Most casual football fans have probably never seen a Georgia Southern Eagles football game. If you have, though, you know the Eagles were one of the best FCS-level football teams for nearly three decades, winning six national championships between 1985 and 2000, as well as 10 Southern Conference titles, before joining major college football and the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Last year, Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford guided the program to a 10-3 season and Camellia Bowl win in his first full year. The Eagles are no slouch, either — this offense ranked No. 7 in the nation running the football (266.2 yards per game) and led all of college football with only five turnovers all season. Credit for that efficiency goes to Lunsford, but it was quarterback Shai Werts who was the star of the show.
But despite his rising status as a two-time Sun Belt Conference Honorable Mention, Werts found himself suspended from football activities after being arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of cocaine.
The story of Werts’ arrest, though, sounds like a scene straight out of Super Troopers.
According to a Saluda County Sheriff’s Office police report obtained by The George-Anne, officers attempted to stop Werts for a speeding violation in South Carolina. But before Werts pulled over, he called 911 and told them “he was not pulling over until he had reached further into town with lights as it was unsafe.” When police caught up with him, a white residue was noticed on the hood of his car.
The officer tested the “white powder substance” with two cocaine kits, both of which tested positive for the Big C.
Werts then told police the cocaine was just bird poop and denied knowing where it came from. The police report states that the powder looked like it was thrown onto the hood of the car, which was then “attempted to be washed off by the windshield wipers and wiper fluid.”
As a redshirt sophomore last year, Werts started all 13 games and was named MVP in Georgia Southern’s 23-21 bowl game win over Eastern Michigan. As a run-first QB, Werts racked up 908 rushing yards and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground (16th-most in FBS). Plus, the 205-pounder from Clinton, South Carolina didn’t throw a single interception in 116 attempts last season and tossed 10 touchdowns.
Werts’ teammate, redshirt junior defensive end Quan Griffin, was also suspended for a separate incident in Florida. According to the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, Griffin was arrested and faces numerous charges including aggravated battery, weapon offense, damaging property, burglary and larceny after a “domestic dispute.” His bond is set at $345,000.
Georgia Southern University’s 2019 football season starts with a bang, as the team travels to Baton Rouge to face Ed Orgeron and the LSU Tigers in Death Valley. It’s unclear if both football players will be available for this game, or when they’ll return to preseason football practice, as both cases are still under investigation.
UPDATE: According to The Savannah Morning News, Saluda County Deputy Solicitor Al Eargle revealed the substance taken from Werts’ car wasn’t found to be cocaine. Despite two positive field tests, no controlled substance was found after lab testing was conducted.
Georgia Southern has reinstated Werts as a member of the football team, and no further disciplinary action is coming. Werts is expected to start against LSU on August 31.
This article was originally published on August 2, 2019.