Former Seminole County star Bacarri Rambo (18) finished the 2011 season with a Southeastern Conference-leading eight interceptions to go along with 55 tackles for the SEC East champs. The AP First-Team All-American returned those picks for a combined 157 yards, which ranks third all-time in Georgia history, while starting 13 games. Rambo, however, is headed for a four-game suspension to start the season for failing a drug test, according to his high school coach, Alan Ingram, who said Thursday that Rambo didn’t pass the test — which was administered when he returned from spring break in Florida — because he inadvertently ate brownies laced with marijuana. (Herald file photo)
DONALSONVILLE — Georgia’s First-Team AP All-American senior safety Bacarri Rambo, a former Seminole County star, will be suspended for the first four games of the season for failing a random drug test after returning home from spring break two weeks ago in Panama City Beach, Fla.
Although, Rambo’s high school coach, Alan Ingram, says there is an explanation and that Rambo will be appealing the suspension.
“Bacarri went down to Panama City and he was staying with two other guys at the beach,’’ Ingram told The Herald on Thursday evening. “There were three guys there and Bacarri and the other guy went to bed early, and the third guy came in later and left the brownies on the counter. Bacarri got up, saw the brownies and ate a couple of them with some milk. He said he got high. The other guys told Baccari the brownies were not for him. The brownies were apparently laced with marijuana.
“He has never lied to me, and he told me that story before any of this took place. There’s no reason for him to lie to me. I think that’s exactly what happened.’’
Ingram said he knows the story sounds like an alibi, but added that Rambo has always been an honest guy.
“I think that is exactly what happened. Not many times would I say that, but he has never lied to me before,’’ Ingram said. “Don’t you imagine that every time something like this happens every kid has a story similar to this? But I believe he is innocent.”
Ingram then added: “I’ve got six grandkids, and I would be thrilled if all of them, when they get to be Bacarri’s age, have the integrity and morals and discipline that he has. I coached him for four years and have known him for a lot longer. He was never late for practice. He was never late for anything, and when he spoke everyone listened. I never had any problem from him. That kid is not on dope. He told me what happened before the test, before any of this. I believe him.’’
Rambo, who was unable to be reached for comment Thursday, was also suspended for the Bulldogs’ opener last season against Boise State for violating an undisclosed team rule, which now appears, according to at least one report, to also have been drug-related. Ingram said Rambo is distraught by the decision, which still has not been confirmed by UGA athletic officials.
“He was innocent in both situations. Honestly, he doesn’t smoke,’’ Ingram told The Herald. “He talked to me about telling (Georgia coach Mark Richt). He felt devastated, and felt he had let everybody down. I talked to him about it, and I told him if you (turn yourself in) you will get the four-game suspension, so we talked about just, ‘Roll the dice and wait and see.’
“He feels terrible about it. He’s upset and he’s embarrassed for the University of Georgia, and embarrassed for everybody down here (in his hometown of Donalsonville). He knows young kids look up to him, and he feels he has let them down.’’
Ingram said Rambo met with Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity on Wednesday, and said Rambo was encouraged to appeal it, but McGarity told ESPN.com through a text message that he would not confirm or deny ESPN’s initial report that he told Rambo to appeal it, and then later told the website he had no comment.
During Richt’s regular post-practice media briefing Thursday, a statement was released in regard to any off-the-field issues. The text of Richt’s statement read: “There is a process we follow regarding team guidelines and policies. I cannot make any comment until that process has run its course.”
Ingram said Rambo was picked randomly for a drug test once he got back from spring break and did not pass.
“He prayed about it. He came back to Georgia to be a two-time All-American,’’ Ingram told ESPN.com earlier Thursday. “He could have gone into the NFL draft. He knew he was going to be under the microscope. So he knew he was going to be tested and checked and everything else that comes with it all year. He’s been tested five or six times last year and never tested positive.”
According to the Macon Telegraph, Rambo’s first suspension last season was also drug-related when he was pulled over for speeding and police discovered a woman in his car possessed marijuana. Rambo then called Ingram and asked what he should do, and his coach advised him to disclose the incident to Richt, prompting his one-game ban.
Georgia lost that game to Boise, 35-21, but Rambo returned the next week and put together one of the best seasons in the nation among college safeties.
“He was innocent in both situations,’’ Ingram told The Herald. “He has told me he doesn’t smoke marijuana. I believe him. He has told me he has too much to lose. He was looking forward to coming back this season, and he knew he would be under a microscope this year.’’
Ingram said it’s a shame this happened, and wondered why the kids were even tested after coming home from a spring break.
“It’s a crazy world we live in,’’ Ingram said. “It’s easy for people to condemn a college athlete. I think there’s five that were tested, all of them defensive guys.’’
Ingram told The Telegraph he questioned the timing of the tests.
“I’m not condoning anything anybody has done, but I think it was a stupid thing to do to test college athletes the week after spring break,’’ Ingram said. “Unless they want to catch something. I doubt if there’s many universities out there that are testing their athletes the week after spring break.”
Depending on whether Rambo appeals or not — and the outcome of that appeal — the Donalsonville native will have two choices going forward: Serve the suspension and return in Week 5 for UGA’s home game against Tennessee, or leave Georgia and enter the NFL’s Supplemental Draft.
Ingram said he has discussed both options with Rambo.
“We talked about it, but very vaguely,’’ he told The Telegraph. “I would imagine he’s waiting to see what goes on with his appeal.”
Rambo, who stands 6 feet and weighs 218 pounds, finished the 2011 season with a Southeastern Conference-leading eight interceptions to go along with 55 tackles for the SEC Eastern Division champions. The AP First Team All-American returned those picks a combined 157 yards, which ranks third all-time in Georgia history, while starting 13 games.
During his three seasons with the Bulldogs, Rambo is tied for third in the school record books with 13 interceptions and has recorded 162 career tackles. He helped anchor a defense that finished third in the SEC this season in Total Defense (268 yards/game), Pass Defense (165.1) and Rushing Defense (103.4)
The Bulldogs, however, face other problems beyond Rambo’s possible ban.
Starting cornerback Sanders Commings was suspended for the first two games after he was charged in a domestic dispute. UGA’s other starting corner, Branden Smith, is facing at least a one-game suspension for his arrest on marijuana possession charges. If Rambo leaves for the NFL or returns and has to sit out four games, the Bulldogs could have three members of the secondary out to start the season.
“I’ll just say I am not thrilled when things like that happen,” Richt told the Associated Press on Thursday.