Even if you closely watched Saturday’s Georgia-Mississippi State game, you still may not have noticed Malkom Parrish, although hardly playing, making his first appearance this season in Georgia’s 31-3 victory.
After breaking a bone in his foot during fall camp roughly five weeks beforehand—a break which required surgery—the senior cornerback initially took the field on the third play of the contest with Mississippi State facing third-and-long. Parrish would reenter the game several more times, but usually when the visiting Bulldogs faced third down and for a total of only nine plays. He didn’t record a tackle, a broken-up pass—nothing. Nevertheless, Parrish’s return was notable—so much so, his head coach brought it up when asked about, of all things, which Bulldog quarterback would start this week at Tennessee.
“I want the one that gives us the best opportunity to win to play quarterback. You tell me, who is that?” head coach Kirby Smart said. “I can't answer that. It's based on the performance during the week. How do I look at it? I look at it like Malkom Parrish. Does anybody know? Malkom Parrish was coming off an injury. … He didn't play the whole [Miss. State game], but you could argue he's a starter. He's a starter.”
The “starter” indeed started all but one of Georgia’s games in 2015 and 2016. For his Bulldog career, consisting of three-plus seasons, Parrish has totaled 108 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, 13 passes broken up, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions in 39 games.
Yet, aside from any statistics, it’s what Parrish represents which Smart is most fond of: his toughness, effort, and the fact he embodies Georgia’s defensive plan.
“I never get to give Malkom his due credit,” Smart said. “Up until he got injured in camp, he was having one of the best camps. That was the one injury blow that hurt me as a coach because he was number one in effort in practice, number one in toughness. Not all corners like to hit people. He likes it, and he was doing things the right way.”
Still, even immediately after the injury—and with his “hitting people” temporarily placed on hold—Parrish continued to be the utmost senior leader with nothing to gripe about.
“He has not complained once. He's been in every meeting since. He's out there cheering guys on, coaching on the younger guys,” Smart said of Parrish. “So, it's great to get his spirit back, his energy back, because he has an impact on it.”
Parrish’s fellow members of the secondary agree with Smart.
“He's someone that's going to work hard, bust his tail to do whatever he can to get on the playing field,” said senior defensive back Aaron Davis regarding Parrish. “When he gets on the playing field, he's been playing very well for quite some time. That's the type of guy Malkom is, and we appreciate him.”
Smart added that although Parrish was not 100 percent healthy, he was cleared Saturday night; therefore, he was going play without a doubt—according to the head coach, something a lot of players won’t do at the risk of possibly getting beat or looking bad.
“He's tough. We always say he's one of the toughest dudes on the team, so we appreciate everything he does,” Davis said. “Anytime he puts himself out there on the field, whether he's completely 100 percent or not, we know we're going to get everything he has from him."
Whether Parrish is 100 percent or not for Georgia’s looming game in Knoxville is uncertain at this point. Still, one thing is for sure, whether completely healthy or only partially come Saturday, Parrish will have the exact same attitude he exhibited the week before.
“He didn't care,” Smart said of Parrish, who had no concern whatsoever he wasn’t completely healthy entering last Saturday’s game. “He was like, ‘I'm going to give you all I've got, Coach,’ and that is a consummate professional to me."