It was just one touchdown in a game in which Georgia scored seven, but you might’ve thought Charlie Woerner’s against Georgia Tech on Saturday clinched a championship for the way the Bulldogs celebrated.
The fact is, the 20-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was the first of Woerner’s career. That it happened in the 12th game of his senior season meant it arrived with more than a little anticipation.
“I didn’t realize that was his first. Awesome!” coach Kirby Smart said after the Bulldogs’ 52-7 victory. “Think about how many blocks that guy’s had to one touchdown. You think about it.”
Indeed, Woerner’s primary responsibility as a tight end in his four seasons has been to block, and he has done that quite well. That is what has kept him on the field for 51 games and 17 starts since arriving four years ago at UGA from Tiger, Ga.
The truth is, everybody expected more out of the athletic Woerner in the passing game. A former decathlete, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior remains one of the fastest and strongest in his position group. But a fluke of factors have kept the ball from coming his way very often, and until Saturday, never in the end zone.
But if there was ever an individual who embraced the team concept, it has been Woerner. A member of the Bulldogs’ leadership committee since his sophomore season, Woerner is always espousing the importance of being a team player and just focusing on doing one’s job, whatever that happened to be on any given play.
For Woerner, that’s usually been to block and to share snaps with others at his position.
“We give it our all every day,” Woerner said of the tight end rotation, which includes graduate Eli Wolf and redshirt freshman John FitzPatrick this season, “for the team and for each other.”
That said, the absence of a touchdown catch from his career resume was starting to get on some nerves. Not Woerner’s as much as those of his fiancée, Sydney Gilliam.
Gilliam, a fellow UGA student, has her own blog called “Fearlessly Freckled,” in which she writes about an assortment of topics . Last week, her subject was Woerner and his rain-soaked Senior Day. She wrote proudly about Woerner’s selflessness, but she also mentioned feeling bad for his zero touchdown receptions.
“Charlie’s senior season has been tough, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Gilliam wrote. “His preparation before the season was incredible, but nothing ever seemed to fall in his favor. … While Charlie is nearing the end of his college football career his touchdown count remains at zero. However, the lives he has touched might just outdo Rodrigo’s all-time score record (Go Rod!) and for that, I’m so thankful.”
So is Woerner’s uncle, Scott Woerner — an All-American defensive back and punt returner on the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship team and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Uncle Scott communicates with Charlie at least once a week. And, of course, he attends most games.
“He’s definitely shared a lot of memories with me from his glory days and everything,” Charlie said with a grin. “I talk to both my aunt and uncle, Marianne and Scott, a lot. Every week we’re texting here and there. He doesn’t really give me much advice. He just makes sure I’m enjoying football and enjoying my time here. We don’t really get too deep.”
As for his future bride, Woerner blushes at the very mention of “Syd” and her writing.
“I don’t think anybody is going to be any happier than Sydney,” Woerner said of finally getting a touchdown. “She loves me a lot and she wants what’s best for me. Her blog was awesome.”
That said, Woerner insisted he wasn’t sweating the six points quite as much as she was.
It came on a first-and-10 play from the Tech 20. Woerner found himself wide open running a seam route down the right hash marks. Quarterback Jake Fromm delivered a chest-high strike, giving Woerner his first career touchdown and the Bulldogs a 17-0 lead with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter.
“It wasn’t really a monkey on my back,” said Woerner, who now has eight catches for 62 yards this season and 31 for 333 for his career. “I never really thought about it too much. I tried to never let it bother me. But when I finally caught that touchdown today, I celebrated with Tyler (Simmons) and just fell to my knees and just kind of praised God for that moment. It’s been a long time coming.”
Woerner wasn’t the only one celebrating. So were his teammates and his coaches.
Nobody was happier than Smart.
“He asked me before the game, ‘what was your record against Tech?’ ” Smart shared in his postgame remarks. “I told him 3-1 or really 4-1, if you count a redshirt year. He was just like, ‘Coach, I want to go out on top so bad.’ For a kid that he’s meant so much to our program, golly, I mean, the blocking value he has had and not getting as many catches he deserves and you want to get that for him, for him to get that play, I thought that was huge.”
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