In two years, Jake Fromm has done most everything a collegian can do. He was a starter by his second game. He chased off two quarterbacks who’d been higher-ranked recruits. He led his team to a conference title. He took his team to the national championship game. Even for a guy who was a four-year starter at Houston County High in Warner Robins — and, before that, a star in the Little League World Series — that’s a lot.
On Tuesday, the young man who has pretty much done it all experienced something new. He took part in the color and pageantry — pause for eye roll — of SEC Media Days. He dressed for the occasion, wearing a blue suit, a blue oxford shirt with “JF” monogrammed on the cuff and a pink bow tie. He looked the part of a big-time quarterback, which he absolutely is.
There are some who still insist that Jacob Eason, whose injury opened the door for Fromm, has the stronger arm, and that Justin Fields, whose challenge to Fromm’s No. 1 status fizzled on the launch pad, is more gifted. But there’s a reason Eason left for Washington and Fields for Ohio State: Fromm was simply the better player. If you’re a coach, you can’t just look at the arm or the legs — not at this position. You have to look at the guy. And when Kirby Smart looks at Fromm, he sees Georgia’s one indispensable man.
Smart on Fromm: “He plays the game of football the way you’d want it to be played. He comes to practice every day with a smile on his face. He’s competing. He’s challenging people. … He’s the leader of our program, the face of our organization. He checks every single box.”
Fromm won’t turn 21 until July 30, but he has long seemed — to borrow from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, not to be confused with Amos Alonzo Stagg — “learned in all the lore of old men, in all youthful sports and pastimes.” That’s a high-falutin’ way of saying he conducts himself like a coach. Indeed, if you removed the names from the top of a printed transcript, you might confuse Fromm’s Media Days responses with Smart’s.
On Tuesday, Fromm hit every UGA talking point. He underscored the 2019 theme: “The key to this whole offseason has been to Do More, and we’ve been doing a lot more in the weight room, conditioning and every way possible.” He acknowledged that really good, for Georgia, is no longer good enough: “The bar definitely has been raised. You’ve got to play to a standard. We didn’t feel like we played to a standard every single game we played last year.”
Most of all, he played tone-setter in the way every coach wants from his quarterback: “What I’m doing is going to work every day, trying to teach younger guys, trying make them learn the system that’s going to help us during camp. That’s going to help me when guys around me learn it and know what to do. Just trying to push those guys in the weight room, make guys push more weight, run more sprints and trying to become better physically and in better shape. I’m learning to push guys and become a better leader. I’m really just trying to dive into the locker room and be the best teammate I can be.”
Then: “How can I make this team be the best team it can be? How can I win a football game? ... I’m trying to hook up with (the younger players) and be the best servant leader I can be.”
Servant leader. From a 20-year old. You don’t hear that every day.
There’s a chance the Bulldogs mightn’t be hearing it beyond January. For all the grumbles about Fromm’s lack of arm strength, the earliest mock drafts project him as a top-10 pick in 2020. He’s a junior, but it would be hard to stick around for a senior year if the NFL already held you in such high esteem.
Said Smart: “If you’re going to be a top 15 pick, you need to go. You need to go out early – that’s for certain. But to determine who those top 15 picks are, you can’t just play the game (of mock-drafting). It’s a little bit of problem for college football right now. There’s just so many experts at (mocking). If you see across the bottom line, you don’t know the source. We try to go to the general managers and get factual information.”
Someone then asked if Smart, who worked in the NFL, believes Fromm can play in the league. His answer: “He can play on Sundays. He’s a three-year quarterback. He’s what they look for — a quarterback who can change the protection, make decisions, distribute the ball. Yeah, he’s going to be a pro.”
Asked if he ever thinks that the season ahead might be his last as a amateur, Fromm said: “For me, no sir. I think it’s a little immature to think like that at the time. Me and my family haven’t really talked about it at all. For me right now, (it’s) how can I go in and be the best teammate and the best leader I can for this football team, and how can I win every single game I play in?”
“No, sir.” Can’t beat manners.
Which isn’t to say that Fromm is some goody two-shoes. Were that the case, the Bulldogs wouldn’t have warmed to him the way they did Sept. 2, 2017, when he was called into emergency service on the third series of his first collegiate game and owned the huddle by halftime. There’s a reason Smart never empowered Eason or Fields the way he has Fromm. This coach trusts this quarterback. He trusted him at age 19, trusted him to win in the nation’s best conference. As a direct consequence, Georgia won the nation’s best conference, and then nearly did it again.
“It’s just part of the role,” Fromm said of being a quarterback/leader. “It’s definitely what I signed up for.”
The only thing left is to take this team to a national title. It would be no shock if, on Jan. 13 in New Orleans, he checks that box.
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