Tereshinski gets his shot

Joe Tereshinski

ATHENS — Three days away from the biggest game of his life, Joe Tereshinski III already has passed the first test in life as Mark Richt's quarterback.

Say nothing interesting. Like David Greene and D.J. Shockley before him, Tereshinski has adopted Richt's say-no-evil, say-no-sound bite, say-nothing approach to preparation for Saturday's Georgia-Florida game.

Joe Tereshinski is a third-generation Bulldog making his first collegiate start at quarterback for the undefeated fourth-ranked team in the nation against its most hated rival. A win will give Georgia the SEC's Eastern Division crown, and the kid who grew up loving Georgia will have his place in Bulldog lore if he can hand Shockley back an unbeaten team for the Nov. 12 game against Auburn.

"I haven't thought too much about that," said Tereshinski, a redshirt junior. "I've been in there studying film a little bit and trying to get ready for the game. I haven't really thought about what might happen after the game has gone on. I don't think I need to at this point. I think I just need to get ready for the game and not worry about what's going to go on afterward."

On Monday, Florida linebacker Todd McCullough admitted he wouldn't have been able to pick Tereshinski out of a lineup before last week's Arkansas game. On Tuesday, ESPN's College GameDay sent a crew to Athens to do a feature story on Tereshinski.

"It's going to be a pretty surreal week for him, I would think," Richt said.

You'd never know it from his game face. Tereshinski, who will have a double major degree in risk management and finance by the end of the 2006, has taken it all in monotonous stride.

"Joe's a serious, serious guy," Richt said. "He's taking this responsibility very seriously, I can tell you that."

That flatline approach is fine with Richt.

"Not many guys play really well when they're overly excited at the quarterback position," he said. "Linebackers can get fired up all they want, but I think if your quarterback gets a little too excited and if that keeps him from concentrating, then I like for them to stay a little more even-keeled."

Tereshinski is so intense it can become a hindrance, Richt said.

"He's going to put as much pressure on himself as anybody. He's a perfectionist," Richt said. "He hates it when he makes even the smallest of mistakes. (Quarterbacks coach Mike) Bobo and I have been working on him not to get too bent out of shape when the smallest of things go wrong."

Part of the legacy Tereshinski had handed down from his grandfather Joe Tereshinski Sr., a 1940s letterman, and his father, Joe Tereshinski Jr., a 1970s letterman, is that stoic approach.

"He won't go into this game excited. He won't go into it nervous," said Tereshinski Jr., who is the Bulldogs' video coordinator and an assistant strength coach. "He'll approach it very much in a business-like manner. That's always the way he approaches football."

That's football. There is another side, though. In fact, the teammates who know Tereshinski best scoff at the idea that he's more robot than red-blooded.

"Do I have any Joe T stories?" center Russ Tanner said. "Probably none that should be in the newspaper. Joe's definitely got personality. He's just a lot smarter than most of us when he's talking to you guys."

Tereshinski shares a house with Georgia offensive tackle Daniel Inman and former guards Josh Brock and Bartley Miller, and "they fight like brothers," fullback Brannan Southerland said.

And Southerland means fight, according to Miller. Despite being a middleweight living in a heavyweight house, Tereshinski will scuffle with his teammates at the first whiff of a challenge.

"He's one of those guys you don't want to tick off," Miller said. "It doesn't matter how big you are or how mean you are, he's going to fight you. He doesn't fight fair, either."

The fights would not surprise Richt.

"Oh yeah, he's a tough son of a gun," the coach said. "Joe's a very tough kid."

He's proven that to his teammates by playing on the punt coverage team for the last two seasons and long-snapping in two games during his career.

"When you look at Joe T, you think of a team guy," Bobo said. "He'll do anything he has to do. He just wants to be part of this program. That was his dream growing up, being a Bulldog, and he's got a great opportunity this week being the quarterback in the biggest game of the year so far."

Tereshinski's versatility is notable, as well.

"He's one of those kind of guys that whatever it takes he'll do it for his team, and he'll do it with a lot of enthusiasm," said Richt. "He literally would do anything we asked him to do. If we asked, ‘Can you try to play tight end this week?', he would try to learn what to do as fast as he can.

"He is truly a Bulldog."

As a kid, Tereshinski grew up in and around the Georgia locker room. His father, Joe Jr., lettered for the Bulldogs from 1974-76 and has worked with the team in some capacity since 1982. Tereshinski III grew up with Bulldog posters and autographs in his bedroom.

Starting in this game, "is a dream come true," he said. "Every kid dreams about growing up and wearing the red hat, especially when you're growing up in Athens. To be able to come do that, it's a big goal that I've set for myself, and it's a big opportunity also."

Oddsmakers have dropped the Bulldogs from a favorite to a significant underdog because of Tereshinski's opportunity, and Georgia safety DeMario Minter said he can understand why.

"Not taking anything away from Joe T, but there are just some things Shockley can do that Joe T can't do," Minter said. "We will be losing some points."

Tereshinski's close friends, though, don't believe that's necessarily true.

"Everybody is talking about Joe T like he's a true freshman coming in straight out of Athens Academy," Tanner said. "He's probably going to be the most well-prepared quarterback in the history of Georgia football."

Tereshinski has been in Richt's system four years, including his redshirt season. He didn't throw his first pass until this year, though, and he still doesn't have a touchdown pass. He is 13 of 23 for 207 yards, one interception and no touchdowns in four appearances at quarterback this season. The Bulldogs will let Tereshinski run their entire offensive system against Florida, something he wasn't allowed to do Arkansas, Richt said.

"Joe's very smart," Shockley said. "There's no doubt in my mind that Joe can get the job done just as well as if I was playing."

And if Tereshinski need something to get his juices flowing before the game, his roommate Miller has a plan.

"He still can't beat me at ping pong," Miller said. "You need to put that in the paper. That'll fire him up. Maybe I need to play him in a couple of ping pong matches before the Florida game. That'll light him up."

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