Everyone wants to talk about the play. Of course they do. For so many people who don't know Josh Harvey-Clemons, the play defines him -- a final visage of failure before his career completely unraveled. And by some cruel twist of fate, 21 months later, just as he stands on the precipice of a new chapter, the football gods have conspired to make him once more face down the team that celebrated at his lowest moment.
The specifics of the play would have seemed absurd had Auburn not pulled off an even bigger miracle a week later in the Iron Bowl. Thirty-six seconds left, Georgia up by a point. Auburn QB Nick Marshall drops back to heave a bomb on fourth-and-long. Harvey-Clemons has a beat on it at the 20-yard line. He reaches up, gets his hands on the ball, but collides with teammate Tray Matthews. The ball caroms off his hands, floats elegantly into the waiting arms of Auburn receiver Ricardo Lewis, who trots into the end zone for a 73-yard, game-winning touchdown.
First came the tweets and Facebook posts, railing against Harvey-Clemons.
Then came the accusations that he had been selfish, trying to steal an INT rather than ice the game.
Then came the end, a suspension for Georgia's bowl, the departure of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who had recruited Harvey-Clemons, and eventually, his own dismissal from the school.
"That time period was tough for me," Harvey-Clemons said. "It was overwhelming at the time. But with that play itself, I didn't linger on it."
Grantham had pulled him aside after the game, reviewing the play and illustrating what Harvey-Clemons might have done differently. More importantly though, he reminded his star defensive back that Georgia would have never been in position to knock off the eventual SEC champs without Harvey-Clemons' contributions. DBs need short memories, and he needed to move on.
The problem, of course, was that no one else was ready to forget.
"The thing that upset me was the fact that people said I was trying to steal Tray's interception," Harvey-Clemons said. "I'm not that type of player. That's not what happened on the play at all. All the other talk, it doesn't bother me . But that upset me, that people would say I was being selfish."
When Harvey-Clemons was dismissed last spring, a third strike for rules violations, the chorus of critics only grew, and until Grantham offered him a second chance at Louisville, he wasn't sure he'd have a chance to prove them wrong.
But on Saturday, Harvey-Clemons will finally get his chance when the Cardinals open their 2015 season. Against Auburn. In Georgia.
To read the rest of David Hale’s story, click here.