Amid fast-food wrappers, video-game gear and other bachelor-pad
debris in an Athens, Ga., apartment, scattered photographs tell
the story of a friendship. Two boys, one pale and squinting, the
other big-boned and bright-eyed, stand shoulder-to-shoulder among
a pack of peewee football players. Two teenagers, wearing fishing
gear and goofy grins, hoist a shimmering amberjack for the
camera. Two young men, tall and proud in coats and ties, hook the
waists of two pretty girls. The scenery changes with each frame,
but the characters remain the same.
David Greene, Georgia's starting quarterback, and David Pollack,
the Bulldogs' star defensive end, are about as close as two
college guys can be. They share an MP3 player loaded with Kenny
Chesney, and a portrait signed (GO DAWGS!) by Faith Hill. They
bust each other when they're feeling good--Pollack rags on
Greene's Amish-kid haircut, Greene on Pollack's motormouth--and
boost each other during low periods. They are lifelong best
friends, teammates from the age of six and highlight-reel
regulars since last year, when Greene was named to the all-SEC
first team and Pollack was the conference's player of the year.
They're also twin points of light for Georgia followers, whose
moods fluctuate with their team's poll standing--which, after
last Saturday's 27-8 win over Vanderbilt, was a healthy No. 4 in
the BCS rankings.
On a recent Monday the Davids, as they're called by their
families and by Georgia sports staffers, took a pass on the
dubious contents of their Frigidaire and lunched at the local
Chili's. As Greene excused himself from the table for a moment, a
starstruck waiter congratulated Pollack on the Bulldogs' latest
win and fumbled for the order pad. "A burger for me," said
Pollack, scanning the three-page menu, "and you can ask him, but
knowing Greeney, he's gonna go for that chicken sandwich." Five
seconds later Greene folded his rangy passer's frame into the
booth beside Pollack, considered his options and went for the
chicken sandwich. Pollack shrugged. "When you've known each other
as long as we have," he said, "you just know."
For 21 years the lives of Georgia's two best players have been as
parallel as uprights. Three days in June 1982 separated Pollack's
birth in New Brunswick, N.J., and Greene's in suburban Atlanta.
Soon afterward Norm and Kelli Pollack moved David and his older
brother (by two years), Jason, to Snellville, Ga., about three
miles from where Rick and Kay Greene were raising their son and
his older sister (by two years), Leslie. In Snellville, social
networks often grow from church and football affiliations, so the
two families became acquainted in 1988, at the first practice of
the Shiloh Generals youth-league team. Even then the boys'
personalities were distinct. "David Greene was a little
doll-baby, as well-behaved as they come," recalls Kelli. "Our
Davey was the kid you had to lock in the bathroom with you when
you were showering for fear he'd get into something. He would go
a million miles an hour and then fall asleep in his soup." The
Generals' coaches, including Norm and Rick, played the boys to
their strengths. The deliberate David would throw the ball; the
restless David would run it.
October 27, 2003
That autumn marked the beginning of a friendship founded on
sports. The boys earned five straight county youth-football
championships together and were also AAU basketball teammates.
(Greene, who played point guard, says that Pollack, the center,
"assigned himself to knock our opponents into the bleachers.")
When their families made their annual trips to Florida's Mexico
Beach or St. George's Island together, the Davids played
paddleball marathons that stretched into dinnertime. "They would
hit that rubber ball back and forth for hours," says Norm, weary
at the memory. "Everything was a competition."
The competition heated up when the boys, divided by district,
attended rival high schools. Greene landed at South Gwinnett, and
Pollack, who started grade school a year behind his friend, went
to Shiloh a year later. Each got off to a slow start--Greene's
team went 0-10 in his first season as a starter; Pollack wasn't
full-time varsity until his junior year--but both were named
first team all-state seniors. Still, the thought of playing major
college football hardly occurred to the pair until the recruiting
letters started showing up. "We were just a couple of kids, no
better than others, who grew up going to sports camps with our
buddies," says Pollack.
"There was never pressure," Greene adds, "just the love of
Jim Donnan, then the Georgia coach, saw that both players had the
promise to match their passion, and he recruited Greene in 2000
and Pollack in '01. After redshirting as a freshman, Greene
learned that the Dawgs were scouting his friend and offered to
host Pollack on his official visit. Pollack also considered
Florida, especially after Donnan was fired by Georgia that
winter, but a weekend with Greene sealed the deal. "It was like
we hadn't skipped a beat," says Greene.
At Georgia the Davids' arrival helped spark a Bulldogs revival.
Greene was ready to shed his redshirt and Pollack was about to
sign with the team when Mark Richt, the seven-year offensive
coordinator at Florida State, replaced Donnan. As Richt has
transformed Georgia from a merely above-average SEC team into a
national power, he has credited the dedication of players such
as--well, his starting quarterback and defensive end. "They've
been the glue," the coach says. "When your best players are also
great students and citizens, you're in good shape."
