Georgia tight end Brock Bowers catches a touchdown pass during the first half of the 2022 SEC Championship game on Saturday, December 3, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Brock Bowers is a player who defies labels.

Sure, the Georgia depth chart lists him as a tight end.

But there are times when he looks like the fastest receiver on the field. Other times, one would swear he’s one of the best running backs in the country.

Bowers is a big reason the Bulldogs have won two straight national championships and will open the season Saturday against Tennessee-Martin as an overwhelming favorite to pull off an unprecedented three-peat.

“Wherever the coaches put me and trust me to help the team win, I’ll do it,” Bowers said with a shrug. “If that’s at running back or receiver or tight end, wherever they want me, I’ll go. I don’t pay much attention to it.”

Heading into his third — and surely final — season between the hedges, the California native already has put together a career`s worth of highlight-reel plays:

  • That 78-yard touchdown catch against South Carolina, when he hauled in a pass over the middle, broke one tackle, ditched another defender with a nifty cutback and outran everyone else to the end zone.
  • That 75-yard scoring run on the first play of the game against Kent State, when he took a took a handoff and was barely even touched while speeding down the sideline.
  • That juggling catch he made against Florida, a remarkable bit of hand-eye coordination that sent him off on another long TD.

No wonder they call him the “unicorn.”

“I’m glad he’s a Georgia Bulldog,” said Mike Bobo, who’s heading into his first season as Kirby Smart’s offensive coordinator and knows his job will be a lot easier with No. 19 in the lineup.

At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Bowers certainly has the physique of a tight end. Then, he starts running. Suddenly, he’s transformed into an Olympic-worthy sprinter. Linebackers have no chance of sticking with him. Heck, tiny little cornerbacks are hard-pressed to keep up.

Defensive back Tykee Smith, who goes against Bowers every day in practice, knows what a handful he can be to defend.

“A really special player,” Smith said. “Strong. Once his hands get on the ball, it’s kind of hard to get it out, even if you’re playing the best defense in the world. And with him being able to run like he does, you don’t expect that out of a tight end.”

Bowers comes from good stock athletically. His dad starred in football at Utah State. His mother was a top softball player at the same school. Their kid made his mark at Napa High School, quickly turning heads even though his senior season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Georgia offered him a scholarship, Bowers jumped at the chance to play on the other side of the country.

“People always said the SEC was the best football,” Bowers said. “I wanted to come compete against the best, practice against the best every single day. I wanted to win games and try to win championships.”

He made an impact right away, hauling in 56 catches for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns — plus 56 yards rushing and another score — as Georgia won its first national title in 41 years.

It was more of the same as a sophomore. Sixty-three catches for 942 yards and seven TDs. Nine carries for 109 yards and three more scores. Another national championship for the Dawgs.

To put his numbers in jaw-dropping perspective, Bowers has averaged more than 15 yards each time he’s gotten the ball in his hands over the last two seasons. On nearly one out of every five touches, he’s taken it all the way to the end zone.

Bobo knows what he’s got to do.

“If a guy has the unique ability to make plays and turn an explosive (play), we’ve got to do a good job as a staff of designing plays that get him touches,” the offensive coordinator said.

Bobo knows he’ll always get Bowers’ best. He’s not just some freak athlete who gets by on his supernatural talents. This is the kid who used to run up the steep hills around Napa to stay in shape. He carries that work ethic with him every day.

“I feel like ever since I was younger, I just always wanted to be, at least try to be, the best,” Bowers said. “I feel like that’s what really pushed me. I don’t know. It’s just kind of always been there, I guess. I try to outwork the person next to me.”

And once he’s done outworking them, chances are he’ll just run right by them.