continued from page end. “Davey ….
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end. “Davey played the game the way it was supposed to be played. He could have played in the 60’s and 70’s, when I think it was tougher,” Jon says Many of the ends who played for Fab often were small town kids who were more imbued with the work ethic and were hungry for opportunity. Like Justin Houston, who came to Georgia as an outside linebacker but moved to end with his hand in the dirt. Houston was good enough at Kansas City as a standup outside linebacker to register 22 sacks, just shy of Michael Strahan’s NLF single season record 22.5.
When Houston was traded to the Colts, he returned to defensive end, with his hand back in the dirt. No problem, he just kept on sacking quarterbacks with abandon, eleven in 2019 and eight in 2020.
Following the trade to Indianapolis, Houston called Fabris, asking his former coach to “brush him up” on the technique for returning to his old position with his hand back in the dirt. It was like old times, Houston working under the sage eye of his former coach who brought that intense edge to fundamental coaching.
Fab can fire off stats and insights when a player’s name comes up. “Quentin Moses was wonderful player to coach; he was so smart and reliable. The only player to start on the SEC championship teams of 2002 and 2005 was Will Thompson. He will always be one of my all-time favorites, the most selfless player I ever coached. CharlesJohnson spent eleven years in the NFL. The last time I saw him, he gave me his business card. He owns three companies and is very successful. Make you feel so proud. Fernando Velasco is with Sam Pittman at Arkansas. He didn’t play for me, but I recruited him. He had a terrific career with us and also in the NFL.”
There are others including DeAngelo Tyson, who played five years in the league; Danny Verdun Wheeler, who had NFL experience and is now the Assistant Director of Player Development at Arkansas; Marcus Howard, who initially was not assigned a position when he arrived in Athens, not big enough to play defensive end, but Fab believed in him and he was the MVP of the ’08 Super Bowl in the 41-10 thrashing of Hawaii; Charles Grant, who won a Super Bowl ring with the New Orleans Saints.
Rings, bowl watches and citations are nice and get a thumbs-up from Fab, but nothing warms a coach’s heart as it did for him when Marcus Howard called “out of the blue” one day to thank Fab for the influence his former coach had on his life and career.
Jon always had his game face on for Tuesday and Wednesday practices and was, believe it or not, rather calm on game day. “We all barked at each other at practice which gave us an edge,” Fab says.
One of his most memorable games came in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech in 2006. The Hokies, highly regarded for special teams play under Frank Beamer, jumped out to an early 21-3 lead—with the Bulldogs constantly “shooting themselves in the foot,” but Fabris had spotted a vulnerability in the Tech kickoff alignment. He was confident an onside kick would work if the opportunity ever came about. He reminded Coach Mark Richt of that opportunity when the team entered the locker room.
At the end of halftime, Richt announced to the team that after the next Bulldog score, they would execute the onside kick, which both delighted and flummoxed the security conscious Fabris. Would somebody text out a “watch for this” message toafriend? Georgia got the ball on the kickoff, drove downfield and kicked a field goal.
When Virginia Tech lined up to receive the ensuing kickoff, Fabris flashed the signal, which was repeated by a couple of players on the field to make sure everybody got the message. Brian Mimbs executed the onside kick perfectly. The Bulldogs advanced the ball all the way for a score, added a two-point conversion to reduce the deficit to 21-14. Georgia suddenly had the momentum and won 31-24.