December 27, 2012

Theus 'tough as ...'

ORLANDO, Fla. - Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend was recently asked to give his opinion of right tackle John Theus.

His response would have made "Larry the Cable Guy" proud.

"He's smart," Friend deadpanned. "And he's tough as crap."

Although Friend wasn't searching for a laugh, it did cause Theus to crack a wry smile.

"That means a lot. I have a lot of respect for Coach Friend and I think he has similar respect for me," Theus said. "I know he's always going to keep pushing me. He's probably not going to tell me on the field, but I think we both know I have a long way to go. He's taught me a lot. I couldn't ask for anything more as far as what he's taught me."

Theus appears to have learned his lessons well.

As a former five-star performer out of The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Theus lived up to his high billing by starting all 13 of games and earning a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team.

In fact, the Jacksonville native became just the third true freshman to start at tackle in a season-opener for Georgia since freshmen became eligible in 1973.

But as the Bulldogs get ready to challenge Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, Theus hasn't spent anytime patting himself on the back.

"I don't reflect that much right now because I'm focused on the bowl game," Theus said. "But when I look back, I think my goal was to get better each week and I think I did that. I just know there's long way to go."

He'll have plenty of opportunities to live up to his own high standards.

According to head coach Mark Richt, Theus will likely remain at right tackle for the rest of his career for the Bulldogs, who will return all five offensive line starters next fall.

Hopefully, he'll be a little healthier.

Theus' rookie season got off to an inauspicious start when he suffered what looked to be a severe ankle sprain in the opener against Buffalo, only to return the following week for Georgia's SEC opener at Missouri.

"I've always had to battle through injuries, especially ankle injuries, in high school as well," Theus said. "As a starter, you want to get back quick. Especially as a young player, you want to get back as quick as you can. So I've battled injuries before and I knew as soon as I rolled my ankle, I think I knew I was going to come back that next week. I didn't know about practice but I knew I was going to play in the game because I know my body. I knew I'd be back."

As Theus explained, he's played with pain before.

"If you're offensive lineman, you're going to have little tweak, so I consider my healthy right now," he said. "As far as not feeling anything, you'll have to stop playing football to feel that."

That's something he obviously doesn't plan on doing anytime soon.

Not when there's so much more improving he believes that he can do. When you play in the SEC, Theus said that's the only approach one can have.

"Playing in the SEC, when you think you've worked hard, you've got to work harder. In this league, it's a different level and I've learned that real quick," said Theus, who added he posted a 3.28 GPA this past semester. "Everybody you line up against, he's playing SEC football for a reason so you really have to work and I think I've seen that in the older guys here. Guys like Jarvis Jones; he's one of the hardest workers on the team. To be the best you've got to work hard, and that's what I intend to do."

But first things first:

Although Theus is excited about what the future holds, he's also looking forward to the upcoming date with Nebraska, a game which will mark the fourth time he's played in Citrus Bowl Stadium.

"I'm 3-0 there," smiled Theus, whose Bolles High team won state titles in the Citrus Bowl his freshman, sophomore and senior campaigns. "I'd love to win one more."