John Douglas is playing defensive end for Georgia Southern at a high level, but he’s still an offensive guy at heart.
In a game in which it seemed at the beginning the sole purpose of the Eagles secondary was to say “nice catch” to Elon receivers, Douglas came up with the play Coach Jeff Monken said, “sparked us.”
While the final score was impressive the No. 1 Eagles’ 41-14 win over Elon last Saturday did not start on such a high note.
Phoenix quarterback Thomas Wilson hit 8 of 9 passes on his team’s second series to give the Phoenix a 7-0 lead. It marked the first time this season Georgia Southern (4-0, 3-0) had trailed.
The Eagles had to punt on the ensuing series, and Elon looked like it was going to repeat its earlier success. Two plays after picking up a first down at his own 39 Wilson went to the well once too often.
With Douglas dropping back in protection Wilson rocketed a pass in his direction. Douglas, a former running back, tipped the ball, caught it and returned it 33 yards to the five yard line.
From there freshman Dominique Swope scored on a five yard run on first down. Adrian Mora kicked the extra point and it marked the start of a 24 point run by the Eagles.
“It was a play where I was spying the quarterback,” Douglas said. “I read his eyes, and he slung it right at me. He slung it quick, and it had zip on it.
“I tried to score, but I couldn’t. I was thinking too much about it. If I had cut back I could have because I had plenty of ground. I caught plenty of grief [from teammates] about letting the quarterback take me down.”
Douglas, a senior from Augusta, is in his second year at Georgia Southern after beginning his college career at Auburn. As a sophomore Douglas started the season opener at fullback for the War Eagles before suffering an injury which caused him to miss the final eight games of the season.
Douglas grew up attending Eagle games with his father, Pat, who was Coach Erk Russell’s first scholarship player, and later was an assistant coach on Russell’s first national championship team in 1985.
“Adrian Peterson was my favorite player growing up,” Douglas said. “I loved coming here to watch AP and Coach (Paul) Johnson’s teams.”
A running back at Aquinas in high school Douglas had two years eligibility remaining when transferred last year. Without the benefit of spring practice and true freshman Robert Brown on the scene playing running back in the triple option was out of the question.
“Actually I came not knowing where I would be playing,” Douglas said. “They said they needed me at defensive end, and I wanted to play.”
Douglas had played “some defense” in high school, and that proved to be helpful although he said he is far from polished as a defensive player.
“I’m still trying to develop some things that should be second nature,” Douglas said. “The type of mentality it takes to play offense and defense is totally different.”
Although he came up five yards shy of a touchdown at Elon the converted defender did score once last year, returning a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown in the Eagles’ 23-20 FCS playoff win at Wofford.
Douglas’ ultimate goal is to be a college coach, and he wants to be an offensive coordinator. And, what kind of offense would he run?
“A traditional one,” he said with the trace of a smile on his face.