Georgia football: Saying goodbye to Jonathan Ledbetter

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Jonathan Ledbetter (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Jonathan Ledbetter (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

With the senior class only having one game left in Athens, let’s look back at some of the Dawgs that we’re going to miss, starting with Jonathan Ledbetter.

One of the most difficult parts of December for me is knowing that the end is near for another class of Damn Good Dawgs. Last year, with the CFP on the horizon I was able to avoid this feeling for at least a month but in the end, it always comes. Last year it was Nick Chubb, Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Sony Michel, and so many others. Players that had given everything for the shirt that so many of us care about and you never want to leave. This year there are fewer legends riding off into the NFL sunset but those that do will be just as missed.

Georgia’s 2015 recruiting class was the last one Mark Richt ever pulled in. It had some stars at the top in Trenton Thompson and Terry Godwin but it’s fair to argue that none had a bigger impact on the team than the man they call ‘Led’. Jonathan Ledbetter was certainly well known in recruiting circles. He arrived in Athens as a consensus top 100 player despite only being 17 when he enrolled but he wasn’t expected to become the leader than he was in his senior season.

By now, his story is very well known. As a young man, Ledbetter struggled with alcohol issues, particularly during his freshman season. When Kirby Smart took over as head coach, he was forced to deal with Ledbetter’s second arrest before he had even coached a game. Rather than just throwing him out of the program, Smart gave Ledbetter a 3rd and final chance to turn his life around and the young man took it. By the time his junior season had ended, he had gone from being a kid of the verge of losing his scholarship, to a critical leader on a championship level team.

Ledbetter had the opportunity to enter the NFL draft after last season. He doesn’t have the upside to be a day 1 pick but I could see him sneaking into the second or third round when his time comes. But instead, he chose to come back for one final season and be one of the key bridge leaders for a team that was missing so much after 2017. His presence at SEC media day as well as on the field was exceptional and he has become a truly great ambassador for UGA.

Much like last year, Ledbetter got better as the season went on. He’s never been a sack artist, nor has he been asked to be one in Kirby Smart’s defense but he’s been an absolute terror for offensive linemen. He’ll leave Georgia with just 4.5 sacks to his name, but an impact that transcends a lot more than just statistics.

Ledbetter became a blueprint for what Kirby Smart is looking for from a defensive player over the last 2 years, always putting team success over his own and it’s one of the reasons he’s become a favorite of mine. He had every reason to let his head sink and be overcome by the challenges that he faced. Instead, he rose above them and not only became one heck of a football player, but a pretty damn good chap as well.

Next. Top 5 Juniors from the 2018 Dawgs. dark

From setting an example in the training and film room alongside being a mentor to younger players, it’s hard to quantify everything that Led brought to this years team. There are a lot of reasons to love college football but what truly separates it from everything else is the opportunity that it offers young and sometimes wayward men to become the type of role models our society so desperately needs. Jonathan Ledbetter did just that during his time in Athens and it’s why I’ll be one of many who hopes to give him a damn good send off at the Sugar Bowl.