ATHENS -- Ray Drew felt he had to repeat himself.
The previous week he had told media members he was “retiring from interviews.” A week later, he was meeting them again.
“Apparently everybody didn’t get the memo,” he said. “So I am stating it again: I am retiring, as of today, effective immediately. So no more, no more, no more, no more.”
He laughed. So did the media, one of whom informed him that if Drew stopped doling out his memorable quotes it would affect their livelihoods.
Drew is a first-team quote, full of colorful quotes and metaphors. And last year he finally emerged as a first-team defensive end, at least for Georgia, with the potential to be one in the SEC this year as a senior.
But there’s a rub to those plans: Under Georgia’s new defensive staff, is Drew still a starter?
Not much for much of this spring.
After what coaches deemed a poor set of practices, Drew found himself demoted all the way to third team.
“It was a bit of a humbling experience,” Drew said. “I think everyone needs that from time to time, whereas you might not feel that you’ve lost your sense of being humble. It puts it into perspective for you real quick.”
Within a week, Drew earned a promotion -- but only to second team. Once again, he’s having to prove himself.
It’s yet another deviation in the journey that four years ago was supposed to result in Drew becoming a star. The Thomasville native was a five-star recruit, one of the ringleaders of Georgia’s so-called Dream Team class.
But he hardly played his first two years, and he started slowly again last season. That’s when he memorably compared to his career to a crock pot: Whereas some careers started hot as if in a microwave, Drew’s would cook slowly.
It seemed the perfect analogy after he finally earned a starting spot last year, finishing second on the team with six sacks.
But under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and new defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, every player has to show something this spring.
“Ray’s had some good moments, just like everybody on the team,” Pruitt said. “He’s just gotta continue to work hard. Just take it one drill at a time, one play at a time.”
Drew is saying all the right things about the demotion. After all, he could find himself back on first team very quickly.
And he says that it did make him work harder.
“I don’t know what the thinking was behind it, all I know is I can control what I do from here on out,” he said. “Hopefully it was a motivational deal, and by the time the season rolls around I’ll still be out there. But that’s gonna be up to me.”
Sterling Bailey, who will be a junior this fall, has spent the most time at first-team defensive end. Other players who have seen first-team action include James DeLoach, John Taylor and Toby Johnson.
But this is just spring. The team awaits the arrival this summer of Lorenzo Carter, a five-star recruit who could play end or outside linebacker.
So Drew and the other players might need to make a move now.
”I wouldn’t mind having that starting position, as any player would,” Drew said. “It didn’t bother me too much -- maybe that first day it messed with me just a little bit. Then I realized, well you know who you are, you’re not a third-string type of guy. It shouldn’t matter where I’m at, just as long as I’m out there giving it my all.”