Joe Tereshinski III's grandfather, father and uncle played football at the University of Georgia, so he knows how much the annual border game against the University of Florida means to the Bulldog Nation.
Tereshinski, a third-generation Georgia letterman, thought he might one day get a chance to start at quarterback against the Gators, but he never imagined it would be Saturday at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., where the No. 4 Bulldogs will try to stay undefeated and in contention for a Southeastern Conference title and possibly a national championship.
Georgia starting quarterback D.J. Shockley, the SEC's highest-rated passer, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in last week's 23-20 victory over Arkansas and isn't expected back until the Nov. 12 game against Auburn. If Georgia wins Saturday, it will clinch the SEC East title and earn a spot in the Dec. 3 SEC championship game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
Georgia Coach Mark Richt said it is up to Tereshinski's teammates to help him keep the Bulldogs undefeated.
"Everything we have been doing is certainly not too hard for him to comprehend," Richt said of Tereshinski, who has thrown 23 passes in seven games this season. "What is going to be important is how everybody else plays around him. If you protect him, he will have a chance to find some [receivers]. If we give him some type of running attack, it will help him."
Tereshinski, who played at nearby Athens Academy and whose father, Joe Tereshinski Jr., is a strength and conditioning coach and video coordinator for the Bulldogs, seemed born to play here. "It's a dream come true," Tereshinski said Monday, after going through his first practice as the starter. "Every kid dreams about growing up and wearing the red hat, especially when you grow up in Athens. This is the game where we can clinch the East, and we want to do it now rather than later. This is a game we want to win, and we want to stay undefeated."
Georgia quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said Shockley has a stronger arm and runs better than Tereshinski. But Bobo said Tereshinski, who has a 4.0 grade-point average and is a double major in finance and risk management, is confident enough to get the job done against No. 16 Florida, which has beaten Georgia in 13 of the past 15 games.
"Joe T. is a smart guy and he's going to prepare and he's going to be ready to play," Bobo said. "We've just got to get him to relax and not feel like he's got to make things happen for us to win. It's a big game. When you walk up in the stadium, you can tell it's a special environment."
Tereshinski could have attended Harvard on an academic scholarship, and he talked to coaches from Auburn and Stanford about playing football at those schools. But there was never very much doubt about where Tereshinski would attend college. His grandfather, Joe Tereshinski Sr., was an all-SEC choice for the Bulldogs in 1947 and played defensive end for the Washington Redskins from 1947 to 1954.
Tereshinski's father was born in the District and played football at St. John's College High and was an All-Met selection in 1970 and 1971. He played center at Georgia and was a team captain on the 1976 team that won the SEC championship and lost to Pittsburgh, 27-3, in the Sugar Bowl. Tereshinski's uncle, Wally, was a starting tight end on the 1976 Bulldogs team.
So when it came time to make a college choice, Joe Tereshinski III knew he wasn't leaving home. His younger brother, John, is the first Tereshinski to leave the Bulldogs' litter -- he is a sophomore tight end at Wake Forest.
"We've got all the confidence in the world in Joe," flanker Sean Bailey said. "He's been out here a long time. He knows it's his time to shine and he's going to make the most of his opportunity."