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Kirby Smart Hit The Jackpot When He Bet On Ladd McConkey

April 17, 2024

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ATHENS - It was January 20th, 2020. Nobody knew it at the time, but the Georgia football program changed that day for the better.

In fact, what Kirby Smart did that night might be the smartest thing he’s done since being the head football coach at Georgia.

That’s the night Kirby Smart extended an offer to three-star, Ladd McConkey. At the time, McConkey was just a terrific athlete who was too small to play at the D1 level. At least, that’s what everyone told him.

But Kirby Smart has other ideas. As they were closing out their top-ranked recruiting class, Smart and his staff decided to extend a late offer to the North Murray (GA) star after watching him dominate on the hardwood.

The natural athleticism. The quick feet. The explosiveness. It was always there.

After earning an offer from Georgia, the Chatsworth native took a visit to Knoxville in hopes of landing an offer from the Tennessee Volunteers, the team he grew up watching. Instead, the former Tennessee staff, including offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, said “No thanks”.  In fact, sources at the time told Dawg Post that the staff in Knoxville simply thought he was too small. 

McConkey was all Georgia after that, committing to Kirby Smart on February 2nd.

Still, expectations were low for the three-star prospect. The quick, shifty pass-catcher came to Georgia along with Jermaine Burton, Arian Smith, Marcus-Rosemy Jaicksaint, and Bulldog legend Justin Robinson. He was ranked as the No. 166 wide receiver prospect, the No. 119 prospect in Georgia, and the No.1131 overall prospect in the country.

But McConkey didn’t care. He just wanted to work. He wanted to compete. He wanted to play football. That’s it.

McConkey didn’t need “doubters” to help him work hard. He never outwardly expressed a “nobody believes in me” attitude. He may have thought it, but his actions didn’t show it.

That’s because Ladd McConkey is a quiet assassin. He’s the farthest thing from a diva you’ll find at the wide receiver position. This young man worked his tail off to be the best player and teammate he could be.

Of course, the results speak for themselves.

After redshirting in 2020, McConkey made a big impact during Georgia’s 2021 national championship season, starting in seven games and catching 31 passes for 447 yards and five touchdowns. He was also a Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC Team selection.

In 2022, McConkey made it clear he was one of the top receivers in the league. He was a reliable option for Stetson Bennett all season long, catching 58 passes on the season for 762 yards and seven touchdowns. He also led the way in Georgia’s big national championship against TCU, catching five passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

Last fall, battling through injuries, McConkey caught 30 passes in nine games for 478 yards and two touchdowns.

McConkey has certainly made his mark in Athens. Not only has he been extremely productive on the field, but he’s been an outstanding member of the community and a tremendous asset in the locker room. He was the 2023 Wuerffel Trophy Winner and a 2023 Allstate AFC Good Works Team selection.

So when you look back at it, Kirby Smart's program got a lot better on that winter night of January 20th. Kirby Smart bet on Ladd McConkey, and everyone won big.

Well, except Tennessee.



According to FanDuel, the Atlanta Braves have +500 odds to win the World Series this summer.


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