PUTTING HIS BEST FOOT FORWARD
The "P" behind Brian Mimbs’ name on the Georgia Bulldogs roster stands for punter. It could stand for "perserverer." For the last five football seasons, Brian, a former All-State kicker from Dublin High School, has triumphed over tragedies, disproved his doubters and conquered his competitors. Never losing sight of his goal instilled in him by his parents, this unpretentious and unselfish young man has quietly become one of the greatest punters in the history of Georgia Bulldog football.
Brian Mimbs, the baby boy of Gary and JoAnn Mimbs, of Dublin, was born on May 19, 1986. Some considered his older brothers, Lee and Payton, to be better athletes. But, Brian discounts the notion that he and his brothers competed to see who was the best. "We all played at different skill positions in football and baseball and we never tried to outdo the other," Mimbs said. Old time Dublin sports fans saw and still see something special in Brian. They will tell you that he was a very good athlete, very strong for his size, and as determined to succeed as much as anyone on the field, whether on the diamond or the gridiron.
In point of fact, Brian was a better than average baseball player at Dublin. In batting more than .400 in his career, Brian helped to lead his team to the AAA Championship series in 2003. In his junior year at Dublin High, Brian’s automatic extra points and long field goals helped the Irish to play in the championship game against Screven County. Brian points to the school’s and his coach Roger Holmes’ first game in the Georgia Dome as a career highlight. It was during that game when a veteran security guard remarked to me, "Where did you get that kicker?" When I responded that he was one of our native kids, the guard responded, "He kicks better than some of the NFL kickers I see here."
One highlight of Brian’s place kicking career came in a preseason game against the East Laurens Falcons. After his teammate called for a fair catch, Brian placed the football on a tee a yard on the south side of the mid-field stripe. The 2002 AAA All State kicker took the requisite number of steps back, stepped forward and booted the pigskin between the uprights for a 61-yard free kick field goal, the longest in Dublin history and one of the longest in state history, but one which will never appear in the record books.
Middle Tennessee State offered Brian a scholarship to play both football and baseball. He turned it down. His father Gary urged Brian to play with the best and he thought the Bulldogs were the best team he could play for. "He inspired me to go to Georgia to follow and live out my dream," Brian remembered, "and, I am grateful that I did."
Mimbs was given preferred walk on status with the team as a red-shirt freshman. For most of the next two years, Brian worked hard to earn a spot as the team’s place kicker. When the Dog’s holder went down with an injury, Brian, who had worked all fall as a backup, stepped up and went into the Auburn game to hold for Andy Bailey. From that moment on, Brian, who first wore the number 26 jersey, would be the team’s holder. He never muffed a single snap. It wasn’t until the final regular season game of his sophomore year in 2006 when he got the opportunity to kick off for the first time. But Brian had an empty feeling inside. His father died on the first day of summer. "When I went on the field for the first few times, I thought of my dad and how much he meant to me and how it was he that encouraged me to come to Georgia and kick," Brian recalled. Mimbs kicked off twice against Georgia Tech that season for a respectable average of sixty yards per kick off. Actually, he had a third kick. It was in the Chick-fi-la Peach Bowl. With his team trailing Virginia Tech by the score of 21-6 early in the third quarter, Georgia coach Mark Richt sent Brian in to kick off after a field goal. Brian made his last career kickoff his best. He booted the ball at an angle into the artificial turf, sprinted toward it and cradled it like he was protecting a new born infant. Brian’s recovery of his own kick, a football rarity, ignited the Bulldogs, who went on score 18 more points and overcome the Hokies, 31-24.
Brian never faltered, even after the death of his paternal grandmother and his maternal grandfather. He remembered the lessons his parents taught him. Mimbs turned to and found comfort from his heavenly father to carry him through his trials. He credits his fellow specialists with his growth as a punter, coping with the shanks and bringing him back down to Earth when he needed it. "Coach Hagler at Dublin taught me everything I knew about kicking, but I didn’t have him here to help me, so a lot of it was trial and error," Brian remarked. Dublin Head Coach Roger Holmes recognized his field goal kicker’s potential as collegiate punter and gave him his first chance at punting. In his senior year at Dublin, Brian posted an outstanding average of 39 yards per punt.
