Photo by Dean Legge / Dawg Post

UGA Commit John Emery's Journey to Silver Britches

October 8, 2018
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SLIDELL, La. - John Emery says that New Orleans native Lil Wayne’s new album “Carter V” is a little different than he expected. 

“It's not the same Lil Wayne as when he started his career,” Emery said. “But in terms of him dropping the heat - yeah I expected that.”

UGA fans should expect to see Emery, like Wayne, drop the heat, soon. And it can get pretty hot in New Orleans. 

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Powerful, fast and capable of soul-crushing second-half runs, most of New Orleans has seen or heard about Emery. That he picked Georgia over LSU caused some heat of its own (more on that in a minute). But local observers know just what Emery is capable of - and it is impressive. 

And it seems like the local star is just getting started. 

Dean Legge / Dawg Post
SLIDELL, LA - Four defenders try to tackle Destrehan RB John Emery during Destrehan's 41-15 win over Slidell at L.V. McGinty Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2018. It eventually took six defenders to drag him down.

“I’ve been hungry ever since I got injured last year when I broke my hand,” Emery said after his team’s 41-15 win over Slidell earlier this year. “That brought out a lot of anger in me, and made me want it even more. To this day I am still hungry, and I am getting hungrier.”

That’s not good news for teams trying to slow down or stop Emery, who is considered a consensus Top 100 prospect and either the second- or third-best running back prospect in the country. He was relentless against Slidell - particularly in the second half. 

“Whenever the defense gets a little winded he’s going to get better. That’s what he did tonight,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said after the game.

Emery carried the ball 16 times for 194 yards with three touchdowns. Two of those scores came in the second half as Destrehan pushed a 21-15 halftime lead into a 42-15 blowout win. Emery accounted for more than half the yards the Wildcats racked up.  

 

“I think in the first half I should have played harder - like I did in the second half, ”Emery said. “I think I did get better in the second half as far as not quitting and not giving up. I have always had that not-giving-up level of play, but I think it was a big boost tonight for me. I leaned a lot tonight.”

Perhaps one play in particular, which ended with Emery finally being tackled after the sixth defender jumped on his back, was indicative of the power of the UGA commit. Power with a significant burst of speed, Emery got better and seemingly stronger as the second half wore on. 

It was the type of performance that college recruiters love. Emery certainly looks the part of a high-level back at first - he’s got break-away speed, and he’s physical - but the longer time goes on the more imposing he becomes.

The New Orleans native got started on the final Friday night in August with a breakout 55-yard touchdown run. High-level prospects make big plays all of the time. What makes Emery different is the way he was relentless in the second half. By the time the game was over, Slidell defenders had to struggle to bring him down… two, three or even five of them at a time.

“He’s a beast!” fans screamed from the stands cheering him on. 

It is clear that Emery gets better as the game goes on. 

“That kid works unbelievably hard. He’s solid muscle. He’s the nicest kid in the world, but he runs angry,” Robicheaux said. “He’s special.”

The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. Emery’s parents, John and Nikki, have done exceptional things in their lives as well. John played at Tennessee in the 1990s and works at the district level for St. Charles Parish Public Schools, which Destrehan falls under. By 2005, Nikki had moved to Atlanta. After the horror that was Katrina that year, she took in “50-something” folks who were forced from their homes as a result of the hurricane. 

“It was different folks for like six months. They were awesome people,” she said of her time living near Marietta. “We are regular. We did everything regular. We tried to help folks.”

And help they did. 

Eventually, everyone found their way back to New Orleans - thankfully for Nikki, who loves the Saints… and LSU, which provides an interesting backdrop to such a talented in-state player going out of state to play. 

“I get a lot of people who disagree with my pick, but a lot of folks who are supportive. I have been sticking my own choice. I have been sticking with my decision.”
- John Emery, Jr.

“We do the Saints all day - do not play with the Black and Gold because it is in my soul,” she said. “Anything from Louisiana I love. But my loyalty is to my son. Whatever benefits my son is what I want.”

That’s why when Emery committed to the Bulldogs over the summer his mother firmly backed him up.

“My process with John is family, not football,” she said. "I just know that I see what UGA does, and I like it. It's not just about Dell (McGee) and Kirby - it's about everything there. It is about Jonas (Jennings), Fernando (Velasco), development and after football. It just worked for John.”

“No doubt I will miss (New Orleans), but I did used to live in Atlanta, so I do have a feel for it,” Emery said of his plans to play for UGA. “I have to do the best for me and my future.”

That involved leaving home and traveling across the South to a school that’s sent two out-of-state running backs to the NFL First Round since 2015. In the last decade, UGA has put more running backs in the NFL Draft’s first round than any other program in the country.

Dean Legge / Dawg Post
SLIDELL, LA - Destrehan RB John Emery during Destrehan's 41-15 win over Slidell at L.V. McGinty Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2018.

Knowshon Moreno, Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift, Zamir White and now John Emery - the list is long of out-of-state star running backs who have left home to play in Silver Britches. 

Emery’s move to play running back at Georgia is hardly out of the norm of college football recruiting over the last ten years. 

Naturally, leaving the bayou to play Between the Hedges was met with some blowback. The usual stupidity on Twitter ensued. But for the most part, Emery said that he’s looking forward to his future - with or without folks trying to make life-changing decisions for him. 

Or as one of Emery's favorite artists, Lil Baby and Gunna, would say: “I know they hatin' on me, but I don't read comments.” Words Emery likes to stand by.

“I get a lot of people who disagree with my pick, but a lot of folks who are supportive,” he said. “I have been sticking my own choice. I have been sticking with my decision.”

“There wasn't much grief,” his mother added. “It was grief that was expected because he's from Louisiana, and we are all about Louisiana.”

The process of getting to the point of making a decision meant traveling from New Orleans around the South. LSU, Georgia… the usual suspects were after him. It took time to evaluate everything along the way. But Emery’s coach said he still put his high school team first - even during a very hectic summer.  

“John Emery is a four-star running back who is committed to an SEC team, Georgia, but you would never know that,” Robicheaux said. “He is all about his team. He took trips all summer, and he missed one workout with his team. One. That’s the kind of kid he is. He is so determined to see success here. He is very unselfish. It is not about him at all.”

Dean Legge / Dawg Post
SLIDELL, LA - Destrehan RB  John Emery during Destrehan's 41-15 win over Slidell at L.V. McGinty Memorial Stadium on August 31, 2018. 

“Actually, when this recruiting stuff came up there might have been one week when I dealt with stress,” Emery said. “I told myself to sit back and enjoy life, and that’s what I have been doing. I am loving it.”

The recruiting stuff will be done soon enough, and Emery will be on his way to Athens for his college career - still very much a lover of his home. 

“You don’t get New Orleans outside New Orleans,” Emery added about his hometown. 

Well, maybe just for a couple of years.

 

 

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