Bulldogs Beat

Georgia’s Rumph remains in the background

ATHENS -- Jonathon Rumph tends to keep a low profile.

He stays away from social media. There’s no Jonathon Rumph Twitter account to follow. The same goes for Instagram or any other public social forum. And he certainly doesn’t frequent the Georgia football message boards.

If he did, he might be a little more aware of his celebrity, of sorts, that has come about despite hardly being on the field.

“I feel like (not having social media) is good for me because I don’t have to pay attention to it, but a lot of guys come up to me laughing saying, ‘Did you see that?’ ” Rumph said. “No, I didn’t see it, but I always say fans will be fans. So you’ve got to accept it with the good or the bad. I love the fans. They just want to know.”

Until a few weeks ago, Rumph -- at least to the casual viewer -- seemed more like folklore than an actual Georgia football player. His 6-foot-5, 218-pound frame jumped off the page, exciting fans and coaches alike when he committed to the Bulldogs two years ago out of Holmes Community College in Mississippi.

Entering this season, his final year of eligibility, Rumph had only recorded seven catches. With four of those coming against Appalachian State in 2013, the memories were easily forgotten. So the fans’ constant cry of “What about Rumph?” was somewhat warranted.

Then, he was hit with the injury bug -- a hamstring injury -- that held him out eight weeks after a promising preseason.

“It was just another test to me, just another test to get through,” Rumph said.

His route to Georgia wasn’t the smoothest one.

Out of high school, Rumph hardly was recruited, which is rare for someone with his measurables. His grades “weren’t right,” according to Rumph, which is ultimately what forced him to take the junior college route. His two years at Holmes gave him a chance to “mature and keep (his) grades steady,” so that he could take on the life of a Division I athlete.

And while those two years helped Rumph, the person, it was yet another reason for the series of setbacks for Rumph, the football player.

“Every time the ball comes to me, I feel like I have to catch it to make up for lost time,” Rumph said. “Every opportunity I get when my number is called, I’ve got no choice but to make plays.”

He has done just that since his return. Two weeks ago, he caught four passes for 81 yards against Kentucky, reminding everyone he is very much still around to make a difference down the stretch for the Bulldogs. Last week, he celebrated his first touchdown to go along with a game-high five catches for 67 yards.

It was a fleeting glance into what he has been missing out on in his two years of relative ambiguity.

“Rumph has proven that if we throw him the ball, he’ll catch it and make some plays. He’s done a nice job of after the catch,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He’s not a blazer, but he’s a big, big man that’s a big target, done a nice job and gained the confidence of his coaches and quarterback.”

For coaches, particularly wide receivers coach Tony Ball, who recruited Rumph to Georgia, it’s a relief to finally see the production they all knew would eventually come from the senior receiver. But the questions of “what if” still linger.

“It’s good to see him out there and performing at a level where you can trust him. He’s demonstrating his ability to make plays,” Ball said. “One can only imagine what he would’ve been like had he been able to stay healthy. As he continues to progress, hopefully he’ll perform at that level.”