Joe Cox's last, muted hurrah comes Monday in Shreveport with the Advocare 100 Independence Bowl. Not exactly the stirring epilogue he envisioned to a career spent waiting to lead Georgia this single season.
It's hard to find glory in northwest Louisiana this time of the year.
Stepping in at quarterback for Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the last NFL draft, was daunting. Directing the Bulldogs to a rare five-loss season and into the wilderness of the unranked was disappointing.
His red hair buzzed to the scalp, Cox has the look of a G.I. Joe.
His record at Georgia is that of an Ordinary Joe.
But Cox is his own kind of Joe, a thoughtful young man at the end of his college days who never has been shy about expressing himself. Whatever else may have been going on, he always made for a good listen.
Here is an exit interview with the Bulldogs senior QB, a final cup of Joe for the road:
Q: Shreveport. Is that a reward or a punishment?
A: It certainly wasn't our goal to go 7-5 and go to Shreveport. That's the cards we got dealt, and we have to handle it maturely and still approach it like it's another big game. It don't care if it was in the middle of nowhere on a high school field, I'm excited to play.
Q: At least you get to go in on something of a good note, after beating Georgia Tech, right?
A: That game was bigger than I thought it was going to be. After they beat us last year, it was miserable around the state for all Georgia fans to have to hear the Tech fans that came out of the woodwork. We could sense it once we got to the game — this one was huge. It was crazy when you saw how well we played on both sides of the ball against them. You're happy that you won, but at the same time it's like, "Man, how come we couldn't have done this more?"
Q: What was your take on the season?
A: Look at it, at one point in the season, we had lost to the No. 1 team in the country (Florida), the No. 4 team in the country (LSU) and the No. 9 team in the country (Oklahoma State). And people talk about how much a failure the season was.
In a way, it was. But it was a really weird year. We had moments where I feel, if we had played like that all year, we could have played with anybody. And we had moments where it seemed like nothing could go our way.
But we all stuck together, and that was probably the best thing about our season. It didn't matter how bad things got or how much people were talking about us or our coaches, we all kind of stayed together.
Q: After you play your last game, are you going to let us know how bad your shoulder [a lingering nerve problem] really is?
Q: Or how sick [with the flu] you were during the Oklahoma State game?
A: I always could use that as an excuse. I was sick. But I felt well enough to play and wanted to play and I did. It just didn't work out.
Q: You graduated this month [with a degree in psychology]. Did you learn more about human behavior from your classes or from spending a year as Georgia's starting quarterback?
A: [Laughing] I learned more the last year at quarterback.
[As a result] I feel like I can take anything from anybody. I've heard it all, got it from all different angles. People have said a lot of things about me that would tear a lot of people down. I knew that, no matter what, there would always be people who were not fans of what I did or how I did it. This was a big stage I was on. I probably won't be on a stage this big anymore. I'll be able to handle anything.
Q: What does the future hold? Many assume you're going straight to coaching. Where do you see yourself next football season?
A: I really don't know. I would like to coach. I think that would be an awesome job. At the same time, I might want to take some time off before I get back into that.
People I talk to ask, "What are you interested in, what are you good at?" I don't know. I've never had a job. I don't know if there's something [else] I'm good at or something I'd like doing, because I've never tried it.
Q: Facing criticism, did you grow cynical about fans this season?
A: Let's say this, sometimes it's mind-boggling listening to what people say. The toughest thing about it is you know that a lot of people who criticize have never been in the position you're in. You're living something you've dreamed about your whole life. They may have dreamed the same thing and never gotten there, yet they're willing to tell you what you're doing wrong and to tear you down.
What a lot of people forget is that [players] want to win too. We're the guys who feel the most pain when we lose. You might have one of your buddies from the other school we play run his mouth, but we're the guys who are forever in the record books as losing that game to that other team.
Q: You've said throughout the season that you don't read blogs. You don't even have a Facebook account. You don't Twitter. Will that change when you quit playing?
A: I'm not going to get into any of that — ever.
Q: Well, at least no one blamed you for killing Uga VII, or did they?
A: I don't know. I hear there was talk around a picture of me petting him right before the Auburn game [Uga's last].
Q: Before this season began, you were quoted as saying, "I just want to make good memories of all of it this year." What are the memories you take away?
A: You want to remember the best ones. I'm always going to remember Tech. I'm always going to remember [wins against] Auburn and Arkansas. You try to remember the best points of the year, but we had a lot of bad things I'm going to remember.
Every time I see Florida or a Gator symbol, I'm going to think about my senior year and how we got beat by them (41-17). That will be something in the back of my head forever.
Q: Speaking of Florida, I'm sure you watched the SEC Championship game. How did you feel about Tim Tebow crying at the end?
A: [In Athens] you hear about how much people loved seeing it.
But to get so far — one last game before a national championship game appearance — I can't fault him for being that emotional. It was tough to see that. After this year, I know what he's going through, I feel that pain.
Q: You ever play the what-if game, like what if I had gone to Duke [the first school that offered Cox a scholarship] instead?
A: No, not at all. Any time you think about what-if scenarios, you can drive yourself crazy. It's not worth it.
Q: One of the enduring themes since you arrived in 2005 has been your affection for Georgia. Anything about that change with this season?
A: No, I'll miss [Georgia]. I'll miss everything. I met a lot of great people here. I got my degree here. My coaches have been father figures away from home for me. Nothing's changed.
It has been a great five years, whether I was on the bench, whether I was playing, whether I was getting booed, whether people were cheering for me. It has been a phenomenal experience. I taught me a lot about myself, taught me a lot about people. This place has given me a lot to use the rest of my life.
I didn't come here because I thought the people would like me here. I came here because it was a place I thought best fit me and a place I dreamed about going to. I feel just as blessed to have come here as I did when I signed to come here.
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