When speaking with reporters on Tuesday night, he joked that he had been around long enough to be recruited by coach Mark Richt. The sixth-year senior had to wait his time at Georgia, not starting his first game until the 13th game of his fifth year in Athens.
That game came against Alabama in the SEC championship game. Poole found out he was starting the night before after taking a lot of reps at practice the week before. His first audition at Georgia’s star position, like just about everything else in that game, did not go well. Poole had a handful of mental lapses and Georgia got embarrassed, losing 41-24.
“The coaches always stayed on me and made sure, in practice, I was doing my best and giving my best effort,” Poole said. “They always told me my time was going to come eventually, and that time came at the end of last season. I was prepared for it, thanks to the help from my coaches and teammates, and we did what we had to do.”
Poole would then have to wait nearly a month to see the field once again, as the Bulldogs played Michigan in the Orange Bowl. Even after the admittedly poor showing, Poole always maintained a sense of confidence that he would be back out on the field when it mattered.
After smashing the Wolverines, Georgia got enough crack at Alabama. The Bulldogs had taken a 19-18 lead in the fourth quarter and Alabama was facing a third down. The Crimson Tide had isolated Slade Bolden on Poole, putting the Georgia defensive back in a one-on-one matchup.
On Georgia’s next defensive possession, Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo hauled in the game-clinching interception, which he returned for a touchdown. At first, Poole was worried Bryce Young was once again throwing at him.
But once Ringo had an escort into the endzone, it all came together for Poole.
“My parents were super proud of me,” Poole said. “Just to see the joy they had after that game, everything they knew I had been through, it made it 10 times better.”
Poole elected to take advantage of the extra year afforded by the NCAA and return for a sixth season. That Poole waited so long to make an impact at Georgia runs in contrast to a recent trend in the Georgia defensive back.
Kirby Smart recently remarked how thin Georgia is at the position and why that is the case.
“Receiver and defensive-back, we have never in seven years been this thin. Ever been this thin,” Smart said. You can point a finger and blame anywhere you want, but it’s the life of a college football coach now. It’s easy to leave and go places. Those guys are a little higher maintenance in terms of thinking of themselves.
“They expect to play right away and go. It’s certainly a position of concern for us in terms of recruiting and development as a skill position.”
Related: A Georgia football deep dive on the National Championship-winning block by Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint
Poole did speak on the transfer portal, but he never really considered actually using it. He knows how hard he worked to get to this point and wanted to see out his journey at Georgia. He’s an Atlanta native, where he played at Hapeville Charter, the same school that produced fellow super senior safety Chris Smith.
Now with some positive experience under his belt, Poole looks forward to the challenge of being a leader for a young Georgia secondary and leaving an even bigger mark at Georgia. Something he’s always wanted, and waited, to do.
“I always had no doubt that eventually, all my hard work would pay off,” Poole said. “To get to this point and be one of those guys the coaches can depend on me is huge for me.
Georgia football defensive back William Poole discusses key National Championship pass breakup: ‘I got up screaming’
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