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Appreciating David Pollack

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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A strong argument can be made that David Pollack is one of the SEC's top two or three greatest defenders ever

I hope people fully appreciate the legacy of David Pollack. And I don't just mean recognize his career accomplishments or cite his statistics on lists, but truly acknowledge the timeless impact he had as an all-time legendary defensive end at Georgia. Pollack, now a wildly-successful on-air personality for ESPN, was recently named to the 2020 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Downtown Atlanta awaits as a fitting destination for the Snellville-native. History is Pollack's true home.    

It's hard to speak with great conviction on subjects like this, but a strong argument can be made that David Pollack is one of the SEC's top two or three greatest defenders ever. Understanding the gravity of the situation, it's a case I'll make. Maybe it's because I'm from the Peach State. Maybe, watching Pollack as I started to pursue covering college football as a career, it's because I'm close to his same age. A converted fullback, Pollack, at the very least, worked his way into the conversation. It's one worth having. 

In an ever-evolving sport, we owe it to the past, present and future to make sure that the production of players like Pollack is remains part of the big picture. Sometimes stories need a frame of reference; sometimes they just need a frame.  

Two players in the Georgia record books have been named a three-time first-team All-American, one being Pollack; the other, Herschel Walker, is considered by many to be the best college football player of all-time. Such is the career company that Pollack keeps. He, as a defensive end, was named the overall SEC Player of the Year by the Associated Press in 2002. Pollack was the league's defensive player of the year in both 2002 and 2004. Nationally, he won the Bednarik and Lombardi Awards, the Hendricks Award twice and the Lott Trophy.  

Pollack finished his college career with 36 sacks, the sixth-highest total in college football since the NCAA formally started accounting for the stat. He led the SEC with 14 sacks in 2002. Among a number of other highlights, Pollack's zero-yard interception return for a touchdown of South Carolina's Corey Jenkins remains one of the most remarkable plays the league has ever seen. Pollack batted down an attempted pass, catching it before it hit the ground, and landed in the endzone. His improbable score was Georgia's lone touchdown in a hard-fought victory.

All of Pollack's grit and grind helped challenge and change the status quo in Athens. In 2002, Pollack's sophomore season, Georgia went 13-1 and won the program's first SEC Championship in 20 years. Correspondingly, the Bulldogs defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl, winning, then, for just the third-time ever in New Orleans. Pollack, ultimately starting 45 consecutive games, starred for a senior class that went 42-10 in four seasons and helped Georgia to three top six finishes in the national polls. 

Though time dims the spotlight on everyone, Pollack has earned the right to be remembered, vividly, forever. On a theoretical Mount Rushmore of SEC defenders, Pollack would have a place; he, too, would have a smile.    

A post-playing career rise as a television personality is a testament to Pollack's wide-ranging talents. There are some, in fact, who see him as a sports commentator only. Unfortunately, a serious neck injury didn't allow Pollack to continue to expand his brand in the NFL after 4.5 sacks his rookie season. The 17th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, Pollack, roughly a year-and-a-half after a scary on-field sequence, retired from football in the spring of 2008.    

Whether through his media career or his philanthropic work, Pollack has continued to strive for greatness. His chase remains a passionate pursuit.

The College Football Hall of Fame ballot is a powerful yearly reminder of the countless people, players like Pollack, that have long made the game so meaningful and special. Names, and the accolades and honors that follow, read like a letter from a dear friend. Pollack will soon officially take his place alongside many other true icons of a game that means so much to so many. It's a distinction he's held in hearts and minds for years.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports