JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Lawrence Cager likened his return to the playing field as rising from the dead, a figurative act he foreshadowed on social media last Monday.
Cager took to Twitter to show a "GIF" of pro wrestler "The Undertaker" emerging from a coffin, eyes aglow, and now a moment in Georgia-Florida rivalry history.
Lawrence Cager (@lawrencecager3) October 28, 2019
"I was dead, I hadn't practiced or played in like 2 1/2 weeks, so you got to rise from the dead sometime," Cager said, explaining his choice of expression. "I wasn't going to miss this game for anything."
Cager played a pivotal role in the Bulldogs' 24-17 win over the Gators on Saturday at TIAA Bank Field, catching 7 passes for 132 yards including a 52-yard TD pass and three third-down conversion receptions.
No. 8 Georgia is pulling away from No. 6 Florida pic.twitter.com/wTxLtWIggd
SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 2, 2019
It was the second time this season Cager lifted his team over a Top 10 opponent. Cager's 5-catch, 82-yard performance, which included what proved to be the game-winning TD catch, propelled Georgia past Notre Dame 23-17 back in September.
Many thought Georgia coach Kirby Smart might be playing poker when he said Cager might return from the game after missing the Bulldogs' 21-0 win over Kentucky on Oct. 19. Cager had bruised ribs and a separated shoulder that sidelined him at halftime the game before against South Carolina.
Smart admitted after the game he wasn't sure how effective Cager could be against Florida.
"I didn't know how many hits he could take, how many blocks he'd be able to make," Smart said. "He's a warrior and a competitor, and I never doubted that, but I didn't know how big the role was."
Cager, a graduate transfer from Miami, came to Georgia to advance his NFL hopes and has been on the Senior Bowl radar all season.
But the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Towson, MD., has continued to put team needs above his personal need to ensure health for the NFL Draft process.
Cager explained it's a matter of loyalty to his teammates as well as Smart and Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley, both of whom recruited him out of high school.
"As a recruit I trusted Kirby and loved Coach Smart from the jump, and I loved Coach Coley at Miami my first year," said Cager, who Smart attempted to recruit while still at Alabama.
"These are two coaches that I trust with my life, and to play for them I couldn't ask for anything better. This team is probably one of the best teams I've ever been around, and I love them."
Tailback D'Andre Swift said the Georgia players took note of Cager's sacrifice.
"It means everything," Swift said. "Him just persevering, working through injuries and coming back for us as a brotherhood, he did a great job and had a career day."
Smart was just as impressed with the work that went into Cager's return.
"He was determined from the start," Smart said. "He was on the side running, he was doing things, he was wearing Kevlar pads, he did everything he could. I'm just proud of him."
Jake Fromm, 20-of-30 passing for 279 yards on Saturday, is all about pre-snap reads and finding favorable matchups.
But with Cager, the Georgia quarterback felt comfortable aiming "50-50" balls Cager's way against a Florida defense that entered the day leading the SEC in interceptions.
"He's going to catch the 50-50 contested balls," Fromm said, "For him those are like 99-to-1, so it's great having that guy out there."
For Cager, whose career at Miami was sidetracked by a torn ACL his sophomore season, the ability to separate and make plays comes down to hard work.
Teammates take note of that, too, as Cager looks to get everyone to invest extra time to perfecting their craft.
"He's always staying after practice and working and trying to get other players to work hard with him," sophomore nose tackle Jordan Davis said. "I was running sprints with Lawrence, 10-yard sprints he was like C'mon JD, you've got to beat me.'
"Lawrence is a Dawg."
Georgia WR Lawrence Cager
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