Before the University of Georgia football team took the field to face Vanderbilt on Saturday, the offseason had several running themes for the Bulldogs. One of those was in regards to redshirt freshman running back Zamir White and was he healthy and when would he play?
White was part of Georgia’s 2018 recruiting class, a highly rated 5-star running back prospect coming out of Scotland County High School in Laurinburg, NC where he rushed for over 7,169 yards and 119 touchdowns. “Zeus,” a nickname White has had since his days of at Scotland County, suffered a torn ACL injury to his right knee during his senior season with the Fighting Scots’ in a playoff game versus Seventy-First High School in 2017. It was questionable whether or not the then true freshman would be ready to play by the fall. As if White’s nickname wasn’t fitting enough given what he accomplished at Scotland High School, Zeus worked hard so that he was ready to compete for playing time during UGA’s 2018 Fall Camp… a “god-like” feat considering he had rehabbed from injury to be able to practice in approximately 9 months.
But White would suffer another setback, tearing the ACL in his other (left) knee during a scrimmage; so, Zeus would redshirt, sitting out 2018 to have surgery to repair his knee and rehab. As Fall Camp 2019 approached for Georgia, one of the questions asked by fans and media alike, was White healthy enough to practice? Kirby Smart answered during a press conference on opening day of camp at the beginning of August.
“Zamir [White], same as last time you asked. He’s doing well. He’s ready to go out and compete,” said Kirby Smart. “Excited to have him out there. He’s excited to be back.”
“Zamir is clear, so again, we’ll do everything like normal,” added Coach Smart. “He’ll be thudded, just like every other back will be thudded and we’ll progress from there. We won’t practice live until the first scrimmage.”
As the “dog days” of August ticked off the calendar and Georgia’s season opener approached, the question of whether or not Zeus would play became how much would he play? At the start of Vanderbilt game week, Kirby addressed that topic.
“Zamir’s worked really hard. Conditioning-wise, he’s one of the hardest workers on our team. He’s played in a lot of our special teams in roles. He’s done a good job in the scrimmages. I think he’s very confident with his knee and his health so he’s rip-roaring to go,” said Coach Smart. “I don’t have expectations for him per say, to say, ‘you’re going to do this in the second quarter at this time and this play.’ He’s just going to go with the flow of the game and sometimes that changes and I can’t tell you how that will be for him or what that will be from him but I can tell you is that he’s an unselfish kid that has worked his tail off to get back. Some of the expectations for him are probably unwarranted but for him, it’s a matter of he’s got his health and he wants to support his teammates.”
The first game of the season for any football team is filled with expectations from fans and the media to the coaches and players. It was no different for Dawg Nation. As fans clad in red filled Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN, and the media took their places, one of the topics of conversation was: “When do you think we’ll get to see Zeus play today?”
The first and second quarters went by, and the Bulldogs took a 21-6 lead into halftime, but White had yet to get in the game. That all changed 5 minutes and 20 seconds into the third quarter when No. 3 came in for No. 7 at running back on a 1st and 20 at the Commodore’s 41. What at first could have been mistaken for boos from the crowd were fans chanting “ZEUS!” White got his first collegiate carry, and while it was not a big play for a first down or a score, it didn’t matter. Zeus was finally let loose and Dawg Nation was ecstatic.
When White came in for a second time with 1:20 to go in the third quarter, the stadium erupted with another chorus of “ZEUS!” His second attempt was an impressive 23-yard scamper he nearly broke for a TD. White would finish the Vandy game with 5 carries for 51 yards, but the number of carries or yards didn’t matter.
After the Bulldogs defeated the Commodores 30-6, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart spoke with media during his post-game press conference and talked about Zeus’ collegiate debut.
“Zamir (White) did a tremendous job when he got his opportunity. I love him too. He’s been through so much. He’s a tremendous kid. He’s a winner,” said Smart. “I love all our kids. He’s just another one that’s been through a tough time. To see him go out there and have some success, he’s so deserving of that. And our medical staff is deserving of a pat on the back for getting him out there because they spent a lot of time on Zamir.”