Athletes dream about dazzling scouts, coaches and other players at the NFL Combine. Questions about legal problems and character issues are never part of those lifelong fantasies. Since winning their second consecutive National Championship, the mood around Georgia Football has precipitously dropped.
offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy were tragically killed in a car accident on Jan. 15 many hours after the team’s victory parade. Earlier this week, top NFL Draft prospect Jalen Carter was arrested for being involved in a road race against the vehicle that fatally crashed. Police also say the former Bulldogs defensive tackle lied to the police about his involvement in the incident. Carter returned to the combine upon release and has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
Quarterback Stetson Bennett, a true underdog story, has seen public perception of him change as well after his own arrest and follies. He was charged with public intoxication on Jan. 26, and the police report alleged he tried to evade arrest by hiding behind a wall. Before that, his character came under heavy scrutiny after he had his head buried in his cell phone during the parade amid media questioning and fan adulation.
In lieu of recent events and other arrests to Georgia players in the last year, it is easy for fans to presume Georgia football might not be cultivating the best environment. Bennett vehemently denied those claims and took accountability for his mistakes at the NFL Combine.
The accusations facing Carter are obviously more serious. It remains to be seen how the case unfolds, and how teams prioritize the blue-chip talent ahead of the NFL Draft in April. Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart issued a statement following Carter’s arrest that was posted by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fans will likely want to reserve judgement as more information comes out, but the community has undoubtedly been rocked the last couple of months.