NASHVILLE - All Blake Sailors wanted when he enrolled at the University of Georgia was a chance to play football.

Now it's hard to keep him off the field.

Though listed as a cornerback, the unassuming 5-foot-11, 186-pound redshirt sophomore from Athens excels on the kickoff coverage, punt coverage and kickoff return teams for the Bulldogs. After taking his lumps on the scout team in 2009, Sailors made his debut last year and earned a scholarship before this season.

"You see some guys who walk in the door that first time, and they're just fighting for any playing time they can get," said Bulldogs tight ends coach John Lilly, who oversees the punt coverage team. "Then they do find a little niche, and they take advantage of that.

"Guys like Blake come in and don't assume anything is going to be given to them. They go out and earn it, and everybody has a little bit of a soft spot for guys like that."

Sailors is a lifelong Bulldogs fan who moved to Athens in second grade from Signal Mountain. His father, David, is a vascular surgeon and a Georgia team clinician who used to work at Erlanger hospital.

"I remember the Aquarium and other fun stuff that you loved doing when you're a kid," Sailors said, "but I always got sick going up and down the W Road."

When it became evident Sailors was not going to receive a football scholarship out of Oconee County High, where he was a teammate of former Georgia and current LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, he walked on at Georgia. He credits former defensive coordinator Willie Martinez for motivating him through the scout-team challenges two years ago, and he began to make his mark on special teams early last season.

Sailors made his first tackle in last year's loss at South Carolina, and his favorite play to date occurred midway through the second quarter of last year's 41-14 win over Tennessee, when he recovered a fumble by Eric Gordon.

"I was pumped," Sailors said. "It was a close game at first, but that helped open it up."

Sailors played in all 13 games last season, amassing nine tackles. He entered Saturday night's game at Vanderbilt with just two tackles this year, largely because opponents are keying on him.

That has benefited walk-on Kosta Valvas, who entered Saturday with nine special-teams tackles.

"Even when he doesn't make the play, he has a way of disrupting what people are doing on a kickoff return or a punt return, just because he shows up before they're ready for somebody to show up," Lilly said of Sailors. "That's his biggest thing. He has some knowledge of what people are trying to do, and he figures the faster he runs, the better chance he has of blowing up somebody's plans."

Said receivers coach Tony Ball, who coordinates kickoff returns: "He loves Georgia, and he has a great football sense. He is athletic and can run extremely well, and he just has that knack for making plays."