My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Catching Up With... Ray Gant

So one of the semi-regular features I hoped to do with this blog was a once-a-week (hopefully) interview with a former Bulldog -- catching up on what they're doing now, what they think about the current crop of Georgia players and anything else that happens to be of interest.

I haven't had a ton of time to set these interviews up and, for all I know, I may not have a whole lot more time as we go forward, but I'd still like to try to do this as often as possible.

So, for the first installment, I chatted with former Georgia defensive tackle Ray Gant.

Gant was part of head coach Mark Richt's first recruiting class and was a part of two SEC Championship teams. More importantly from my point of view, Gant may have been the best quote of any player I covered in my first two years with the team.

Gant spent this spring playing arena football with the Spokane Shock and South Georgia Wildcats (in Albany). His Wildcats team won its division and was a No. 2 seed in the af2 playoffs, but lost in the first round.

I caught up with Ray today to discuss his future playing football, the maturation of Dannell Ellerbe, the pressure that comes with high expectations and -- a topic we both enjoy -- how much Reggie Ball stunk.


David Hale: So I just got back from the morning session of two-a-days, how much are you missing doing that?

Ray Gant: Man, it's one of those things, you miss them because you know the season was coming up, but man if you didn't hate it when it was going on.

DH: So what have you been up to since you left Georgia?

RG: I went down to Tampa (the Buccaneers) and injured my chest. I got cut, got released and then I took a little time off. I was the athletic director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of American here in Gwinnett, and then I decided I wanted to give it another shot. The arena came around, and I went to the Spokane Shock. My son had a little illness, and I was far away from home. I didn't know much about arena ball, so I didn't even know we had a team in South Georgia, but once I found that out, the decision to come back was easy.

DH: How hard of a transition is that going from playing high-level college ball to moving indoors to arena ball?

RG: Man, it's ridiculous. The game itself is 10 times faster than the outdoor game. It's a lot more aggressive in terms of, you got the boards over there, and it's a completely different ballgame. In the outdoor game, playing D line, to get to the quarterback you've usually got about four seconds. Guys sitting back there now, it's cut down to about 2.5. If you're not there, the ball is out pretty quick.

DH: So with that season under your belt, where do you see yourself going from here?

RG: I have a few opportunities with Arena1 teams, and at the most I'll give myself another season of arena2 if I don't get picked up. Right now, arena football is where I'm leaning towards. ... I'm just trying to stay in the loop and stay in the game somehow and try to get back up to the top.

DH: Speaking of staying in the game, have you followed much of what your old teammates have been doing in Athens so far this year?

RG: I'm really close to Dannell Ellerbe and Kade Weston, but those are the only two that are still there that I'm really close with. I've talked to Knowshon a couple times. I'm excited, real excited. I know my boy Dannell is just going to be a beast this year.

DH: I just talked to him this morning and he said he hadn't laid anybody out in practice yet.

RG: They're probably trying to keep him tempo'ed down a little bit. It's going to be a long season.

DH: You were on some pretty good teams at Georgia, but the national hype that surrounds this team this year is huge. Have you talked to any of the guys about what that's meant to them so far? Or how does it feel like to you to see all this?

RG: For me, it's great, knowing that I was a part of Coach Richt's first recruiting class and helped get them to where they can be the No. 1 preseason team in the country. So for me and Mario Raley and Tony Taylor and Martrez Milner, Danny Verdun, guys like that, when we talk about it, it's a great feeling for us. Even though it's a completely different team, we had our share of help in winning games and getting back in the spotlight and all that.

For these guys though, there's no pressure on us, so it's all fun and games for us guys, bragging to our teammates we play with now, guys who went to Florida or LSU, "Yeah, we're No.1," and there's no pressure. It's fun for us, but I can tell being on the phone with Dannell, there's a lot of pressure. It's welcomed pressure though.

DH: You were a part of some good defenses, a couple of years ago you had pitched back-to-back shutouts, and the defense has always been sort of under the radar. This year, with Knowshon getting Heisman talk and Stafford being a potential No.1 draft pick, how underrated do you think this year's defense is?

RG: I feel like the media have their offensive guys like always, but like I said, Dannell is a kid I've watched his whole career, and it's just a matter of time before he breaks out and does great things. Then we've got young guys on the line like Geno Atkins, who doesn't get a lot of hype, doesn't get a lot of TV time, but the kid's a monster. It's only a matter of time before people wake up and see that stuff.

Then you've Reshad Jones playing safety. Guys like Asher Allen, Prince Miller. Rod Battle, who has waited his time and done a great job. I think our defense has a lot of great playmakers, if not as many as we had in my time. I played there with David Pollack and Quentin Moses, Odell Thurman, but I think there's just as many big-name guys on that defense now as ever, and as soon as Game 1 starts, people will start seeing it.

DH: You mentioned Dannell a few times, and I know you guys are close. I remember early in his career, you could see the talent there, but maybe it didn't totally translate to on the field. How proud are you to see what he's developed the last couple years?

RG: I hit Dannell a couple days ago when I was watching the college preview, and he's been through a lot. I've seen it firsthand from being his host when he first came on his official visit out of high school to being the guy who, when he was a freshman and sophomore coming and hanging out in my room. So I've seen what he's gone through not just on the field, but in everything he does off the field, like the little knucklehead stuff like getting in trouble or not going to class -- all the things that I used to get in trouble for. He watched me go through that stuff, and I think it helped him, too. You've got guys who have been through things like he's been through, and we're just on him constantly. I probably text him once a week and just say, "Yo, stay out of trouble. Make sure you're at class." Because he's there. He has everything he's worked for right in front of him, and you'd hate to see him not capitalize on his opportunities.

DH: OK, one last thing, and maybe it's not so much of a question, but I've heard that if I ask you about Reggie Ball, you'll tell me some funny things.

RG: Oh, man, that cat Reggie Ball, what can I say? Reggie was a good athlete, but when I was playing at Georgia I used to love to make comments about him because Reggie's a hot head. If you start going off about, you're too short, you're 5-8, you can't throw the ball, it's going to get under his skin. So of course, I thought it was funny. But I hope he's doing well. I don't know where he's playing at now, where he's playing, but all I can say is, six years, it didn't happen.


Ray was, of course, referring to Georgia's six-year winning streak over Ball's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, which I'm sure is a juicy little piece of trash talk that he breaks out often.

Anyway, I'm hoping to do plenty more of these throughout the rest of the year. If you have suggestions on some players you'd like to hear about, I'll be happy to try to track them down. If you have specific questions you want asked, I'll see what I can do about that, too.

Now, while Ray enjoys the rest of his afternoon, I'm headed back to two-a-days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good stuff. Keep 'em coming!