Courtesy of Athens Banner Herald:
HOOVER, Ala. – There was a time when Mohamed Massaquoi would probably have been voted the least likely Georgia player to want to spend several hours answering questions like he did willingly Thursday at SEC Media Days.
“You grow up,” the senior wide receiver said with a laugh and a smile.
Massaquoi has matured into the glue that holds Georgia’s wide receiving corps together.
It wasn’t the Florida game last year when Massaquoi scored on an 84-yard touchdown that he punctuated with his own version of the Gator chomp that showed his true value to Georgia. Nor was it the “blackout” game against Auburn when the Charlotte native helped turn the lights out on Auburn with a 58-yard catch for another score.
Try a run-of-the-mill practice last season when Massaquoi was stinking up the joint.
“On that day nobody had a good day and I’m livid,” Georgia receivers coach John Eason said recently. “I told him ‘We’ve got to talk.’ I said ‘Do you realize what just happened at this practice?’ He said ‘I saw it.’ ”
“I actually remember that practice,” Massaquoi said. “He holds me accountable for a lot.”
Georgia’s receivers, which this year will include stud recruit A.J. Green and promising freshman Tavarres King, follow Massaquoi’s example.
For better and worse. He’s what coach Mark Richt calls “the keeper of the gate.”
“The key for us as a group of wide receivers is Massaquoi,” Eason said. “If Massaquoi practices well, everyone practices well. He’s the leader. He’s not going to say very much. He’s not going to talk at all, but his work ethic and just his demeanor, they’re going to follow his lead.”
“It’s an honor to even be in that situation to know that you have influence of your teammates and they respect you,” Massaquoi said.
The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Massaquoi experienced his share of drops and boos from the Sanford Stadium crowd earlier in his career.
“You go through growing pains but it just makes you stronger,” Massaquoi said. “It allows you to either do three things-to man up, to quit or allows you to continue on the same path you were. It just shows your character if you’re able to overcome those certain situations. I just thank my teammates for just continuing to help me along the way and develop and just make me into a better player.”
Massaquoi emerged as big-play capable last season at flanker when he scored a career-high four touchdowns. The coaches voted him to their preseason All-SEC second team.
“I think one of the things that may have hampered Massaquoi early is being more into the boundary,” Eason said. “Then after moving him to the field, he started to flourish.”
He had 32 catches for 491 yards last season, below the 38 for 505 he had as a freshman.
“Mohamed’s suffered somewhat,” Richt said. “His second year, (quarterback Matthew) Stafford’s a rookie. He’s throwing it to the defense more than he’s throwing it to the offense. He’s not sure what’s going on. The next year, a receiver is going to suffer when the offensive line can’t really hold up and protect all day. I think Matthew’s going to benefit just like Mohamed’s going to benefit from the maturity up front.”
Massaquoi wants to end his Bulldogs career at his peak.
“With that, I don’t know what numbers or how many touchdowns or anything like that,” Massaquoi said. “I just want to go out and play the best football I can.”