EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second story in a series counting down the top five players in University of Georgia football history. A companion series for Tennessee is planned for May 18-22; an Alabama series was published on May 4-8.
In the first quarter of the 2002 Georgia-South Carolina football game at Williams-Brice Stadium, remnants from Tropical Storm Hanna resulted in a 52-minute delay with the Bulldogs leading 3-0.
It was still 3-0 early in the fourth quarter when a relatively unknown force, Bulldogs sophomore defensive end David Pollack, sacked and stripped Gamecocks quarterback Corey Jenkins at the South Carolina goal line. Pollack collected the ball as he slid down the quarterback's body and fell into the end zone with an interception for a touchdown that propelled Georgia to an eventual 13-7 triumph.
"One of my first observations is that David Pollack is a warrior," Georgia coach Mark Richt said after sitting down for his postgame news conference.
Pollack tried his best to explain the blink-and-you-missed-it moment, saying, "I don't know how it happened. When I hit the ball, I noticed that it kind of stuck to my hands."
Arriving at Georgia in 2001 as a decent fullback prospect, Pollack enrolled early and was moved to defensive tackle, where he made five starts as a freshman but often was overwhelmed. The 6-foot-3, 278-pounder from the Atlanta suburb of Snellville was moved out to end during the spring of his sophomore year and flourished under position coach Jon Fabris, becoming the program's only three-time All-American other than Herschel Walker.
The South Carolina game served as a springboard to a 14-sack season and the capturing of the 2002 Southeastern Conference player of the year honor. That was the last season in which the SEC recognized one overall winner, splitting it into offensive and defensive categories the following year.
Georgia entered the 2002 season having not won a league championship since 1982, but tight wins over South Carolina, Alabama, 27-25, Tennessee, 18-13, and Auburn, 24-21, resulted in its first trip to the SEC title game, where the Bulldogs obliterated Arkansas 30-3. Pollack's roommate and childhood teammate, David Greene, threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Michael Johnson on fourth-and-15 to top Auburn, which clinched the Eastern Division crown, but Pollack got it all started with his heroics at South Carolina.
"If we don't win that game, we don't win the SEC," Richt said a couple of years later. "That was one of those games that could put a shock through your team."
The Bulldogs completed a 13-1 season in 2002 with a 26-13 downing of Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, which placed them No. 3 in the country behind Ohio State and Miami, but the question moving forward was what could Pollack do for an encore. It was certainly on Richt's mind as the Bulldogs had to evolve without defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, the sixth overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft.
"I don't think anybody had a plan for Pollack," Richt said before the 2003 season. "It will be different this year, and it will be interesting to see if his stats are the same. I know his effort will be."
Pollack encountered an increase in attention the rest of his career, and his numbers did dip to 7.5 sacks his junior season. Yet Georgia produced another stout defense with Pollack, linebacker Odell Thurman and safeties Sean Jones and Thomas Davis, reaching the SEC title game for a second straight year before falling to eventual national champion LSU.
Georgia began the 2004 season ranked No. 3 nationally, but the Bulldogs fell flat against Tennessee the week after a 45-16 bludgeoning of LSU. They lost 19-14 to the Volunteers and were later dumped 24-6 by an Auburn team on its way to a 13-0 record, but Pollack was quite effective with 12.5 sacks in Georgia's 10-2 season.
Pollack racked up a program-record 36 career sacks and in 2004 won the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Hendricks Award and the Lott Trophy in addition to being named SEC defensive player of the year. He was the 17th pick of the 2005 NFL draft, selected by the Cincinnati Bengals, but had his professional career derailed early in his second season by a broken neck.
This December, Pollack is scheduled to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
READ MORE STORIES IN THE SERIES