Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey is the epitome of the local kid done good. At a time when the program has faced increased scrutiny for activities away from the field, the Chatsworth native is not only excelling on the field for the Bulldogs, but he’s also shining a positive light on off-field activities at the program, following his recognition for two major community awards this preseason.
Ladd McConkey Shines a Positive Light for Off-Field Activities at Georgia
The tragic loss of offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy has embroiled the Georgia program in dark times, leading to national scrutiny about the off-field culture that has threatened to taint the Bulldogs’ on-field success.
During these challenging times for the program, McConkey has provided a positive light on the off-field activities at Georgia. In addition to being nominated for the 32nd AllState AFCA Good Works team, the fourth-year pass catcher is featured on the watchlist for the Wuerffel Trophy.
Both awards recognize the pursuit of excellence away from the field. Dedication to giving back to the community, academic achievement, and striving to overcome adversity are at the forefront of what they stand for, and McConkey exemplifies those attributes.
As the Georgia wide receiver explains, his recognition is just the tip of an iceberg hidden by negative attention.
“I tell people all the time, we have a team and a group of good guys,” McConkey insists during an exclusive sit down with College Football Network. “We have guys that care about each other, that care about the community. I’m not the only one that does stuff, there are so many guys that give back and do a lot of good work for this team. It definitely goes under the radar.”
Describing the national recognition as an “honor” and an “opportunity to represent the program the right way,” McConkey realizes that while he may not be the only one doing exceptional work in the community, he has an opportunity as a football player to make every moment count in his pursuit of excellence.
“It’s huge,” McConkey says of his platform as a football player. “You’re only on this platform for so long. At the end of the day, football is going to run out. To be able to use this platform while I have it, and make the most of it, it’s really not for myself; it’s for others. Just spreading what I can, the values that have been instilled in me, and push those out, it’s huge.”
Sacrifice and Selflessness
A Georgia native who was raised in Chatsworth before playing high school football at North Murray, McConkey learned quickly that helping others was a key component of life. Parents Benji and Brittany McConkey involved their children in community projects, while providing inspiration and values that their kids could develop and distribute as they made their own path in life.
“It comes from a young age,” McConkey explains his drive to be a light in the Georgia community. “My grandparents, parents, siblings – I feel like we really get satisfaction from helping others. We don’t do it for a reward or to get something out of it. It’s really just for others. That’s where I feel the best about myself. If I can see a smile on somebody else’s face, it lights me up.”
There’s an element of sacrifice behind community giving – a trading of your time and energy to benefit somebody else.
For McConkey, he had the perfect role models to showcase the positivity that sacrifice can bring. Brittany was and remains active in the Murray Area, and his grandparents showed him firsthand how selfless actions can contribute to a person’s greatness.
“It was huge,” McConkey begins. “I’ve seen them be so selfless. They’ve been at my games since I was five or six years old, traveling everywhere. Practice, games – they were at every one. They’ve supported me so much, invested in me so much. I just try to take the work they invested in me and give it to some other people.”
If you want to understand the impact that those family members made on the young Georgia wide receiver, pause the television, and zoom in on McConkey lining up for Georgia on a college football Saturday. Look carefully, and you’ll see “1-20-16” written in black on his white towel.
It’s more than a number. It’s the date one of his biggest supporters passed away. It’s a constant reminder of the grandfather who inspired, motivated, and supported him through his early years and whose selflessness inspires every off-field activity that McConkey has participated in during his Bulldogs career.
Those endeavors include working closely with organizations like the Family Promise of Athens and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, initiatives that help provide support for families experiencing the crisis of homelessness and battling food inequity. Additionally, McConkey has spent time with kids either battling cancer or dealing with a family member facing that fight.
“We recently went to Camp Sunshine,” McConkey said. “Going there, man, we weren’t there for an hour but singing, dancing, playing basketball with them, just doing little stuff like that. Being able to give back in any way I can that’s what makes me happy.”
Those endeavors are not limited to organized activities either.
Any opportunity to put a smile on someone else’s face — no matter what, when, or how — is met with passionate enthusiasm. Such was the case when McConkey surprised a young Georgia fan with a signature he’d never forget on Christmas Day.
“It was interesting,” McConkey continued. “Someone had sent it to my mom on Facebook. This little boy opened my jersey, and he started crying, he was super excited. So my mom was like, ‘We’ve got to do this,’ and I was like, “heck yeah! Message his parents and got him over here.’ They pulled up to our house, he got out of the car and broke down. It was awesome to be able to do that for him.”
“Do the right things, and it’s going to pay off in the end.”
McConkey is shining a positive light on the off-field antics of Georgia football players at a time when he’s also overcoming the odds on the field. An under-the-radar, under-recruited high school player, he’s coming off a season where he finished second on a College Football National Championship-winning team with 58 receptions for 762 yards and seven touchdowns.
It’s a far cry from being the 23rd-ranked wide receiver (by 247 Sports) in the state of Georgia in the 2020 recruiting class. While he’s in the spotlight for the Bulldogs ahead of the 2023 college football season, McConkey faced a far less certain footballing future as his recruiting journey neared its natural conclusion coming out of North Murray High School.
“I remember visiting all the FCS schools that had given me an opportunity to go play,” McConkey reflects on his path to Athens. “I really liked them. That’s where I thought I was going to end up. My brother kept telling me to be patient, that I was going to get the big one.”
“Finally, Georgia came to my basketball game on a Friday. Then Coach Smart came to my next basketball game on the Monday and came to my house. I got up here for a visit and I was like, ‘This is a little different to what I’ve been seeing.’ It was a no-brainer.”
While admitting that he’d always wanted to play in the SEC, McConkey’s focus on football and academics meant he was always going to give it his best shot wherever he landed. Arriving in Athens to a stacked locker room meant that he’d have to wait to land his shot for at least one season.
“Obviously, that first year, I didn’t get to play. I was on scout team. That was always tough, but looking back now, that was probably the best thing for me. It definitely made me a way better player going against all those guys that drafted that year, and are still playing right now.”
“It wasn’t fun at that time, but I definitely needed it and it made me who I am today.”
As an under-recruited, and, therefore, under-the-radar player for the Bulldogs, McConkey has drawn comparison to the journey of former walk-on-turned-Georgia legend, Stetson Bennett IV. While laughing that “I’m way better looking than Stetson” before praising his former QBs route to glory, there’s a message to be taken from both of their rise to national prominence in Athens.
“Hard work pays off, that’s how I always look at it. Keep your head down and grind. Do the right things, and it’s going to pay off in the end.”
McConkey still has at least one season left at Georgia, and his story is far from at its end. Yet, his pursuit of doing the right things — both off and on the field — has paid off with national attention and recognition.
While he doesn’t give back to the community to receive such attention, the Bulldogs WR is helping shine a positive light at a time the program needs it most.