Dewberry Getting Used to His Role

ATHENS – Darius Dewberry knows his role. He would like to be a starting linebacker, but he knows he hasn't earned that yet.

He would like to be playing more, but he knows he doesn't always fit the scheme the defense needs to employ. He would like to make a bigger contribution to Georgia's wins on the field, but he knows his best asset is the role he plays in the locker room.

"It's been kind of hard for me to stay focused just with all the stuff I have to deal with," freshman linebacker Marcus Dowtin said, "and if there's one person I can say that is always focused and always helping me out and encouraging me, it's Dewberry."

The offseason had been a challenge, but it was one Dewberry, a Peach County graduate, approached with enthusiasm.

He had shown improvement in his sophomore season in 2007, but a groin injury slowed him down by year's end. He eventually underwent surgery and spent the offseason working his way back into game shape, hoping to earn a full-time job as a starting linebacker this year.

"He's a guy who was in the weight room, training hard, working any part of his body that wasn't hurt," linebacker Rennie Curran said.

Just as he was starting to feel good, however, Dewberry's hopes of landing a bigger role on the team were dealt another setback, and this time it was a self-inflicted wound.

Two days before the Bulldogs opened fall camp, two of Dewberry's teammates were injured in a bar fight in downtown Athens. Dowtin and defensive back Donavon Baldwin were hit with glass bottles and both were taken to St. Mary's Hospital for treatment.

Another teammate placed a call to Dewberry to tell him the news, and he immediately set out for the hospital. After hearing the details of the evening, Dewberry's emotions got the better of him. On his way out of the hospital, he damaged several potted plants and broke a security gate in the parking lot.

Rather than hide from his mistake, however, Dewberry confessed to head coach Mark Richt that he was responsible for the damage. Richt suspended him for the first two games of the season, but admitted he was impressed with Dewberry's honesty.

"Once you get yourself into that situation, it says a lot about a man as to how he responds to it," Richt said. "I was really proud of both of (him) for ‘fessin up, admitting he was wrong, telling the truth, taking (his) discipline like a man."

Part of that discipline meant paying the hospital back for the damage he caused – about $2,000. So Dewberry got a job on campus during fall camp and spent evenings working at St. Mary's doing janitorial tasks and working with the security guards.

"I took a great lesson from it," Dewberry said. "I know not to make bad decisions anymore. I knew what I had to do, so I didn't have a bad attitude toward it. I knew when I was getting back so I was just looking forward to getting back."

Those first two weeks, however, were tough.

Not only was Dewberry not on the field, he wasn't even on the sidelines. In fact, he spent the first game working at St. Mary's.

A week later, he was able to watch his first game of the year – Georgia's defeat of Central Michigan – on television.

"It was pretty frustrating but I got to watch, and it felt like I was at the game," Dewberry said. "I was in my room and jumping up and down like a little cheerleader."

That's a role Dewberry doesn't mind playing.

Since his return from suspension, his time on the field has been limited. He has been a fixture on special teams but hasn't seen much action at linebacker.

As a Sam linebacker, Dewberry's strength is covering the tight end. Several of Georgia's opponents, however, have employed spread formations on offense, meaning the tight end – and therefore Dewberry – aren't on the field.

The suspension didn't help Dewberry's cause either. He wasn't a part of the game plan the first two weeks, and Darryl Gamble said it has taken a while for coaches to bring Dewberry back into the fold.

"He was in the dog house from Coach Richt with the suspension," Gamble said. "He's doing well in practice, but I guess just the fact that he didn't play those first two games, that's still stuck in the coaches' minds."

Richt, however, insists that isn't the case.

"Once the discipline was over, it was over," Richt said. "There was no lingering effects as far as a coach's decision. Punishing a guy more than he already has been I don't think is fair."

Six games into the season, however, Dewberry still has just one tackle. But the suspension and lack of playing time haven't dampened his spirits.

"When you know you've worked hard and put a lot of time into things, you expect to get results, and sometimes it doesn't work out like that," Curran said. "But he's kept a great attitude, kept focus, and he's bounced back, shown resilience through everything."

Looking back, Dewberry learned a valuable lesson from his suspension, but he said he won't put himself in that situation again.

It was a passion for his teammates, however, that sparked his emotions in the first place, and he doesn't plan to lose that. He's just channeling it into something a bit more productive these days.

"I've just got to keep working," Dewberry said. "I'm just waiting on my time, but it will come."