PLANTATION, Fla. – Before he donned the No. 1 jersey for the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, Sony Michel wore No. 1 for the American Heritage Patriots.
Michel rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns in Monday's College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl against No. 2 Oklahoma, propelling the Bulldogs to the national championship game. He also caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.
The Sooners took an early 31-17 first-half lead, but it was Michel who outshone Heisman Memorial Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield, giving Georgia its first points of the game on a 13-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and later breaking off a 75-yard run into the end zone in the second quarter.
Michel tied the game in the third quarter with a 38-yard touchdown run, but he saved his most memorable score for last, bursting through Oklahoma's defenders for a 27-yard touchdown run in double overtime to give Georgia a 54-48 win.
"I mean, when I scored the touchdown, I knew it was over," Michel recalled after the game.
Back home in South Florida, Michel's teammates and coaches were watching on TV, cheering him on.
The game-winning run came after Michel's fourth-quarter fumble that was returned for an Oklahoma touchdown.
"For him to come back and battle through that, you know what I'm saying, and to score the winning touchdown, it was unbelievable," high school strength coach Michael Smith said.
Smith said Michel was a natural on the football field.
"He's everything that you want," Smith said. "I mean, he's the total package, not just athletically but just being a good person."
Former teammate Carter Jacobs said Michel was a leader on and off the field.
"He was destined to be in the NFL, destined to do great things, and to perform at that level, it's great to see," Jacobs said.
Michel and the Bulldogs will face No. 4 Alabama in Atlanta for the national championship. Georgia hasn't won a national title since 1980.