Georgia: Ben Jones tastes success

photo Ben Jones

ATHENS, Ga. -- It won't be found on most Thanksgiving menus.

Two years ago, after helping Georgia amass 339 rushing yards in a 30-24 upset of Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Bulldogs center Ben Jones was handed a chunk of Tech's turf that had been kicked up by former offensive tackle Josh Davis.

"Josh looked at me and said, 'You won't eat it,' and I said, 'Give it to me,'" Jones said. "My teammates know I'll do pretty much anything, no matter what it is, so I put it in my mouth. It was the best feeling in the world but the worst taste in the world."

Photos of Jones and his mouthful became amusing screen savers for Bulldogs fans, but he's fairly certain those shots are being used as motivation this week for the Yellow Jackets.

"I'm sure they are all over their locker room, because I know we do the same kind of thing when we put up newspaper articles of other teams," Jones said. "I'm sure I'm pretty hated over there this week."

Loved by his teammates and fans and not-so-loved by those of opposing schools, Jones will play his final regular-season game Saturday when the No. 13 Bulldogs (9-2) face the No. 25 Yellow Jackets (8-3) in Atlanta. The 6-foot-3, 316-pounder from Centreville, Ala., broke into the starting lineup four games into his true freshman season in 2008 and has played in 50 career games.

During that time, he has snapped the ball to quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Joe Cox, Logan Gray, Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason.

"He showed up and started at center as a true freshman in the Southeastern Conference, and that's not easy to do," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. "I don't think he's missed a start, and I don't know if he's missed a snap unless we took him out. I can't remember a time that he's missed a snap. There might have been a time he missed a practice, but I sure don't remember it.

"He's just a tough guy who loves football, and he's a great student of the game. He's definitely a glue guy, a big-time glue guy."

Jones actually missed the first half of last season's game at Colorado due to a suspension for a flagrant clip he committed the previous week at Mississippi State. He was also in the middle of the chaos during last year's game at Auburn.

Though his play has been unbridled at times, Jones said passion and emotion have been requirements for success.

"You have to have a little edge about yourself when you are playing football, especially as an offensive lineman," he said. "You're not scoring touchdowns. You're not making tackles. You're doing the dirty work so the other guys get the glory, and we take pride in that.

"If Murray has a great game, then we feel like we've had a great game. This year, we've had a lot of those games."

His pride is appreciated by his teammates, as is his uniqueness. Jones grew up in the country, complete with a cow and a pot-bellied pig in his backyard, and a picture of him as a toddler sleeping on the pig was blown up and placed in the locker room last year.

There is also his pregame ritual of walking the field and providing snaps to Murray while not wearing any shoes.

"It doesn't matter what the temperature is," Jones said. "I've got alligator skin for feet."

Said Murray: "You can't put anything past Ben. You never know what he's going to do or what he's going to eat. Give him a cockroach, and he'll just throw it in his mouth."

The most tender sides to Jones can be found on the front and back of his jersey. After wearing No. 61 his first three seasons, Jones chose No. 60 for his senior year following the graduation of Clint Boling.

His father wore No. 60 when he played in high school in South Georgia and died when Jones was 10 years old.

"I think I've done a great job wearing the number," Jones said, "and we've won a championship with me having it on. I'll never forget this year. It will always be in my heart."

Calling all tailbacks

Labeling his tailback situation "a pain in the rear," Richt made an open plea to recruits before Wednesday's practice.

"There is a tremendous opportunity at the University of Georgia for running backs in this class to come to Georgia and make an impact," Richt said.

The Bulldogs are hoping to get a commitment early next month from Keith Marshall, a 5-11, 190-pounder from Raleigh, N.C. Marshall is rated by as the nation's No. 1 all-purpose back.