If you’ve ever flipped the channel to ESPN’s College GameDay or NFL Thursday Night Football, you’ve likely seen David Pollack give insightful commentary as a college football analyst or just having fun recreating Odell Beckham catches. Google his name and you’ll find Pollack was more than just a former college football player. He was the best defensive player in University of Georgia Bulldogs history.
Herschel Walker is undoubtedly the greatest offensive player to ever don the red and black thanks to an incredible rushing career and for taking Uga to the Heisman Trophy banquet. Pollack’s name would carry the same weight had he not suffered a broken vertebrae in the second game (against the Cleveland Browns) of his second season with the Cincinnati Bengals that ended his playing career.
Don’t get me wrong. UGA has had a slew of elite defenders. Champ Bailey is one of the best cornerbacks of all time. Linebackers Thomas Davis and Justin Houston were in that upper echelon as well. Names like defensive tackle Bill Stanfill and safety Jake Scott stand out from back in the day, too.
But from the minute Pollack stepped inside Sanford Stadium for Mark Richt’s squad, the defensive end and linebacker was an instant force to be reckoned with. NCAA quarterbacks feared for their lives when he shoved his way past offensive linemen.
No play epitomized that more than when Pollack stripped South Carolina quarterback Corey Jenkins in the end zone for a touchdown in 2002. It summed up just how athletic and instinctive he was.
David Pollack’s Strip Touchdown
Pollack beat two defenders to get to Jenkins. When the Gamecocks quarterback went to throw the pass from his own end zone, Pollack stripped the ball clean from his hand for the touchdown. (It went down as an interception, but let’s be honest: that’s a strip)
Pollack’s incredible play proved to be the difference maker. Georgia took a 10-0 lead in the fourth quarter and won, 13-7, to improve to 2-0 on the season. Of course, the Bulldogs almost finished the 2002 season perfect had it not been for the Florida Gators.
UGA beat Florida State in the Sugar Bowl and went 13-1, finishing No. 3 in the final AP Poll. Pollack’s play, however, remained one of the more timeless in school history.
Pollack’s UGA Career and HOF Induction
A three-time First-Team All-SEC selection and three-time First-Team All-American, Pollack wreaked havoc on opposing SEC quarterbacks. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound defender totaled 36 sacks over his illustrious career, which still stands as a school record.
Pollack’s long list of awards and honors also included two-time SEC Player of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2004), Chuck Bednarik Award (2004), Lott Trophy (2004), Lombardi Award (2004) and two-time Ted Hendricks Award.
Only two UGA players have ever earned All-American honors three times: Pollack and Walker. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame next to Walker.
UPDATE (March 11, 2020): Finally, Pollack is getting that recognition.
He was announced as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 alongside former collegiate stars like Florida’s Lomas Brown, Nebraska’s Eric Crouch, SMU’s Eric Dickerson, LSU’s Glenn Dorsey, Alabama’s E.J. Junior, Alcorn State’s Steve McNair, and several others.
Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Pollack became a three-sport star athlete at Shiloh High School in Snellville, Georgia. He was also named a Class 5A All-State selection as a senior.
The Bengals selected Pollack in the first round (17th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft and he played in 14 games his rookie season before suffering the aforementioned injury in 2006.
Now you can find Pollack all over ESPN. He first began as an analyst with CBS in 2008 but joined the Thursday Night Football team alongside Jesse Palmer, Rece Davis and Samantha Ponder in 2012. You can also find him firing off tweets on his impressive social media account (@davidpollack47) that has hundreds of thousands of followers.
But the former Georgia linebacker should forever be remembered for his bone-crushing play as one of the greatest Georgia football players of all time.
This article was originally published July 1, 2019. It was updated after the CFB Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was announced and again to reflect Pollack’s timeless play.