Baldwin County’s Bullard wins defensive MVP


Marissa Marcolina

Baldwin County High School

Owen McDaniel, Contributing Writer

“About time.” That was the reaction from Baldwin High School’s Athletic Director Dexter Ricks when UGA sophomore defensive back Javon Bullard, a step ahead of TCU’s wide receiver Quentin Johnston, hauled in a deep ball from Heisman Award Finalist quarterback Max Duggan.

For most people watching, the interception may have come as a surprise, especially considering Johnston’s clear size advantage over Bullard. 

However, Ricks, who has known Bullard since he was eight years old, will tell you that Bullard has been making plays like that from the moment he first set foot on a field. In fact, when Ricks talks about Bullard, the adjective that tends to persistently resurface is “natural” – not only in terms of talent, but also his leadership and work ethic.

“Even as a freshman, the older kids would look to him for guidance or leadership,” Ricks said. “He came in already as a natural born leader. It enhanced or grew over the three and a half years that we had him here, but he already came in established as a leader.” 

“When he went about his daily routine, you could just tell he was focused on being the best he could be and building for his future,” said Baldwin County High School Principal Jason Flanders. “He was excellent.” 

Flanders also added that Bullard graduated from Baldwin High School a semester early, which speaks to his tenacious work ethic.

“He is one of those superstars, but he is also one of those people who works extremely hard,” said Baldwin County head football coach Jesse Hicks. “There is nothing that was given to him. He has worked for and earned everything he has got.” 

That hard work certainly paid off on the biggest stage of college football. Bullard recovered a TCU fumble in the first quarter, then picked off two passes from Duggan on consecutive drives in the second quarter during UGA’s 65-7 embarrassment of TCU. 

Bullard was recognized for his outstanding performance, winning the defensive MVP award for the second straight game.

Although many athletes find their motivation in the money and fame that comes with their success, Bullard is driven by his faith and his family. 

“You have definitely got to have faith. Going into any game, there are never any nerves because I know who I am really playing for and who gave me the ability to do what I can do,” Bullard said.

“Just knowing that God is by my side and he is leading the way and knowing that I am trying to follow his path the best way that I can just gives me a lot of faith, hope and joy for not only me, but for my family as well.”

In addition to his faith, Bullard’s mother, Shonda, has kept Bullard grounded and has been tremendously supportive of him in all his endeavors. 

“My mom is my rock. We have that bond that is unbreakable,” Bullard said. “She tells me the things I need to hear, not the things I want to hear. She is just all around a super woman. I am so grateful that she is in my life, and I just want to continue to make her proud.”

Another thing that stands out about Bullard is his desire to give back to his Baldwin County community. 

After winning the 2021 CFP national championship, Bullard visited and spoke at each school in the Baldwin County School System, and he is always looking for more ways to give back.

“I feel like that is another way of me fulfilling God’s purpose,” Bullard said. “The more glory and blessings God gives to you, the more important it is to give back to others as well. At one point, that was me looking up to somebody who made it out of Milledgeville, and I was hoping that they would come back, so it is crazy how the tables turn, but I want to keep that cycle going.”

As UGA chases its third straight national title, it can be easy for them to get complacent and forget what it is like to be the hunters, not the hunted. However, Bullard believes that the Bulldogs will be more than up to the challenge.

“We know what it takes. We are not satisfied with being complacent. We know what it is to be on top. We believe in getting better each and every day, in every aspect of the game.” 

Throughout his career, Bullard, who was only a three-star recruit out of high school, has faced criticism and doubt, often based on his size. “Thank you, [critics]. People are always going to doubt you, but it is never about proving them wrong. It is always about proving yourself right. I know who I am, and I am going to prove to everyone that I am who I say I am,” Bullard said.

As Bullard enters his junior season, he hopes to continue silencing the naysayers and add to an already impressive legacy that he has built at the University of Georgia.