ATLANTA — I got a text message from my daughter, Miriam Godwin, just minutes before the Southeastern Conference Championship football game between Georgia v. Auburn. She simply stated, “They just showed Thomas praying over Fromm before the game.”
Miriam was referring to Thomas Settles, the chaplain of the University of Georgia football team, and Jake Fromm, the UGA Bulldogs freshman quarterback.
I don’t know if God has any interest in football, but I know Thomas Settles, who also happens to be one of our Georgia Baptist pastors, and I am confident that he was praying the kind of prayer that would touch the heart of God and merit God’s response.
There were likely as many people praying for the Auburn Tigers as there were praying for the Georgia Bulldogs. Both teams had fabulous seasons. Auburn beat Georgia on Nov. 11 and Georgia was the victor over Auburn when it counted most in the Dec. 2 championship game.
In the first game at Auburn, the Bulldogs got the ball at the beginning of the game and marched down the field for a touchdown, but Auburn responded and actually dominated the rest of the game and won 40-17. However, the championship game was the mirror image of the first game. Auburn got the kickoff, marched down the field, and scored a touchdown. But Georgia dominated the game from halfway through the first quarter to the end of the game, winning 28-7.
Roquan Smith, a linebacker from Montezuma, who recovered two fumbles and was a one-man wrecking crew on defense, was named the 2017 SEC Championship Game’s Most Valuable Player. After the game it was also announced that Smith became the first Bulldog player to win the Butkus Award, a prestigious honor given to the nation’s best linebacker each season.
Then, of course the two senior UGA tailbacks, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, are a threat to score on any play and have amassed over 2,000 rushing yards this season.
However, the two Georgia Bulldogs that stand out most in my mind are Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm.
Eason emerged on the scene last year as a five-star quarterback from Lake Stevens, WA. He was regarded as America’s best pro-style quarterback and best player overall in the 2016 high school senior class. Eason did not start in the first game of the 2016 season for Georgia, but came in on Georgia’s fourth possession of that first game against North Carolina and started every game thereafter, leading Georgia to eight wins including a victory over Texas Christian University in the Liberty Bowl.
As the practices started for the Bulldogs in 2017 Fromm began to give Eason some stiff competition for the starting job at quarterback. He was also a five-star recruit, but from Houston County High School in Warner Robins, where he had 12,745 passing yards and 116 touchdowns in his high school career.
Eason started the first game of the 2017 season against Appalachian State, but suffered an injury. Fromm replaced him and started every game for the rest of the season.
After Eason had recovered from his injury, it was evident that coach Kirby Smart was going to stick with Fromm as his starting quarterback. Eason never gave any indication that he was envious of Fromm’s position as starting quarterback. In fact, when the television cameras showed Eason on the sidelines he was always engaged in the game and gave ample evidence of support and encouragement to the team and Fromm in particular.
Coach Smart indicated that Eason has been a team player all the way. UGAsports.com reported Smart as saying, “I think he (Eason) is doing a great job. He’s been mature, he’s handling things the right way.”
Julian Rochester, Bulldog defensive lineman, added, “He smiles every day. Jacob smiles every day.” While many great players beat their chests after some sparkling achievement on the gridiron, and while bravado is the order of the day for running backs and wide receivers who score touchdowns and defensive linemen who sack quarterbacks, Eason has demonstrated humility and a positive attitude even though he probably has the credentials and talent to start for most college teams in America.
When asked about his relationship to Eason, Fromm replied, “Jacob has been awesome. He has been there every step of the way. He will cut up and laugh with me. He will help me out with the film. He is there on the sidelines to tell me what’s going on. He has been incredible. I couldn’t thank him enough for the help he has been to me.”
It is obvious that Eason has worked really hard to get himself back in position to be given the opportunity to start as the UGA quarterback again. Although it hasn’t happened, he has surely sharpened Fromm’s ability and competitive nature and through his maturity helped the team immeasurably. In other words, he seems to care greatly about the team’s success and cares far less about whether or not he gets any credit for it.
On the other hand, Fromm has gotten a lot of credit, but it doesn’t seem to go to his head. After the championship game the quarterback was profuse in praising his teammates. He indicated that he wanted to see the team win for the sake of the seniors on the team. He also praise the offensive linemen, saying, “I love those guys. They take care of me. They are awesome guys … My teammates make it easy for me.”
Fromm also took a lap around the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after the game to thank the Georgia fans for their support, but his references to God were most heartwarming. On the Friday before the big game, he wrote on his Twitter account, Jakefromstatefromm, the words of Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
In an interview with WMAZ TV in Macon, Lee Fromm, Jake’s mother, stated, “Faith is important to him and it always has been. He reads his Bible every day before he gets out of bed, prays before and after every game, and encourages his teammates to trust in the lord.”
After the championship game Fromm was interviewed and explained, “God is never going to put me in a situation that is too big for me. I know that going in and I know I’m saved … so in the grand scheme of things everything is great.”
One reporter asked Fromm, “Except for the loss at Auburn this has been a kind of Cinderella year for you? Is there anything you would change about this year?”
He replied, “I don’t know. It’s kind of written – God wrote the script a long, long time ago. He had it all planned out and I am glad he included me in the (script).”