November 19, 2009

Senior season bittersweet for Battle

This was not the kind of senior season that Roderick Battle had planned.

After an injury-played junior campaign, the Atlanta native trained all summer to get into the best shape as he possibly could. His hard paid off as the likeable defensive end reclaimed his starting role for the season-opener against Oklahoma State.

But one week later, his Bulldog career came to an abrupt end after tearing his ACL against South Carolina.

"It's tough, but sometimes things don't go as well as you think they should or could go," Battle said in an interview with UGASports. "Life presents a lot of different obstacles. When we train for mat drills, we always talk about overcoming adversity and stuff. Just like football, life gives you adversity. You've just got to find a positive way to deal with it."

It's that kind of attitude Battle will bring to Sanford Stadium Saturday when he, along with Georgia's 22 other senior football players, are honored on the field prior to the home finale against Kentucky.

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez appreciates what Battle has meant to the Bulldog program.

"Rod's a man of character, he always has been. He's a young man since the first day he stepped on this campus has been very business-like, very well liked by his teammate," Martinez said. "There has never been negative thing that's ever come across our desk or anything about Rod Battle, academically, athletically. He's always doing the same thing and doing a good job."

Battle is part of a senior class that will be looking to make some Bulldog history.

Georgia's current seniors own a 36-13 mark in their career, including a 3-0 record in bowl games. They will try to become only the second Bulldog class to win four straight bowl games, joining the Class of 2000.

Along with Battle, the Bulldogs will honor defensive tackle Geno Atkins, quarterback Jonathan Batson, safety Stephen Braue, quarterback Joe Cox, linebacker Darius Dewberry, safety Bryan Evans, fullback Justin Fields, linebacker Devin Hollander, kicker Andrew Jensen, safety Andrew Johnson, cornerback Prince Miller, receiver Mike Moore and tackle Casey Nickels. Others include cornerback Christian Norton, defensive tackle Jeff Owens, receiver Vernon Spellman, offensive lineman Vince Vance, defensive end Marcus Washington, defensive tackle Kade Weston and defensive tackle Brandon Wheeling. Center Kevin Perez and defensive tackle Ricardo Crawford are juniors eligibility-wise, but will graduate in December and have elected to walk with the seniors.

"I think it's special for all those seniors but it will be bittersweet for him (Battle). He would have wanted to have played in this game, be with his teammates and just have a senior year where he was healthy and feel like he could contribute on the field every week," head coach Mark Richt said. "But I'm sure it's going to be meaningful for him and his family. He's been great for Georgia as a player and as a person. Roderick is a guy who as a coach you know is going to be just fine whether he plays pro ball or doesn't play pro ball. He's going to make it in life. He's personable, he's graduating, and he's just the kind of guy that everyone is going to want to hire. He's going to be a great dad, be a great husband."

Football may indeed still be in Battle's future.

He has worked hard at his rehabilitation, all with an eye toward Georgia's annual Pro Day in mid-March.

"I don't think I'm totally done. I'm still looking at the possibility of playing further, maybe. I'm still trying to figure out all the options I have available," he said. "Hopefully, I'll be back before Pro Day, but I'm also looking at a Master's Degree (sports management) and hopefully taking the GRE coming up in January or February. I've got some stuff in motion, I just have to figure it all out."

Richt said he couldn't be more proud, not just of Battle, but of all the seniors.

"Oh yeah, no doubt. I do. I'm not their parent but I do have a lot of those feelings where you feel like you might have helped raise them up a little bit in conjunction with what their parents have done to this point," Richt said. "You feel a little bit of ownership in how they've turned out. It's good to see young men grow into more mature men on the way out the door. It's fun. It's a big part of the reason I coach."

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