After thousands and thousands of summer practice punts, Brian was only promised that he had the first punt of the season. He was challenged in 2007 by Drew Butler, son of the legendary Georgia place kicker Kevin Butler. Brian welcomed the competition and went on the prove that his coach’s choice was the right one. In his first season, Brian ranked third in the SEC with an average of 42.4 yards, one of the ten highest marks in Bulldog history. Coach Richt asked Brian to make several kicks for the team by calling for angle kicks toward the sidelines. "It hurt his average, but he was a team guy about it," the Bulldog coach said.
Brian’s most popular "You Tube" moment came in the 2008 Sugar Bowl against Hawaii. "They came into the game high and saying they were going to upset us," Brian remembered. Some people believed that if they won, it wouldn’t be an upset. Near the end of game, the Bulldogs were enjoying a big lead. Brian, who says he rarely, if ever, wears his emotions on his sleeves, grew frustrated at the way the smaller kickers and punters were being hit while not actively trying to make a tackle. After a long punt, Mimbs, on behalf of small kickers everywhere, shoved a massive Hawaiian to the ground, a noble gesture which drew him a personal foul penalty. When asked by Coach Richt if it was worth the punishment drills, Mimbs responded in the affirmative.
During his career at Georgia, Brian counts as his most memorable moments as the punts he made from his own end zone. As a matter of fact, his first punt ever came out 42 yards from the Dog’s end zone. In his first game, he punted five times for a 42.4 average without a single one returned. Brian thrives on pressure. "It happened four times this year," he recalled. And, on all four attempts, Brian boomed the ball high and long to bail out his team and give his defense good field position. One of those punts, a 77-yarder against South Carolina, ranks as the 6th longest in UGA history and the longest since 1973.
This past season was his best. After his final game, Brian looked at his season stats and found himself in 2nd place in the conference. Then he looked at his career average. "I try not to get caught up in stats. They put too much pressure on me, and I need to go out and do what I am capable of doing for the betterment of the team." Brian divided his total yards by the number of punts and was amazed to see that his career average was 43.1 yards, second by only 3.6 inches behind Chip Andrews. His season mark of 44.0 yards was the 4th best in Georgia history. His 54 yard game against Tennessee and 52.2 yards per punt against South Carolina rank respectively as the 2nd and 3rd best average yardage in a game by a Bulldog punter ever. In a story for his grandchildren, Brian posted a career rushing average of 8 yards per carry, albeit his sole rush came after Mimb’s inexplicably missed the balled as it dropped to the ground during the team’s victory over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. Mimbs reverted back to his first baseman days, scooped it up and ran straight ahead, some six yards short of a first down.
Perhaps Brian Mimbs most notable and unheralded accomplishment at Georgia came not on the grass of Sanford Stadium, but in the class rooms. In 2007, Brian was named to ESPN’s All District Academic Team. In 2008, he was a semifinalist for the Draddy Trophy given for the nation’s most outstanding student athlete. From his freshman season through his senior season, Brian Mimbs was named to the All SEC Academic team, making him only the fifth player in the 117-year history of Georgia football named to the prestigious team for four consecutive years. Brian’s old coach, George Hagler, still stays in contact with his former pupil. "Of all Brian has done, I am most proud of this accomplishment," Hagler said.
This spring Brian is weighing his options and figuring things out. The Risk Management and Insurance major is sending out resumes and knocking on doors. He plans to work on his technique with a coach in Arizona and give the NFL a try. Who knows what the future holds for Brian Mimbs? So far, Brian has always put his best foot forward and got out of his life exactly what he put in, just like his momma and daddy always told him he would.