ATLANTA — What scares Jake Fromm?
“Spiders, snakes,” Fromm said, “and I don’t like ghosts.”
What about being a freshman quarterback trying to lead your home-state Georgia Bulldogs to their first national championship in 37 years, in Georgia, against college football superpower Alabama and its legendary coach Nick Saban?
“You know, it’s just kind of fun, and I really don’t know how to describe it,” Fromm said Saturday during CFP media day. “But an awesome experience, and one I’m looking forward to.”
It helps to remember that Fromm is just 19 years old, and maybe doesn’t know enough to be scared by the enormous stage he’s about to stride across. Or the fact that he’s trying to become the first freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national championship since Oklahoma’s Jamelle Holieway in 1985.
Fromm has handled everything so far.
Georgia was the preseason pick to win the Southeastern Conference East Division, but not necessarily because of Fromm’s talents. The Bulldogs’ starting quarterback to open the season was sophomore Jacob Eason.
But Eason got hurt in Georgia’s season opener against Appalachian State, forcing Fromm into action. He had a respectable start, completing 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, but nothing to indicate he would drive Georgia to a 13-1 record and an appearance in Monday night’s CFP national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Fromm hasn’t been overwhelming, just incredibly poised —and a productive compliment to Georgia’s fearsome running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. He has thrown for a modest 2,383 yards with 23 touchdowns but has only had five interceptions and just one (in a 42-13 romp over Kentucky) in his last six games.
Does he look like a freshman?
“No, sir," Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said. "He looks like a very experienced, well-seasoned quarterback out there, like a three-year player or three-year starter. And he makes really smart decisions with the football. You don’t really see him turn it over a lot. He does what he’s supposed to do.”
Great quarterbacks are supposed to have that indefinable “it” factor. Outgoing Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, the new coach at Tennessee, saw Fromm’s special talents at a young age.
“I have a son (Jayse), he's a sophomore quarterback at Jacksonville State,” Pruitt said. “And he used to go to a football camp down in south Georgia, a little quarterback camp down there.
“He was in the 10th grade. I sat there for three days and sat and watched. And in this one little group of quarterbacks was my son, Jake Fromm, Mecole Hardman and Tyrique McGhee.”
Hardman is now a wide receiver for Georgia, McGhee a cornerback.
“I'm sitting there watching them saying, ‘Who is this guy throwing the ball?’ Because they're not but 15 years old at the time,” Pruitt said. “So it's hard to tell how big they're going to get. But you could see then Jake had arm talent. I could tell right away that Tyrique and Mecole weren’t going to be quarterbacks; they were going to be some kind of skilled players.
“But (Fromm) has played outstanding this year, taking care of the football. He's making all the checks. He puts the ball on them. Throws the ball on time. Throws them open. He's a leader, obviously.”
It will be something approaching painful irony for Alabama if Fromm leads Georgia to the victory. The Warner-Robins native committed to the Crimson Tide but switched flags to his home-state power when Kirby Smart left Alabama as defensive coordinator in 2016 to become Georgia’s coach.
“Growing up a Georgia boy, you always wanted to play for the Dawgs,” Fromm said. “And when he gave me the opportunity to come there, it's one I didn't take lightly. And now I'm here.”
Here, and with a chance to lead Georgia to its biggest victory since beating Notre Dame in the 1981 Sugar Bowl to clinch the 1980 national championship.
Again, if Fromm is scared by this he hasn’t let it show.
“It's been a crazy ride, up and down,” Fromm said. “I couldn't have written things better if I wanted to. I'm excited about it and ready to just go out and play a football game.”