AJC: Georgia football players’ driving behavior is ‘out of control’

Since recruiter Chandler LeCroy killed himself and football player Devin Willock while playing Willock’s teammate Jalen Carter on Barnett Shoals Road after a night of drinking, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been investigating the players’ driving records and team culture under Kirby Smart.

The AJC released the results of that investigation over the weekend and they should affect anyone living in Athens who shares local roads with these bulldogs.

Three reporters who spent months reviewing court records concluded that the 350 players who signed up for Smart received a total of 300 traffic tickets. 60 cases involved serious speeding, one involving driving at more than 100 miles per hour within a 35-mile zone.

This ratio is far higher than for the total population of Athens. The police have initiated just over 6,000 traffic stops this year, or about one for every 20 inhabitants. And of course, not all of those stops resulted in a ticket.

According to the AJC, in one case running back Kenny McIntosh crashed into an Uber driver and sent her to the hospital. In another instance, running back James Cook rammed five unoccupied cars parked downtown.

Smart has declined to say how disciplined such players are, but they are rarely suspended, and coach Bryan Gantt — the program’s unofficial liaison with law enforcement — often schedules their court dates himself and pays their fines in cash himself.

Willock’s family is suing the UGA Athletic Association and Carter, seeking $40 million in damages.

Even the deaths of Willock and LeCroy didn’t stop players from speeding. Just last month, wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint was stopped three times. Police found he was exceeding the speed limit at 20, 31 and 45 miles per hour.

The problem is by no means limited to Georgia football players. Reckless driving has been a problem everywhere since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns emptied city streets.

But players on a successful program like Georgia’s may be even more prone to speeding than the average college-age young man, thanks to “name, likeness, and likeness” deals. Many players get free cars in exchange for helping dealers or can buy expensive vehicles with their zero money. These cars tend to be extremely powerful, like Carter’s Jeep Trackhawk, which has a 707-horsepower engine and accelerates from zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds.

Heavier and more powerful vehicles are also responsible for the increase in pedestrian fatalities in recent years. Motorists have already killed seven people in Athens this year, rising to 36 in 2021 and 2022 combined. The number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 18% in 2022, and total road fatalities increased by 5%.