SHREVEPORT, La. — For all of Georgia's seniors, the final day of practice represents a turning point in their lives. When they take the field against Texas A&M on Monday, it will be the end of an era for them. It's a final chapter that they've long since accepted.
For juniors Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones, however, the future isn't quite so clear. Both are weighing their options as they consider leaving school a year early for the NFL, and neither has made a decision — at least not one they've shared publicly.
It could be their last chance to appreciate life with the Bulldogs, but then again, it might not.
"I just put it out of my mind and get ready for it just like another game, just enjoy it and play for my seniors and my coaches who are gone now and represent the school as well as I can," Curran said. "Every time I go out, I give it my best. I hope people see that, and I hope if this is my last game, I hope that's what people will remember about me."
For Jones, his current teammates are already doing a nice job of reminding him that his career could be coming to an end.
Last year, he nearly bolted for the NFL as a third-year sophomore, but decided at the last minute to return to Georgia. This season, he's heard plenty of innuendo from his teammates who have started lobbying him early.
"They jump on me every now and then that I might be leaving or that this might be my last game stuff like that," Jones said. "But I don't really look at it like that."
Both Curran and Jones said they still are waiting on official word from the NFL after submitting paperwork for evaluation by the league, and neither will confess to making a decision at this point.
While some fans have groaned that the supposed indecision about the future is simply lip service, Curran said most people fail to realize the complexities and emotion that go into determining the best course of action. While the money and fame of the NFL seem appealing, it's never quite so simple.
"It's not only about football or about money or anything like that," Curran said. "Certainly coming back and being a senior and having that legacy like a David Greene or a David Pollack, that's huge for me as well."
Greene and Pollack represent the legacy a senior can leave on the program, but Curran and Jones don't have to look too far to the past to see the template for success a player can enjoy by leaving early for the NFL, too.
Last year, quarterback Matthew Stafford said goodbye to the Bulldogs a year early and was the No. 1 selection in the NFL draft, earning a huge payday from the Detroit Lions. Tailback Knowshon Moreno gave up two more years of eligibility and was a first-round pick by the Denver Broncos. Even cornerback Asher Allen, who surprised analysts by leaving a year early, was taken in the third round and met with moderate success in his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings.
"I talk to Asher a whole lot," Curran said. "He's given me the reality of it all, just letting me know that it is going to be a grind and it doesn't get any easier, just filling me in."
Jones has sought insight from former Bulldogs, too. In fact, it was Thomas Davis, the former Georgia safety who left school after his junior year and is now with the Carolina Panthers, who cautioned Jones from leaving too soon last year.
This time around, however, Jones said the message has been different but it won't necessarily sway his final decision.
"I talked to Thomas Davis, and he said I'm probably one of the best safeties in the country," Jones said. "He feels I'm ready, so I've just got to make the best decision for me and my family."
Fellow safety Bryan Evans said the current crop of Bulldogs have done their best to sell Jones on a decision, too. While Davis may be convinced of Jones' ability to play in the NFL, Evans said the consensus within the locker room is that another year in Athens would be a wise decision for the junior safety.
"Everybody knows it's best for him to come back," Evans said. "He has the potential to go higher next year than this year. But it's up to him. If he feels this is his time to go, he'll make that decision for himself."
Whether it's the emotion of Curran's decision or the practical implications of Jones', neither have an easy road ahead.
So perhaps the best part about Monday's game is that they don't know if it will be their last. Instead of worrying about the future or putting a proper stamp on the past, Curran said, they can simply go out and play and appreciate what they have. After all, it's been a wild ride throughout his career, and the future looks bright either way.
"I want to come back," Curran said. "I love it here. I've learned so much since I've been here. And really, when I think about it, I've only been here two-and-a-half years, so it really has flown by. There's still so much I can do in Athens, so much I can accomplish. So it goes both ways, and I feel like it's a win-win situation."
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