ATHENS, Ga. — After serving as a four-year starter and playing in all 53 games in his Georgia career, John Theus moved on from the program when he was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by San Francisco. A few years later, after retiring from the Tennessee Titans because of health reasons and hanging the cleats up for good, he’s back helping the program he started 46 games for between 2012 and 2015.
Theus is doing the same thing for Georgia’s offensive line that legendary place-kicker Kevin Butler did for the punters in 2016 and 2017. He’s serving as a volunteer student assistant while he works on finishing his undergraduate degree.
He’s not at every practice, but he’s taking on some extra responsibility for the program he loves. Kirby Smart, who was hired as Georgia’s head coach just a few weeks before Theus played his last game as a Bulldog in the 2015 Liberty Bowl, is grateful.
“He’s been there, done that, he’s played at a high level and he’s really good for our kids to be around someone who has been successful in this league who has also gone on to play in the next league so he’s been a big asset for us,” Smart said. “We appreciate him doing it because he doesn’t have to.”
Georgia’s coaching staff made the first move. They reached out to the former five-star prospect and asked if he would come on and help. Initially, the answer was no. Theus wanted to focus on getting his degree.
That’s when Sam Pittman stepped in. Known for his ability to entice elite high school talent to come play for him, Pittman worked his charm on Theus and convinced him to help the staff. For a couple of weeks now the Jacksonville, Fla. native and Bolles School product has been working with the offensive line and just as Smart and Pittman anticipated, he has brought a lot to the table.
“He just brings a bunch of knowledge because he knows what’s going on, been here, played here,” sophomore right guard Ben Cleveland said. “He knows how things work. I think the biggest thing he’s got going with us right now is his history with all these teams. He knows what everybody does, what their habits are and stuff like that. I think he’s going to be a real big help to us.”
He’s currently focusing on the position he played while at Georgia, but Theus’ impact can be felt beyond the offensive line. Having left Georgia just three years ago, there are still some players on the team who shared the locker room with him while he was donning the red and black.
Senior inside linebacker Natrez Patrick remembers when he arrived in January of 2015 and in 12 short months he learned some valuable lessons from a guy he practiced against regularly.
“It’s amazing to me coming across a guy that I haven’t seen since freshman year,” Patrick said of Theus. “I played with him when I was a freshman, great guy. He always did the little things right. He always paid attention to the details and did the little things right. He critiqued himself all the time. Those are some things I took from him. I’m just glad that he’s with us.”