Among the things that stood out at G-Day, Georgia football’s annual spring scrimmage, Arik Gilbert’s performance was definitely one of them. The third-year tight end has been through a lot up to this point in his career and seeing him have the day he did was inspiring to those around him.
Coming out of high school Gilbert was probably one of the best tight end recruits in recent memory and maybe even the best of all time. As a tight end, he was the fifth-best player in his class and the number one player at his position. The Georgia native from Marietta high school wound up committing to LSU and played in Baton Rouge for his freshman season.
As a tiger Gilbert put up 368 receiving yards off of 35 receptions, 2 of which were touchdowns. The summer after his freshman campaign, Gilbert transferred to UGA where things took a turn. He had stepped away from the team his sophomore season due to personal reasons. It wasn’t until this spring that we began to hear rumblings of him practicing with the team again.
This offseason has been great for Gilbert. He’s been getting hyped in spring practice, and the world was able to see him play in the red and black for the first time at G-Day yesterday.
He caught 3 out of 5 targets for 49 yards and 2 touchdowns. Quite the day for someone who hasn’t played football in months. Coach Smart explained how proud he was of the tight end in a post-G-Day presser, “Arik’s a really tough, physical player. He’s done a good job.” But rather than speak about his G-Day performance, Coach Smart emphasized Gilbert’s effort in practice saying, “I’m more proud of the practices he had leading up to today… Today was a little icing on the cake.”
Head coach Kirby Smart wasn’t the only one who noticed Gilbert’s progression during his time in Athens. His teammates were very aware as well. The story means a lot to a rising leader and senior defensive lineman Zion Logue. Before he could speak on it he said, “There’s chills coming over my body right now.” Logue thinks highly of his teammate, “He’s a hell of a player,” and, “I just want to see that guy grow.” Senior tackle Warren McClendon was glad to see Gilbert back in action, “I was really happy for him finally getting out there.”
There’s a lot that can be learned from Gilbert’s story, and I think it speaks to the tenacity of the entire team. They’re all there for each other. They understand each other. It just shows how Kirby Smart is, again, building another elite and gelled unit determined and ready to win in 2022.