ATHEN - D.J. Shockley knows the image many people have of him and his teammates.
"When people think about Georgia, they think about the stuff on the field, but they also think about the stuff off the field," the Bulldogs' quarterback-to-be said. "They probably think a lot of us are just all-out thugs, that we think we're above the law or something, and it's really not like that."
Long before the Bulldogs' most recent spat of troubling headlines, Shockley was doing his part to improve the image of college athletes in general and his team in particular. The rising senior was recognized this year as the UGA student-athlete who has done the most work in the community, said assistant athletic director Robert Miles, who is in charge of the athletic department's Life Skills program.
Shockley, who has worked with the Boys & Girls Club of Athens and summer camps for disabled children and for cancer patients among other things, won the award by going out of his way, Miles said. Like the time the handicapped children from Project REACH came to tour the football team's practice facility.
"We only ask them to show (the kids) around the Butts-Mehre building, but then the next thing you know he's down in the locker room with them and then they're on the football field and then he's taking them down to the stadium," Miles said.
Shockley also has participated in a leadership program sponsored by the NCAA and this year will be the male student-athlete representative on the Athletic Association's board of directors.
"The best way I can describe him is as a true student-athlete and an exceptional young man," Georgia athletic director Damon Evans said.
"He's a great leader on and off the field. He's that person you want to be on the front page of your program."
Shockley still wears a homemade bracelet given to him weeks ago by a cancer-stricken youngster at Camp Sunshine.
"It's a friendship, buddy bracelet," he said after a recent summer workout. "It makes me feel good just seeing the eyes of the little kids. You see their eyes light up or you see them whispering to their little friends. It makes a difference to other people."
Evans is an unabashed supporter of Shockley, who will lead the team this year after backing up former South Gwinnett star David Greene for the last three seasons. Shockley earned Evans' respect not just with his community work, but also by the way he handled his long tenure as a backup.
"You never heard a complaint," Evans said. "You never heard him waver one bit. I'm very fond of the young man, and I really think he's going to take our football team a long way. But more than that I think he's going to be a great ambassador for the University of Georgia for the rest of his life.
"I wish we had 100 D.J. Shockleys."