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November 7, 2011
One of the first calls of congratulations to Rhett McGowan, after scoring his first collegiate touchdown Saturday, came from someone he considers an older brother, even if they aren't actually related - Kris Durham.
Both natives of Calhoun, the two have known each other their entire lives, as their respective families have been close for as long as either can remember.
So, when Durham called after Saturday's 63-16 win, it meant something.
"I talked to him for a while, and it definitely means a lot to me coming from someone who I've always looked up to. He just congratulated me, told me to keep up the good work and that he was proud of me," McGowan said after practice Monday. "Kris has always been like a big brother to me. We grew up together, he was a little bit older than me, four years, but just watching him do everything and be so successful at Calhoun, he gave me somebody to look up to."
Reached in Seattle, where he's currently a rookie receiver with the NFL Seahawks, Durham practically gushed when talking about the sophomore walk-on, who caught four passes for 51 yards in the win over New Mexico State.
"We grew up together. It's crazy how close our families are," Durham said. "So, for him to be able to go to Georgia and he's now contributing, it's really awesome to see."
Durham said he used to promise McGowan that his hard work would eventually pay off. He just didn't know it would be quite so soon.
"Just like anybody else who comes in as a walk-on freshman you don't know what to expect, you don't know how many opportunities you're going to get. But we talked about taking every opportunity that you get," Durham said. "I talked to him a lot about just doing his best, especially his first year when he was on the scout team. I told him to play special teams, go do whatever because that's the best way to get noticed."
That's just what McGowan has done.
With injuries to Malcolm Mitchell and Rantavious Wooten, McGowan has been able to take advantage of the opportunity and based on his most recent performance figures to get a few more chances in Saturday's huge game against Auburn (3:30, CBS).
"It's great to be getting a lot of snaps, getting an opportunity like that to make plays," McGowan said. "Everybody was playing so good, so when the 2s got in, we didn't miss a beat and made plays, too."
But nothing compares to scoring your first touchdown, which McGowan did when he hauled in a 23-yard pass from Hutson Mason with 5:51 left in the fourth quarter for Georgia's final score.
"Unbelievable, just unbelievable," McGowan said. "I'm just happy I got the chance and I'm happy I was able to capitalize."
McGowan laughed that if it hadn't been for Durham, he might not have been at Georgia at all.
Notre Dame was McGowan's favorite team growing up, and it wasn't until Durham signed with Georgia that he started following the Bulldogs.
"It was a big deal in Calhoun when Kris signed with Georgia," McGowan said. "I liked Notre Dame, but once Kris got here, we obviously started watching Georgia to see how he was doing. It was exciting for all of Calhoun."
Along with Durham, McGowan credits receivers coach Tony Ball for getting him to the point where he can contribute to the Bulldogs' cause.
A stickler for details, McGowan admits Ball can be a tough man to please. But he wouldn't have it any other way.
"He's definitely hard on us but I see it as, if he's not hard on you, then that's when you've got to worry. You want him correcting you, to tell you what to do to get better. Honestly if a coach isn't on me like that then he doesn't care, so I take it as a compliment," McGowan said. "I want him getting on me and telling me what to do."
Durham said McGowan deserves a lot of credit.
"It's a tribute to his hard work ethic and everything he's put into the program," Durham said. "Coach Ball is very particular about how he likes his drills run and how he wants his receivers to prepare and everything, so for him to come out, especially against a team like Florida and for him this week for him to have a touchdown; it's just an incredible story."
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports and he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.