HOOVER – Georgia running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel shared the spotlight at SEC Media Days on Tuesday. One group of reporters gathered around Chubb and asked him about Michel.
“He’s really outgoing and I’m more of a quiet guy,” Chubb said. “He speaks for me and I hold it down for the both of us.”
A few feet away, Michel was talking about Chubb.
“Nick and I are seniors so we have been down this road before,” he said.
Head coach Kirby Smart is happy to have both of them. Chubb ran for 1,130 yards last year and has 3,424 career rushing yards. Michel had 840 yards in 2016 and has 2,411 over the last three years. They arrived together before the 2014 season, and they’ll go out together after this season.
Chubb was an NFL draft prospect but chose to return for his senior year after playing through some injuries last year. Michel might have been drafted as well. But both players were leaning toward returning. When they spoke about it with each other, the decision was all but certain.
“I think Nick will tell you that he wasn’t 100 percent last year, and he certainly has improved that,” Smart said. “So with his ability to move up in the draft and create value for himself, he wanted to come back. I think that made it easier for Sony.”
Michel is listed at 5-foot-11 and 222 pounds, while Chubb is 5-10 and 228. It would be easy to look at their measurables and their careers and lump the duo together. They’ve been with one another through injuries, coaching changes and carry after carry.
But they’re not one and the same. Chubb, from quiet Cedartown, Georgia, was described as a “man of few words,” by Smart. Michel is from south Florida and is less likely to hold back. Smart has seen them racing against one another through workouts.
“If he’s not doing something to his full potential or I’m not we’ll call each other out,” Chubb said. “He’ll tell me, ‘Nick step it up,’ and I get back into it.”
Their healthy rivalry helps make things easier for everyone else at Georgia. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason is still growing after being thrust into the starting role as a freshman. He’ll continue to grow as he hands the ball off to the seniors for one more year.
Smart described a feeling of “total elation” when he found out he’d have both players in 2017. Chubb was the first one to tell the head coach, and other juniors followed.
“He showed the confidence, not only in our coaching staff, in our total program, that he knows he’s going to have an opportunity to get better and grow,” Smart said. “And he’s going to have that opportunity.”
Chubb will also have the opportunity to move up the list of the SEC’s all-time leading rushers. He or Michel could have walked away after 2016. Now they’ll run together one last time.
“I think that speaks volumes to the fact that these two guys have grown to love each other by living together and competing against each other and sharing carries,” Smart said.
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.