By Ryne Dennis
Athens Banner-Herald

Sometime last Saturday evening, Jake Fromm loaded up his truck and drove home to Warner Robins, Georgia.

Georgia’s quarterback had just led the Bulldogs to a 45-21 win against in-state rival Georgia Tech and in less than a week he knew top-ranked Alabama and the SEC championship was looming.

He needed to be as far away from that world as possible, so he went to clear his mind by enjoying what he loves to do most — hunt.

Jake and his father, Emerson, led the Fromms into the swamps of south Georgia on Sunday where they put on camouflage gear, painted up their faces, wrapped duck calls around their necks and fired away at flapping fowl.

For a family surrounded by football — younger twin brothers Dylan and Tyler will play next year at Mercer and Auburn, respectively — Sunday’s excursion was a chance to drift away from the noise.

“It’s just a way for you to get your mind off it real quick,” Jake Fromm said. “We did a pretty good job, shot a bunch of ducks and had a good time with the family which is always a lot of fun. Any time you’re in the swamp with your brothers, your dad, your close friends and family, it’s just awesome.”

By Monday Fromm was back to the chaos, facing reporters’ questions about everything he went home to get away from.

What he learned in January’s national championship loss to Alabama was the hottest topic.

“They’re very similar to last year,” Fromm said. “Their scheme on defense is very similar to what we do on defense.”

Reporters continued to pepper him about what he learned from the team’s two trips to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season — the SEC championship victory over Auburn and the heartbreaking loss to Alabama.

“I know what’s going on,” Fromm responded. “I know the trip to Atlanta and what the environment’s going to be like. Playing in big games is fun and what you dream of. Let’s just go out and go get it.”

They asked about his original commitment to the Crimson Tide before coach Kirby Smart arrived at Georgia, his friendship with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, most people’s Heisman frontrunner, and what it’s like being a big underdog against the mighty Crimson Tide.

Perhaps the only question the sophomore didn’t face was why, after leading the Bulldogs to a 12-2 record as a starter in his freshman campaign, there was ever doubt that he was the man for the job this season.

The obvious answer was that the Bulldogs brought in five-star standout Justin Fields and fans were clamoring for more of the dual-threat quarterback.

Also, Fromm didn’t start the season firing on all cylinders, and a poor showing in a 36-16 loss at LSU — where he completed just 16 of 34 passes for 209 yards with a touchdown, a pair of interceptions and four sacks — only sparked fans’ eagerness for more of the running Fields.

In the five games since that LSU loss Fromm has silenced any doubters.

After the LSU debacle, Fromm closed out his season 62 of 85 for 827 yards and 11 touchdowns to just one interception.

And a closer look at Fromm’s season as a whole puts him among the best quarterbacks in the nation.

Entering Saturday’s SEC title game, Fromm has thrown for 2,236 yards and 24 touchdowns to just five interceptions.

His 69.1 percent completion percentage puts him eighth in the country and his 179.4 quarterback rating has him third and among Heisman contenders Tagovailoa (212.51), Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray (206.77) West Virginia’s Wil Grier (175.49) and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (171.73).

“Just his composure,” said Georgia receiver Riley Ridley about what makes Fromm stand out. “The way he fights out all the noise and keeps coming out and playing each and every week.”

While he was mostly praised for his performance as a freshman in last season’s national championship game, Fromm’s numbers were eerily similar to this season’s game against LSU: 16 of 32 for 232 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and four sacks.

“As far as last year, I’ve really kind of flushed it out of my mind,” Fromm said. “The game happened, it is what it is, but ready for another opportunity to come out and play.”

Maybe it was the hunting that cleared his mind. Or perhaps the hunting trip was about superstition, as Fromm and his family also went duck hunting last year on the Sunday prior to winning the SEC championship.

“It worked last year,” Fromm said. “Let’s hope it works again.”

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