Greene was the first to make an impact. Six months after he was
introduced to Richt's complex pro-style offense, the boy who'd
lost his breakfast before big-stakes high school games faced his
first road test, in October 2001 in front of a crowd of 107,592
at Tennessee, where the Bulldogs hadn't won since 1980. Unfazed,
Greene engineered a last-minute touchdown drive to give Georgia a
26-24 win. By year's end he had passed for 2,789 yards and 17
touchdowns, both school records for a freshman, and earned a
reputation for poise and leadership.
In that season, Pollack's first, he was bounced from fullback to
defensive tackle. The 6'3", 278-pound bundle of energy says he
felt "like a member of Greeney's posse because strangers would
mob him with no clue who I was." That would change after the
second game of 2002. In the fourth quarter at South Carolina,
Georgia led just 3-0 when Pollack, now firmly entrenched at
defensive end, introduced himself to Dawgs fans by ripping the
ball from Gamecocks quarterback Corey Jenkins in the South
Carolina end zone for a touchdown. Pollack finished the season
with an SEC-high 14 sacks for a defense that ranked fourth best
in the nation in points allowed.
Fueled by the competitiveness that pushed those paddleball games
past sunset, the friends work hard to answer each other's
heroics--Greene by doggedly studying Richt's playbook and Pollack
by returning to the blocking sled hours after practice ends.
Their focus and commitment were vital to the team during this
past off-season. After Georgia won its first SEC title in 20
years, nine players were found to have hocked their title rings
on eBay, and five players were arrested for marijuana possession.
Because the Bulldogs had just one starter, tight end Ben Watson,
returning as a senior, Richt and his staff called on Greene and
Pollack, leaders of their respective units, to steer their
teammates back toward the goal of winning football games. Pollack
instituted daily sunrise jogs around campus for the defensive
line, while Greene overcame his laid-back nature and brought his
young receivers together for pass-catching practices. In lieu of
nights out in Athens, players gathered at Greene and Pollack's
place for BYOB (bring your own beef) cookouts. Whenever the
athletic department needed representatives for a function, it
turned to its tag team from Snellville. "They're the two best
ambassadors this program has ever had," says athletic director
This year the Bulldogs shrugged off the concerns about off-field
troubles and on-field inexperience and burst to a 3-0 start. But
when Georgia visited LSU's Death Valley on Sept. 20, the two
Davids had the toughest game of their careers. Greene struggled
to audible over the raucous crowd and finished the game having
suffered four sacks, two interceptions and a hyperextended right
knee. Pollack fought the double coverage he's seen all season and
had to leave the game for a time with a bruised right knee. The
Bulldogs lost 17-10. Afterward the duo limped out to the parking
lot and the two family RVs that follow them to every game.
Pollack's mother examined her son's swollen knee, but he had
other concerns. "We've got to get better," he said of his team.
Georgia has won three straight since, including a 41-14 thrashing
of Tennessee in Knoxville in which Greene connected on 22 of 27
passes for 228 yards and a score and Pollack had eight tackles
and two sacks. Now comes the hard part: beating Florida (Nov. 1)
and Auburn (Nov. 15) during a five-game stretch for which
Greene's top receiver, Fred Gibson, will be questionable with a
bruised knee and Pollack's top linemate, Kedric Golston, will be
out with a broken shoulder. "We haven't been a healthy team all
season," says Pollack, who had eight tackles and a pass
deflection against Vanderbilt despite a tender knee and a
turf-toe injury. "We'll just have to keep fighting."
The further the Dawgs go this season, the more attention Greene
and Pollack will get from NFL scouts, who've already been
sniffing around. Discussing the subject, the Davids are at once
excited and cautious, like kids secretly peeking at the Christmas
presents. They talk about the dream possibility of playing for
the same pro team, how Rick, Kay, Norm and Kelli could still
caravan to games and how the two players would marry their high
school sweethearts (Greene's girlfriend, Veronica Clark, and
Pollack's, Lindsey Hopkins, are Georgia students) and continue
the family-getaway tradition. Pollack would get a seaside condo,
Greene a lakeside house, and they would exchange keys.
"It's a crazy thought, going pro," says Greene, who as a junior
can declare for next spring's draft but says he plans to play out
his college career (as does Pollack). "Half the people in
Snellville probably can't believe we're starting at Georgia."
Pollack downplays the impact the pair has had on the program.
"When we're gone," he says, "this place'll go on without us." But
they won't likely be forgotten. Back at Chili's, a white-haired
Georgia alum who'd seen the Dawgs through good times and bad
shuffled over and laid his hands on the shoulders of Georgia's
two shining stars. He didn't mention Greene's precision throws or
Pollack's predatory pass rush. "You two are a class act," he
said. "Keep setting an example for the kids."
The two work hard to answer each other's heroics--Greene by
doggedly studying the playbook, Pollack by hitting the blocking
sled hours after practice.