Georgia football received some great news this week when James Cook, Jordan Davis, and Devonte Wyatt decided to return for a final season in Athens.
Cook and Davis are choosing their senior seasons over the NFL Draft, while Wyatt is using the free season granted by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is big for Georgia championship hopes in 2021. Each is important to Georgia's game plans. Cook is one of the centerpieces of the offense because of his ability as a rusher and a receiver. Davis and Wyatt are starting defensive linemen who typically dominate opposing offensive lines.
These three are far from the first great Bulldogs to return for a final season. Here are some of the best players who chose Georgia over the NFL Draft:
David Pollack, 2004
Pollack was already a Georgia legend after his junior season. He set the school record for sacks in a season with 14 in 2002 and he added 7.5 sacks to his career total in 2003.
Across these two seasons, Pollack totaled 67 quarterback pressures, four interceptions, 27 tackles for a loss, and 194 total tackles. Those numbers and his overall play earned him All-America honors in 2002 and 2003. He also won the Ted Hendricks Award in 2003.
Pollack was likely already a first- or second-round NFL Draft pick. Instead, he decided to play one more year for Georgia and it was another special season. Pollack pressured the quarterback a whopping 41 times, resulting in 12.5 sacks.
For his efforts, Pollack became Georgia's second three-time All-America. He also won the Hendricks Award again, as well as the Chuck Bednarik Award, Lombardi Award, and the Lott Trophy.
Aaron Murray, 2013
After passing for over 3,800 yards and leading Georgia within one play of playing for a national championship in 2012, Murray had every reason in the world to enter the NFL Draft. Yet, Murray felt like he needed one more year and he decided to stay in school.
While Georgia ultimately crumbled because of injuries in 2013, the season would have been much worse if not for Murray. Three players suffered season-ending injures, and three more missed at least one game. Running back Todd Gurley, for instance, never returned to 100 percent.
Yet, Georgia continued to field a competent offense because of Murray. The Bulldogs averaged 37.9 points per game with Murray at quarterback. Understandably, Murray's stats did drop, but he still had a fantastic year. Murray finished with 3,075 yards with 26 touchdowns.
Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Lorenzo Carter, 2017
The impact of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Lorenzo Carter returning for their senior seasons in 2017 can't be overstated. Georgia was in no position to compete for national championships after the 2016 season, let alone SEC championships.
The Bulldogs went 8-5 in Kirby Smart's first year as head coach and the offense was mediocre at best, which made life harder for an otherwise solid defense. All three would have been justified in their decisions to pursue the NFL Draft. All were great players. Carter was a solid pass rusher, Chubb and Michel were 1,000-yard rushers with numerous touchdowns.
Instead, the three elected to return for their senior years, adding much-needed experience and leadership to the team. What did that leadership produce? Thirteen wins, an SEC championship, a Rose Bowl victory, and a shot at the national championship.
On the field, the three players dominated. Chubb and Michel became the first duo in school history to each rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Carter had 4.5 sacks, a whopping 62 tackles for an edge rusher, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
All three had monumental performances in the Rose Bowl. Chubb and Michel combined for 326 rushing yards with five touchdowns. Chubb scored a touchdown late in regulation to send the game to overtime, Michel scored a touchdown in overtime to win the game. Carter had a half-sack early in the game and blocked a field goal in overtime.