback Richard Samuel, who was tutored on the second team by Cox last season...

“His actions show he wants the team to strive in a positive direction. He wants to help out others. He wants to go out of his way to make sure that the team is doing everything right and everybody’s on the right path. Even at pass skels, when some of the running backs or the new incoming freshmen at tight end and wide receiver, he’ll pull them to the side, tell them how to run certain routes, tell them how to look the defense off. He’s always willing to help.”

Senior linebacker Darius Dewberry...

“Even though he didn’t start, he was a leader. He was a leader even though he wasn’t playing. He kept guys on their stuff. He made sure everyone was doing what they were supposed to do.”

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tavarres King...

“He’s just very vocal and he can get through to you so easy that it’s hard not to call him a leader. He’s an awesome guy, he’s fun to be around, he’s fun to work with. And I think that’s what you look for in a leader. You look for somebody that’s going to lead you into battle full force, and he’s going to do that.”

Senior linebacker Marcus Washington...

“Joe’s a great guy and he’s very verbal about what he believes. He’ll rally the troops. He’s a great leader off the field – stuff you don’t see behind closed doors. If he sees a guy doing something wrong, Joe’s there to tell them to cut it out and do things the right way. All these summer workouts and summer activities, Joe’s the guy who’s organizing them, saying you need to be here or there. Joe’s the guy who orchestrates all that.”

Linebacker Rennie Curran, whose name was listed the second most often in the exit interviews...

“He’s a guy that always keeps his composure. He’s calm and humble as a leader. He owns up to it. He does what he has to do. He doesn’t cause problems. He does all the right things and shows all the young guys an example of how to do things right. In terms of how to play football at Georgia, there’s no better example than Joe Cox.”

More from Curran...

“He’s like that big brother figure. He’s been here for a while. He’s seasoned. He’s watched it from pretty much every angle. He didn’t play much and now coming in and having the world on his shoulders – you have to respect him because of what he’s experienced. He speaks up if somebody’s not doing things right on and off the field. He’s not a guy that’s going to yell at you or try to shoot you down or make you feel bad, but you can tell that he’s sincere and wants you to do well and that makes you have respect for him.”

Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs...

“Joe just has that confidence. A lot of people have talked bad about him. I mean Matt Stafford was a great quarterback and a great leader, and Joe’s just been in that shadow. You can tell by looking at him how hungry he is, and you can see that fire in his eye. Despite what everyone else says about him, Joe still has that confidence, and that’s just something that as players we can follow. He has so much wisdom because he has been here so long, and he does a great job of leader people who aren’t even in his unit.”

Sophomore cornerback Brandon Boykin...

“I think it really all started in mat drills. I felt like Joe really took on a leadership role as not just a quarterback, but being the leader as far as pushing players. He was the vocal leader in mat drills and it’s just carried over to the spring and summer.”

Offensive lineman Vince Vance...

“It’s not really based on what Joe has done on the field. It’s what he does off the field, what he does in the film room. He works to be that great leader all around. In the weight room, the film room, the meeting room, it doesn’t matter. He works to fill that role. If you’re looking at a guy and they’re not working hard, not doing what they got to do, it’s easy not to give him much respect. But you see Joe, and he’s doing everything he needs to do in the classroom, off the field, on the field, he always has a positive attitude, he’s always pushing us, you can’t help but respect him,”

Senior wide receiver Michael Moore...

“Joe’s just a natural leader. He works hard, he’s vocal, and everybody brings it back to the Colorado game. You can’t lead much more than that, coming off the bench and putting the team in a position to win, and actually winning the game in the last second. All the attention is on Joe right now. Everybody knows you can go to Joe if you have a question. Joe has a connection with the whole team, and he’s definitely going to fit in that role.”

Redshirt freshman tailback Carlton Thomas...

“Joe’s very laid back. He’s cool to be with off the field, so you know how to approach him on the field. He’s not that type of guy that’s going to curse at you, but he’s such a cool guy that you say, ‘I don’t want to disappoint Joe. That’s my guy, so I’m going to do my thing right.’ He’s not going to cuss at you, he’s just going to look at you and say, ‘Hey, get it right.’ He’s calm, cool, and that’s what attracts me to him.”

Left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, whose job will be to protect Cox’s blind side this season...

“He has a confidence about himself that no matter what happens we’re going to always prevail. That’s something that Stafford had, too, but with Cox it’s more like, when you look at him, you know you’re looking at a champion, and his energy feeds into you to do the best you can. It’s just the confidence he gives off. I don’t know the critiques he’s being given by the commentators or the scouting reports, but when we look at him, we look at a ball player. And when we look at him, we’re ready to play.”

Head coach Mark Richt...

“Work ethic. He’s got charisma. Guys like being around him. They know he cares about them. They know he wants the team to succeed. They know he’s all about the team. They’ve seen him in practice every day know exactly what to do, hit his target day after day. They just believe in the guy.”

The final word, from Cox, on why he thought the rest of the team had rallied around him so quickly...

“I think people just know that I’m a Georgia guy at heart. I stayed around for four years when I didn’t play at all, and I think people respected that from me and want this to be a successful year for not only everybody, but for me, too. I think people have really bought in to the same things that I’ve been preaching about buying into. I think everybody’s just having a good time with this whole moment, building up to a big season with people doubting us. It’s a good feeling knowing that many guys think that highly of me, but it’s really all of our seniors and everything we’ve put into place since January.”

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