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Georgia defensive lineman Zion Logue (96) holds up defensive back Christopher Smith (29). The University of Georgia football team leads the University of Oregon 28-3 at halftime in the 2022 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game held at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

After five players from Georgia’s historic 2021 defense were drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft, there was a gaping hole in leadership on that side of the ball. Senior defensive back Christopher Smith has stepped into an increased role as one of the more experienced players on defense for the Bulldogs.

Smith and the rest of the secondary have focused on growing each day, hoping to carve out their own legacy in their pursuit of another championship.

“One of our mottos is ‘you can either get better or you can get worse,’” Smith said. “One of my personal mottos is ‘one percent,’ so we look to get one percent better everyday to get closer to our goals.”

Smith elevates his performance in big games, as Georgia fans have seen on a number of occasions. He secured an interception in two consecutive Chick-fil-A kickoff games – first against Clemson in 2021, then against Oregon this season. Against Alabama in the national championship, he posted a career-high seven tackles, two pass breakups and an interception.

With three interceptions and 35 tackles last season, he was a key contributor for a Bulldog defense that held teams to an average of just over 10 points per game.

Smith, now entering his final season in red and black, has also grown into a mentor for the younger players on Georgia’s defense, like sophomore linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson and sophomore defensive back Javon Bullard. Smith and his teammates have said his role as a leader and mentor is his biggest area of growth as a senior.

What’s more, Dumas-Johnson reinforced that Smith has taken on a teaching role with Georgia’s younger players, helping them prepare for the rigors of a college football season.

“I’m really seeing more of a leader, more of a vocal guy from last year to this year,” Dumas-Johnson said. “More stepping up, more responsibility, more vocal and making more plays.”

Smith, who has been given the nickname “Soldier,” has shown joy in this increased role as a leader, and that energy has translated into a tighter bond with his teammates in the secondary.

Drawing from his own experience, Smith can impact the game with his performance on the field as well as his teaching off it.

“Soldier is a guy I personally look up to. Me and Soldier have a great relationship on and off the field. I look at him as an older brother,” Bullard said. “Leadership-wise, he comes in with such joy and excitement, and he brings the energy to the defensive-back room every day. Not a day goes by that Soldier doesn’t bring the energy, and I love and appreciate him for that.”

Trevyn is a fifth-year journalism major at UGA. He currently serves as the assistant sports editor at The Red & Black, and he previously worked as the newsletter editor and a contributor. 

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