There is undoubtedly an enormous amount of pressure put on college athletes. Pressure to perform at the highest level, pressure to maintain a code of ethics on and off the field, pressure to remain calm and collected despite the vitriolic concoctions that hostile environments and media frenzies can create. It is safe to say that there are many college students out there whose reputations would be forever tainted by their mistakes as young men and women.
Fortunately for them, they aren’t subjected to the public scrutiny endured by professional athletes, celebrities or pop stars. Aside from occasional slip-ups on their Facebook pages–pictures with red Solo cups or glassy eyes–they are saved by the anonymity of being “just another college kid”. Unfortunately, Josh Harvey-Clemons just learned the hard way that he does not share that luxury.
I don’t mean to excuse the mistakes Harvey-Clemons made leading up to his dismissal. Mark Richt and his coaching staff have yet to make any sort of regretful statement since Josh crossed the line one too many times. This silence in of itself is very telling–Richt is known more for his kindness and calm demeanor than his sideline antics. Considering it was Harvey-Clemons’ third violation of team rules, it would also seem that the punishment was fair and well-deserved. As his former teammate, Arthur Lynch, pointed out in a recent tweet, “Just to be clear, those who decide not to do it the RIGHT way do not deserve to don the red & black. It is a privilege, not a right.”
Lynch’s wise words establish the perfect dichotomy between two players who handled the pressures of being a Georgia Bulldog very differently. One is a senior and a team leader–the other, a disgraced former five-star recruit. One has clearly bought into the advice of his coaches and peers–perhaps the other never really got the message. Barring any unforeseen changes, one man will suit up as a Georgia Bulldog for his last season this fall. And much like those typical college students, the other will more than likely fade into anonymity–the casualty of a lifestyle that was simply untenable given his athletic accomplishments; relegated to nothing more than another cautionary tale for incoming freshmen.
But much like those typical college students, Harvey-Clemons should know that it’s never too late to turn things around. As bystanders to the circus of heroes and villains engendered by college and professional athletics, the least we can do is grant him a second chance. Despite his silence, I imagine Coach Richt wishes he could do the same.