ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia junior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson began this season as a first-time starter.
Now he's an All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection, joining the more established likes of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Wilson was named to the first team by the coaches and the media.
"I was surprised," Wilson said. "It's a great honor, and I'm very humbled and very flattered that they selected me. There are a whole bunch of great guys on that list.
"I was just out there playing my hardest and trying to help the team win, and people took notice of it. I'm just happy that they did."
The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder from Tampa, Fla., had 10 career tackles entering the season opener at Clemson, where he set the tone for his productive year with 13 stops. He set a new career high with 15 tackles in the overtime win at Tennessee and another with 18 in the heartbreaking loss at Auburn.
Wilson enters the Gator Bowl against Nebraska with a league-leading 128 tackles, and he needs 11 against the Cornhuskers to surpass Thomas Davis (138 in 2003) for the Bulldogs' most in the Mark Richt era.
"Going into this year, my gut feeling was that we weren't seeing the best of Ramik," Richt said. "Quite frankly, I thought he was a little bored. He wasn't playing as much as he would have liked. He had played some special teams here and there, but I had the feeling that once he got into the starting role, he was going to really perk up and start playing and practicing with more of a purpose.
"He wasn't bad, but it's no fun playing your whole life since you're little and then all of a sudden you're sitting there watching. He was never negative in any way, shape or form, but I had a feeling he was really going to blossom once he had the chance to play a lot of downs and snaps."
Wilson had a hard time getting on the field when Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree headlined Georgia's linebackers during the 2011 and '12 seasons. His toughest stretch personally occurred in the spring of 2012, when he missed the first two practices because of his father's death in Tampa.
By the end of that spring, however, Wilson had provided a glimpse of his future value by tallying seven tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception in the G-Day game.
"I had coaches, teammates and family encouraging me and telling me that they were there for me," Wilson said. "They've always been there for me. They told me to keep playing football and that everything would be all right, and that's what I've continued to do. They have all taken care of me, and I know I can go to any of them."
Wilson's 128 tackles are followed by fellow Bulldogs inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera, who ranks second in the league with 107. Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson is third with 106, and Mosley and Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson are tied for fourth with 102.
In tackles for loss, Wilson is tied for eighth in the SEC with outside linebacker teammate Jordan Jenkins, each with 11.
"My coaches always say that the numbers don't lie, and they showed me the stats compared to all the other people," Wilson said. "I had a lot of tackles, sacks and tackles for loss, and inside linebackers don't always have that many lost-yardage numbers."
Said Herrera: "When you have the tackles he had, they have to give you that title."
Mosley, Johnson and Denzel Nkemdiche of Ole Miss were the preseason All-SEC linebackers, with Wilson obviously nowhere to be found on the first, second or third teams. Johnson also made the postseason team along with Wilson and Mosley.
Wilson has the option of leaving after the Gator Bowl for an opportunity at the NFL draft but said he is leaning toward playing one more year with the Bulldogs.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity to be out there starting," he said, "and I'm going to continue to take advantage of being out there and playing my hardest every down."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs practiced Thursday for an hour in shoulder pads. ... Cornerbacks Damian Swann (neck) and Shaq Wiggins (concussion) were limited. ... Georgia will practice this afternoon and Saturday morning before breaking for Christmas.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.