ATHENS -- The nerves started settling in.
Jake Ganus was standing on the sideline when he could feel a knot beginning to form in his stomach. No, it wasn’t before kickoff of Saturday’s 52-20 win over South Carolina. Ganus doesn’t get nervous before games, he said. It was with about five minutes remaining in Georgia’s blowout when nervousness began to creep through his body.
Teammates started nudging Ganus as they walked by and asked if he was ready. Ganus had just been pulled from the game with Georgia’s backups finishing off the win. Ganus’ attention started shifting from football to proposing to longtime girlfriend Peyton Thomas at midfield on the Georgia “G.”
“I was really focused on the game, and I was locked in,” Ganus said. “I think about five minutes left in the fourth, we’re up by (32), and they took me out. So then I’m out of the game, thinking, ‘I really gotta do this.’ ”
Having watched countless proposal videos with Thomas, Ganus wanted to go all out and create a memory she wouldn’t forget. He got help from Georgia athletics video producer Chris Gilmore, who filmed Ganus as he walked Thomas to midfield while clutching the small black box he kept her diamond engagement ring in.
“As we’re walking to the ‘G,’ there are like 10 cameras around,” Ganus said. “She still doesn’t even know. She’s like, ‘What’s going on, why are these people here?’ I think I did a really good job surprising her. She’s pretty smart, too, so I’m happy I surprised her.”
Leading up to the game, Ganus wanted to make sure Thomas wouldn’t have an inclination at what he was planning.
Ganus told her he was being honored as Georgia’s “Senior of the Week,” an award that doesn’t exist. But one of the perks of this fictitious award, Ganus told Thomas, was that he could invite family and friends onto the field to take pictures in celebration.
That, combined with concealing the ring and other information, as well as keeping his and her family in the loop, proved to be tough. But Ganus got the plan off without a hitch, with Thomas saying yes. The proposal went viral shortly after the game when pictures were posted to social media sites.
Ganus’ teammates knew he was going to propose, and outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said he watched it from the tunnel leading to the locker room.
“I was really excited to see that happen,” Jenkins said. “One of the funniest things I heard him say about it was that it got her 11,000 (Instagram) followers, and he only got like five from it.”
Ganus met Thomas after moving to Chelsea, Alabama from Alpharetta before the start of his freshman year of high school. The two began dating as high school sophomores and have been in a relationship ever since.
The two continued dating at UAB, where Ganus was a star safety and linebacker for three seasons. But when UAB initially decided to cancel its football program in December, it left Ganus without a program to play for. He was forced to look for a new school, and Georgia recruited him to join its program.
Thomas now travels to home Georgia games from Birmingham and was on hand wearing red and black for Saturday’s game.
“I didn’t get to witness it, but he said it went as good as he could have hoped,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “A lot of his teammates were out there with him to enjoy the moment.”
Ganus has been a bright spot for a Georgia defense that has held its opponents to 16.0 points per game. Against the Gamecocks, before proposing to his now-fiancee, Ganus totaled a team-high seven tackles.
Everything went according to play for Ganus on Saturday. But what if the Bulldogs would have lost? Well, there was a contingency plan in place. Thankfully, Ganus said, he didn’t have to go that route.
“I told her that ‘Senior of the Week’ only happens after a win,” Ganus said. “If we would have lost, I would have to come up with a whole new plan. I’m glad we won.”