Georgia's ascension to the top of the college football world has been filled with five-star talents living up to their promise, but the Bulldogs have had their share of underdogs, too.
Jordan Davis went from a three-star defensive tackle to the 13th overall pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Stetson Bennett arrived in Athens as a walk-on quarterback and left as the starter for two national championship teams, while receiver Ladd McConkey out of North Murray High wasn't ranked among the top 1,000 players in the 2019 signing class but recently was voted a Southeastern Conference preseason first-team selection.
The latest rags to riches story is redshirt sophomore Mekhi Mews, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound receiver who had three catches for 75 yards in last Saturday's 48-7 opening victory over UT Martin. Mews, who arrived at Georgia as a preferred walk-on in 2021, hauled in a 54-yard touchdown reception from Carson Beck midway through the third quarter that put the Bulldogs up 24-0.
"You just start at the bottom of the depth chart, put your head down and work," Mews said this week in a news conference. "This place gives you an opportunity to work your way up."
Mews also had a 31-yard kickoff return against the Skyhawks and tallied 19 yards on two punt returns. Before Saturday, his career stats consisted of four games, two receptions for 9 yards, two punt returns for 25 yards and a 12-yard kickoff return.
"It's a credit to Mews, who came in here and wanted an opportunity to compete, and he earned it," Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. "We saw him in high school, and he was high on our preferred walk-on list. He came out and really competed and did a great job.
"I think everybody on the team will tell you he's earned what he has gotten with the way he practices."
Mews was still a walk-on as recently as this summer, and Smart said Monday that he doesn't discuss who is and who isn't placed on scholarship from his quality walk-on pool.
Despite a successful career at Central Gwinnett High that included being Georgia's Region 8 player of the year in the 6A classification, Mews didn't have any scholarship offers bigger than Morehouse College and Savannah State, a pair of Division II programs.
"I was not highly recruited," Mews said. "When Georgia offered me the PWO, I felt it was perfect. It was 45 minutes from home, and I just wanted to make the most of it once I got here."
Mews redshirted the 2021 season, though he did have a kickoff return and a punt return during the 56-7 crushing of Charleston Southern, which would be his only game. One appearance was more than McConkey made during his redshirt year in 2020, but McConkey started the 2021 opener against Clemson in Charlotte and never looked back.
That made McConkey a natural big brother figure for Mews, who was among Georgia's eight first-time starters against UT Martin.
"I feel like Ladd has helped me a lot," Mews said. "Me and Ladd talk a lot, and we talk about his journey. He's gone through it. I get a lot from him. He's a smart guy."
Mews said that Bennett's college story spanning six years was an inspiration as well, and he doesn't mind often being the smallest player on the field.
"I don't look at my size as a disadvantage," he said. "I look at it as an advantage for me, and I just play to my advantages. If I give it my all, I feel like I can do anything."
Georgia is on an 18-game winning streak, which began with the 34-11 win over Michigan in the 2021 Orange Bowl national semifinal and is a school record. ... The Bulldogs played 16 true freshmen against the Skyhawks. ... Georgia hosts Ball State this Saturday (noon on the SEC Network) in the first meeting between those programs.
Contact David Paschall at [email protected].