After missing UGA's season opener against Boise State for violating team rules, former Seminole County star Bacarri Rambo (18) made up for it right away by snagging the first of his team-high seven interceptions this season in the very next game against South Carolina. On Wednesday, Rambo was named an AP First-Team All-American for his breakout junior season. (Paul Abell/University of Georgia)
ATHENS — Seminole County High School football coach Alan Ingram said Wednesday he couldn’t pick his favorite moment from his former star player Bacarri Rambo’s junior season at Georgia.
But he could pinpoint the ones he and Rambo talk the most about.
“Probably the two or three (interceptions) he should’ve had but he dropped or taken to the house,” Ingram said with a laugh. “I’ll never stop being his coach or looking for perfection out of him. That’s just the kind of expectations I’ve always had for Bacarri.”
On Wednesday, Rambo not only met those expectations when he was named an Associated Press First-Team All-American, he left his whole hometown of Donalsonville buzzing.
“I’ve been getting calls all day about it, and the first one was from Bacarri,” Ingram said. “He’s had a rough year — losing that baby (with his girlfriend) and not playing in (Georgia’s first game of the season because of a suspension). But he was also excited, proud, overwhelmed — all that. I thought he was gonna cry (when I talked to him).”
Rambo bounced back from sitting out the Bulldogs’ opener against Boise State for violating team rules and came on strong the very next week against South Carolina — and he never slowed down. He finished the regular season with a team-high seven interceptions — a stat that ranks him third in all of Division I — and was fourth on the team with 52 tackles. He also overcame unimaginable adversity after losing his infant son, Braylin, who was delivered stillborn just 10 days before his due date on Sept. 21. After Rambo and his longtime girlfriend LaTori Williams grieved, Rambo got back on the field and dedicated the rest of his season to Braylin, playing just three days after the tragedy and posting his biggest game of the year with two interceptions in a road win against Ole Miss.
“We’re awfully proud of him down here,” Ingram said. “Awfully proud.”
A 6-foot, 218-pound native of Donalsonville, Rambo is Georgia’s active leader with 12 picks during the last three seasons, which is tied for fourth among active players in the NCAA. Rambo is also No. 2 on the NCAA’s list for interception return yardage by active players with 241 yards, which ranks third in UGA history. Rambo also recovered a fumble and had one pick-6 this season, which came in the game against Auburn.
“That’s big-league stuff right there,” Ingram said of Rambo’s breakout year. “He has great breaks on the ball and I knew once he got to Georgia, all he needed was a little more meat on him and he’d be as good for them as he was for us.”
Rambo was great for Seminole, playing defensive back and running the Indians’ renowned option offense at quarterback during his four years in Donalsonville. On Wednesday, Ingram was asked to reminisce about Rambo’s days as an Indian.
“He was probably the best option quarterback I’ve ever had — and we’ve had some good ones,” said Ingram, who added that he watched in awe during Rambo’s senior year as his star put up amazing numbers, rushing for 692 yards on 110 attempts and 17 TDs, completing 34 of 75 passes for 615 yards and four TDs, while also recording 65 tackles and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. Rambo also returned a punt and a kickoff for a TD his final year at Seminole.
“When Georgia recruited him (as a DB), I supported him because he wanted to play defense in college and I never second-guessed him,” Ingram added. “He’s got such great hands. Any time he gets around the ball, he’s got a good chance to come away with the pick.”
Ingram even recalled one moment during Rambo’s senior year that left the rest of the coaches in Class A talking about it weeks and months after the season.
“We were playing Lanier County, they were about 90 yards away from scoring and their fullback busted through the middle and looked like he was going to take it to the house,” Ingram recalled. “(Bacarri) was on the opposite side of the field and I saw him standing there for a moment (kind of in shock), then he took off, as if saying to himself, ‘OK ... well, I guess I better go get this guy.’ So Bacarri ran him all the way down right near the end zone and not only stopped him, but reached around the (Lanier RB’s side) and punched the ball out and right up in the air — then caught it — and turned around and started running the other way.
“When we got to the end-of-the-year coaches’ meeting, I walked in and a bunch of the coaches were talking about that play. And I said (with a laugh), ‘Yeah, it took me three days to teach him how to do that, and by the third day, he learned how to pop it out and catch it all it once. It was all coaching.’ ”
Ingram has coached two other AP All-Americans during his career that spans three-plus decades — former UGA and NFL star Charles Grant during Ingram’s time at Miller County, and then another former UGA and NFL star Phillips Daniels later on at Seminole. And Ingram ranks Rambo right up there with both of those players.
“I’m not going sit here and say I knew he was going to be an All-American when he left us and went to Georgia,” Ingram began, “but I did know that Georgia made one heck of a choice when they picked him.”
Joining Rambo on The AP’s All-American First Team was his Georgia teammate, linebacker Jarvis Jones, who has had an equally eye-opening season.
A 6-3, 241-pound native of Columbus, Jones — who transferred to UGA after leaving Southern California — is the Bulldogs’ leading tackler this season with 69 stops, including an SEC-leading 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks, which ranks second nationally. He moved to No. 2 on the school’s all-time single season sack list behind David Pollack, who had 14 in 2002. Jones has also forced two fumbles.
UGA senior tackle Cordy Glenn was named to the third team. Glenn, a 6-5, 348-pound native of Riverdale, leads the Bulldogs with 49 career starts, including the last 46 contests. He was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week following the Bulldogs’ 24-20 win against Florida and has helped sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray stand at the No. 2 spot in the conference in both total offense (229.6 yards per game.) and passing yards per game (220.1) this season.
The SEC was also represented by eight other players on the First Team, including Alabama tailback Trent Richardson, Alabama tackle Barrett Jones, South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram, Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, LSU cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, Alabama safety Mark Barron and LSU punter Brad Wing.
Mathieu, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and Claiborne were joined on the All-America team by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor and fellow finalist Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama.
Heisman runner-up Andrew Luck from Stanford was the second-team quarterback.
Oklahoma State also had six selections on the three teams, including receiver Justin Blackmon, one of two players to be selected to the first team for the second straight season. Blackmon caught 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, the nation’s leading tackler at 15.9 per game, is the other two-time All-American on this year’s team.
Clemson also had two players on the first-team, with tight end Dwayne Allen and freshman Sammy Watkins, selected as an all-purpose player.
The team released Monday was selected by a panel of 16 AP poll voters.
Information from the University of Georgia and The Associated Press was used in this report.