Connection to UK coaching staff guided UGA transfer to Cats

Published 10:26 am Friday, February 23, 2024

Sometimes, a simple relationship that is easy to forget can become a significant development.

That’s what happened when Georgia linebacker Jamon “Pops” Dumas-Johnson put his name into the transfer portal and eventually ended up at Kentucky.

He said the “connection and relationship” he had with UK defensive coordinator Brad White “never burned out” even while he was at Georgia helping the Bulldogs win national championships in 2021 and 2022.

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“He’s the only coach who sat down for 30 minutes to an hour and just talked ball to see if I really wanted to be at Kentucky,” Dumas-Johnson said. “Going back into the portal drove me here, remembering what he did.”

That’s a big deal for Kentucky because he not only played in 38 games at Georgia but started 24, including nine in 2023 despite his foot injury. He had 126 career tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, one interception and one forced fumble.

He was a finalist for the Butkus Award awarded to the nation’s top linebacker in 2022 and was named a first-team All-American by the Sporting News and ESPN. He was a second-team All-America pick by The Associated Press, AFCA and The Athletic. He was the national champion’s second-leading tackler with 70, including nine tackles for loss.

Dumas-Johnson wants to prove to doubters that he can play at that level again.

“People not believing you can do it is just motivation for me. Luckily for me I have seen the best version of me. I just got to get back to it,” he said. “I accomplished everything I could at Georgia. People question why I left Georgia. I accomplished a lot of things. I did a lot of things most people I have been around haven’t done yet. I would say I just want to have more fun with it here at Kentucky.”

He believes White and linebackers coach Mike Stoops will get the best out of him and enable him to reach the NFL where UK has sent other linebackers in recent years. He also believes the UK strength and conditioning staff will be able to do what is necessary to “make sure” he is ready for the NFL after this season.

“I think I will bring that vocal leader here. I am just an alpha. I am not saying they don’t have one but I bring that extra alpha,” Dumas-Johnson said. “It’s important to have two (alphas) instead of one because you control your side of the field. No one has to control everything. You take care of your side.”

He knows he’s new to the UK program but believes his leadership style comes naturally and is not hard for teammates to accept.

“Being a vocal leader or person is just being yourself. It’s easy. Once I got to know the guys, they were cool. You introduce yourself and get rolling,” the new UK linebacker said. “As people realize who you are, it just comes easy if you are the kind of person you really are.”

He said on the field he was “pretty sure you will be hearing me screaming” because that’s who he is and always will be.

“I am coming back from injury so I can’t be what I want to be right now. The guys push hard. they work hard,” he said. “It’s just little details I pick up when things really start going. Just the little things and what I am used to. Not taking nothing off, no breaks for me.”