If not for a persistent track coach his junior year at Spalding High, Chris Mayes may not have ever played football, much less sign a scholarship with Georgia.
"She told me she was going to drag me out to the field to see how I'd do because I was mostly a basketball player," the Griffin native said. "From there on, it's been pretty good."
So what if it he had to take a slight detour before making it to Athens?
A member of Georgia's original "Dream Team" class in 2011, academics forced the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Mayes to go to Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, where he went to school for two years but only played one as he took last season to concentrate on his academics.
"It also gave me an extra year of eligibility," so now I have three years to play instead of two," said Mayes, who coaches are counting on making an immediate impact at nose guard this fall.
With John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers no longer around, Georgia obviously has a huge need to fill at the position. Mayes will get every opportunity to fill the void, especially since the Bulldogs were only able to add Johnathan Atkins and DeAndre Johnson to the interior defensive line as new signees.
"I think its' going to be a challenge, and I welcome it," Mayes said. "We're still two two-deep at every position so that's a pretty good rotation. We'll all get plenty of playing time."
That's just what new defensive line coach Chris Wilson has in mind.
"There's definitely going to be a lot of opportunities. When you lose guys like John Jenkins - we recruited him at Mississippi State - and then you lose a guy like Kwame, there's a void," Wilson said. "I don't know if you can replace that much production with just one guy, so we've really got to develop some depth. We've got to maintain two or three guys who can play anywhere from 20 to 25 snaps a game to really help you."
Mayes, who had built a solid relationship with former defensive line coach Rodney Garner, has been impressed by what Wilson has had to say.
"He's a great coach, a very hype guy, he tells you straight up what he wants," Wilson said. "He wants you to have fun and play hard, but he also wants you to be intense."
Wilson has told Mayes, along with the rest of Georgia's defensive linemen that they'd better be ready.
"I like to play anywhere from six to eight guys in a game, that's the only way I believe you get better. You get better by practicing, you get even better by competing in SEC football games," Wilson said. "What I like to do is have guys who can create disadvantages for the offense and the more guys you have like that, it really builds depth and I think later on in the season when you have a chance to play in those SEC title-type games. You've got a really good group of guys who have been tested. So I think it's critical. Where you win is up front."
Considering Mayes only started playing organized football his junior year in high school, he's come a long way.Mayes earned four-star status from Rivals.com, a fact he says is amazing considering how far he had to come.
"When I first got on the field I didn't even know how to get into a three-point stance or nothing," Mayes laughed. "It took me a long time to figure out the gaps, I was like 'what is that?'"
But that was then.
Although Mayes knows there is still plenty he must learn, definite progress has been made and he feels he will make a positive impact with the Bulldogs this fall.
"I've got way more hand technique because I didn't know as a nose guard in high school to keep my gap. I just played, just tried to make plays," he said. "But now, I know how to keep my gap, play controlled, know how not to get reached. I know how to control my gap so now my hand technique is faster. I think I've improved a lot."