VALDOSTA – What does it mean to be a good teammate in today’s era of sports?
Teammates love each other, help each other, lift up each other and are always there for one another. You always hear there’s no “I” in team but individuals make up a team and it’s that bond between everyone that makes them fight for each other.
Two players I want to talk about as extraordinary teammates are Jalen Hurts from the University Of Alabama and Deandre Baker from the University Of Georgia.
Everyone knows the story about Hurts: he led Alabama to two National Championships but was sat down during the second half of the 2018 National Championship against Georgia. But let’s look deeper. As a freshman, he went 14-1 with his only loss coming to Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers. As a sophomore, he took a loss against Auburn. Through those two years, he was only defeated twice as a starter and was the big man on campus.
He knew he wasn’t the best quarterback but he wanted to get better. Sitting behind Hurts in 2017 was freshman,Tua Tagavailoa. In the second half of that National Championship against Georgia, Hurts was benched and Tagavailoa came in and saved the Crimson Tide and won the 2018 National Championship.
Forward to this season. Tagavailoa takes over the reigns with Hurts watching from the bench. Tagavailoa puts up big numbers and is a Heisman Finalist. In the SEC Championship a few weeks ago, Tagavailoa gets hurt and Hurts comes in, in the second half of the game. What happens after that is history. Hurts writes the perfect story of his career and saves Alabama once again against the team and in the same building he was benched in, in 2018 National Championship.
Hurts got better as a quarterback, he never complained, he supported his team and became the player that everyone looks up to and will look up for the rest of his days. Selfless and determined are the two words I would use to describe Hurts.
Let’s flip to another player that has shown selflessness in the last year: Deandre Baker. Baker is a Top Ten draft pick in this upcoming NFL draft, Top Cornerback and a selfless player and teammate.
Baker was a key player in Georgia’s trip to the 2018 National Championship. He didn’t allow a touchdown when covering a player all year.
In 2017, he had 44 total tackles, 3 interceptions and was a shutdown corner. He was easily a Top Ten draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft but he came back in 2018 for something he didn’t get in 2017: A National Championship. He came back for a chance to win that coveted title. It wasn’t guaranteed that Georgia was going to even have a winning season. But he was willing to give up millions of dollars and be a top draft pick for a National Championship and to come back and be with his teammates.
After a tough loss to Alabama, he wanted that Title. This season, he has had 40 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 9 passes defended and 1 forced fumble. His stats are ridiculous with the talent he was playing against in the SEC this year.
Coming back and the work he put in was all worth it for the 2018 season. Last night he won the Jim Thorpe award for being the best defensive back in the country. He’ll get to prove one more time how good he is and he’ll submit his legacy at the University of Georgia as the Bulldogs play the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl on January 1st.
These two players have shown the country what it means to be selfless, to work hard, to come back and play for something more than their selves. These are the kind of players I want my kids to look up to. Every current athlete and athletes to come should look at these two players and see what it means to be a teammate.