Patience pays off for Georgia defensive back William Poole

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

ATHENS — Each Georgia football player has a brief bio in the Bulldogs’ media guide. It includes a little about their personal background, their high school athletic accomplishments and recruiting profile, and a season-by-season review of their statistical production and career highlights.

Heading into last season, William Poole’s bio included a lot of zeroes.

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Interactively updated online throughout the year, that continued to be the case for Poole until the end of the regular season. Then came the SEC Championship game. Having played behind Latavious Brini at Georgia’s nickel-back position all season, Poole was tabbed to start against Alabama in the SEC Championship game.

It didn’t go well.

Not just for Poole, mind you. Georgia’s entire secondary was torched by quarterback Bryce Young to the tune of 421 yards passing and 536 yards of offense in a 41-24 loss that cost the Bulldogs’ their No. 1 national ranking.

“Personally, I'm a Georgia kid; I was a fan even before this. I was recruited by Mark Richt and everything. So, I decided this is the best place for me. Whatever happens, happens. I'm just going to continue to work."

- Georgia defensive back William Poole

There were a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which was Georgia’s failure to pressure the passer. But because Poole was the new wrinkle in the defensive plan and had at least one notable coverage gaffe in the contest, he drew the ire of fans looking for a scapegoat.

“I saw a lot of things that were being said,” Poole said after the Bulldogs’ seventh spring practice Tuesday. “But one thing about it, my coaches had my back. After that game, they let me know the things I messed up and the things I could get corrected. So, we went back to the drawing board, and those next couple weeks, we went out there with a different game plan and had success.”

There’s an extremely happy ending to this story. Not only did Poole continue to man the nickel position – which Georgia calls the “star” – for the remainder of the season, but you may have heard that the Bulldogs won the national championship game over Alabama.

And Poole played a big part in the rematch, as well. Early on, his pass breakup on a third-down play resulted in the Crimson Tide settling for a field goal. And lost in the exhilarating ending that was Kelee Ringo rambling 79 yards with an interception return for a touchdown was another pass breakup by Poole on the previous play.

“That was a big moment for me,” Poole said, grinning wide at the memory. “I kind of got up screaming. I had to let everything out. That was something I was waiting for, for a long time.”

All this makes Poole a modern-day unicorn of sorts. In the age of the transfer portal, Poole has chosen instead to stick it out. After entering last season having played in only 22 of 53 games with one career start, Poole played a huge role in the last three of the 2021 season, starting two. Those, by the way, were the biggest ones.

And now Poole enters 2022 as a sixth-year senior who is being counted on in a rebuilt Georgia secondary. That’s a good feeling for the former four-star prospect from Hapeville Charter Academy.

Yes, he said he contemplated transferring. But Poole opted instead to let things play out where he was.

“There’s always uncertainty in anything you do,” said Poole, who now has 27 career tackles and four pass breakups. “Personally, I’m a Georgia kid; I was a fan even before this. I was recruited by Mark Richt and everything. So, I decided this is the best place for me. Whatever happens, happens. I’m just going to continue to work.”

It certainly paid off last season, both for Poole and the Bulldogs.