ATHENS -- Jay Rome hasn’t been able to play at what he’d consider a high level in more than two years.
Having dealt with numerous injuries in his career, which included a foot ailment that slowed him at the beginning of the 2014 season, Rome was unable to produce much for the Bulldogs. Knowing he couldn’t be the factor on the field he’d hoped to be, the Valdosta native channeled his focus elsewhere.
Rome wanted to build up teammate Jeb Blazevich in his place. The two struck up a friendship as mentor and pupil, and they have maintained that relationship since.
“Jay Rome, he’s still teaching me, we’re still helping each other,” Blazevich said.
Rome entered Georgia in the famed “Dream Team” recruiting class of 2011 as a top-tier tight end prospect. He was projected to follow in the footsteps of the tight ends who came through before him, which included Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch. But Rome has yet to live up to the hype. Injured throughout his career, Rome has only amassed 30 catches for 310 yards and three touchdowns in his three years.
Once Rome realized the 2014 season wouldn’t go his way, he began tutoring Blazevich to step into the top tight end spot he thought he might occupy.
“I saw (Blazevich) would be a guy that would help us out a lot,” Rome said. “Once I saw myself not getting back as quickly as I wanted to, not being able to do some of the things physically that I was expecting to be able to do, I took it upon myself to take him under my wing and really make sure he was ready to handle whatever needed to be handled. He’s done an outstanding job at that.”
With receivers Chris Conley and Michael Bennett graduating from last year’s team, Blazevich is actually Georgia’s leading returning receiver from a year ago with 269 yards and two touchdowns.
Rome is finally healthy and said he’s feeling as good as he has in a long time. And it comes at a great time for the fifth-year senior. Although the offense isn’t expected to change much philosophically under new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the tight ends should see some more time as receiving targets.
As an NFL offensive coordinator with the New York Jets from 2006-2011 and with the St. Louis Rams from 2012-2014, the top tight end in Schottenheimer’s offense posted an average of 565.8 yards per season. The most successful tight end under Schottenheimer was Dustin Keller in 2011, which saw Keller go for 815 yards and five touchdowns. There could be some situations where both Rome and Blazevich work in tandem on the field this season.
“Just having him coach in the NFL, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be better at the college level,” Blazevich said. “But seeing him day in and day out has proved he’s going to take us to the top.”
Rome is ready for his final season with the Bulldogs and hopes to make up for lost time.
“I learned a lot over these last couple of years, especially about myself,” Rome said. “I wouldn’t change what’s happened. It’s made me a better person. It’s humbled me a lot. It’s taught me that no matter what happens, life is going to throw you obstacles sometimes that you can’t control. You just have to keep working hard and keep pushing forward.”