Brock Bowers becomes Georgia’s first Mackey Award winner

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

ATHENS – Georgia football has had some fantastic tight ends over the years. But none of them ever have won the John Mackey Award.

Until now.

Brock Bowers, a sophomore, was designated the winner of the 2022 award, which goes annually to the nation’s top tight end. He was presented the trophy at the ESPN College Football Awards Show in Bristol, Conn., on Thursday night.

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It could be argued that Bowers should have received the award as a freshman last year, but he did not make the cut from semifinalist to finalist. Neither did Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer.

Like this year, they clearly were the top two tight ends. Mayer not winning set off a firestorm of criticism on social media, primarily from Fighting Irish players and coaches, but also from some national media pundits.

Statistically, it certainly was a close call. Mayer, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior, was more productive as a receiver. He has caught 67 passes for 809 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season. The 6-4, 230-pound Bowers has 52 catches for 726 yards and six scores. But he also has six rushes for 93 yards and three touchdowns.

Both players are their team’s leading receiver, though Bowers shares the ball with more players on Georgia’s offense. His catches account for 17.7% of the Bulldogs’ receptions. Not only does he share tight end snaps with junior Darnell Washington, but quarterback Stetson Bennett targets many other Georgia players. Slot receiver Ladd McConkey has 51 receptions for 675 yards and five touchdowns, while running back Kenny McIntosh adds 37 for 449.

Meanwhile, Mayer’s receptions represent 34.9% of Notre Dame’s passing game. Bowers averages 14.1 yards per reception to Mayer’s 12.1.

Those promoting Mayer also insist he’s the better blocker of the two. That’s hard to quantify, especially in the context of how Georgia is utilizing Bowers. He’s on the field 90% of the time with fellow tight end Darnell Washington. They share both blocking and receiving duties. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Washington also has 26 catches for 417 yards and two touchdowns.

Washington and Mayer both are juniors and are expected to become NFL draftees this year. As a sophomore, Bowers is not draft eligible.

The 2021 Mackey Award winner was Trey McBride of Colorado State. He had 90 catches for 1,121 yards but only one touchdown.

As a freshman, Bowers set a Georgia record last year for receiving touchdowns in a season with 13. He also established the school’s tight end record with 56 receptions for 882 yards. Bowers added one rushing score.

Bowers has at least one more game in which to establish new standards for Georgia. The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs (13-0) played No. 4 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals Dec. 31 at the Peach Bowl. Should Georgia win, it will advance to the national title game, which will be played Jan. 9 in Los Angeles.

Mayer has already declared for the 2023 NFL draft and will not be joining Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. The Fighting Irish will take on South Carolina in the Dec. 30 game in Jacksonville.

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