Jake Fromm settled in behind the microphone, scruffy faced, hair nicely coiffed, looking entirely comfortable in this unfamiliar setting — as usual.
Georgia’s confident freshman quarterback has faced Southeastern Conference defenses and hostile road environments like a veteran this season, leading the third-ranked Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff.
What he has not done much is talk to reporters. Georgia coach Kirby Smart prohibits freshmen from doing interviews, a rule Fromm acknowledged he kind of likes.
“It’s been great, you know, not having to, but it’s part of it, man, and I’m thankful to be here,” Fromm said Thursday during a 45-minute availability for the Rose Bowl that requires the starting quarterback’s participation.
As he done so often this year — in much more difficult situations — Fromm handled the task just fine. There is no guarantee Fromm will play well against No. 2 Oklahoma on Monday in Pasadena, but it is safe to assume he will not be overwhelmed by the moment.
Fromm, a Georgia native who grew up in Warner Robins, about 100 miles from Atlanta, said there might have been a few times when he first got to Georgia that he questioned whether he belonged.
“But man, I haven’t had the feeling in an extremely long time,” he said. “I’ve kind of taken every opportunity and felt like I’ve kind of owned it and just kind of ready for the next challenge.”
Just 19, Fromm was thrust into the starting role this season out of necessity. Sophomore Jacob Eason sustained a knee injury during the opener against Appalachian State. The next week, Fromm made his first college start at Notre Dame. The Bulldogs’ one-point victory that day was the first sign a team that had finished 8-5 in its first season under Smart was primed to take off.
Fromm is two victories away from becoming only the second true freshman quarterback to guide a team to a national championship, joining Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway, who did it in 1985.
“Hope I can add my name to the list,” Fromm said.
Mother knows best
Oklahoma linebacker Caleb Kelly is not about to start doubting mom.
Valerie Kelly has already correctly predicted the Sooners would end up in the Rose Bowl, so when she tells her son that the next stop for No. 2 Oklahoma is Atlanta for the national championship game he is not going to argue.
“‘You’re going to go to the Rose Bowl and all of us are going to get to go. I just know it, I just know it.’ She kept on saying that,” Kelly said Thursday. “She says we’re going to win this week and I’m going to play really good and then we’re going to go to Atlanta.”
The sophomore from Fresno, a self-proclaimed “momma’s boy,” will have more than 40 family members and friends attending the Rose Bowl game, his largest rooting section since his final high school game.
Teammates and coaches credit Valerie with instilling the attitude for Caleb to succeed. “I think it’s his commitment to his mother to be successful in whatever he does,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Football’s important, but he’s way deeper than that.”
Kelly has 52 tackles this season, intercepting a pass against Texas Tech and returning a fumble 18 yards for Oklahoma’s first touchdown in the Big 12 title game win over Texas Christian.