It's always nice to see guys make good on second chances.
Auburn's Nick Marshall and LSU's Zach Mettenberger, who square off Saturday night in Tiger Stadium, are doing just that after taking circuitous routes back to the SEC.
Their bond is a unique one. Each began his career at Georgia, meaning the Bulldogs at one point had three of the SEC's current starting quarterbacks on their roster.
But whereas Aaron Murray has carved out a record-setting career at Georgia, Marshall and Mettenberger were sent packing after running into trouble off the field and seeing their careers at Georgia derailed before they ever had a chance to get started.
Mettenberger, then a redshirt freshman, was competing with Murray for the starting quarterback job in the spring of 2010, and it was a tight race. Not long after the conclusion of spring practice, though, Mettenberger was dismissed following a spring break incident at a South Georgia bar with a female. Mettenberger pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery and received probation under the state of Georgia's first offender act. He spent a season at Butler (Kan.) Community College before landing at LSU.
Marshall was never charged criminally, but was dismissed in February 2012 for violating Georgia team rules. He and two other teammates (who also were dismissed) were reportedly involved in stealing from other teammates. Like Mettenberger, Marshall also detoured through Kansas, at Garden City Community College, before getting a second shot at Auburn.
"I'm happy for them that they landed in a good place and are getting an opportunity to do what they hoped and dreamed about doing coming out of high school," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who will face both Mettenberger and Marshall later this season.
"I'm big on guys realizing their dreams. That's part of the reason why I coach. When you hit a major roadblock like they did, you like to hear stories of guys turning it around and doing really good things."
Rodney Garner never doubted for a second that Marshall and Mettenberger would turn it around, although he might not have predicted that both would be back in the SEC as starting quarterbacks.
Keep in mind that Marshall spent his only season at Georgia in 2011 as a cornerback.
Garner, in his first season as Auburn's associate head coach and defensive coordinator, was a member of Georgia's staff when the Bulldogs signed both Marshall and Mettenberger.
"Nick and Zach are both examples that one mistake as a kid doesn't define who you are," said Garner, a 24-year coaching veteran in the SEC. "They're both good kids that just made bad decisions.
"I think back to when I played. If I had gotten caught doing some of the things I did at their age, I might not be where I am today. It does me good to see both of those kids get their lives back on track."
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