As Georgia teammates and roommates in 2017, linebacker Roquan Smith and safety J.R. Reed helped lead the Bulldogs to the national championship game.
Three years later, with Reed preparing to follow Smith into the NFL, the bond between the top two tacklers on that Georgia team remains extremely tight.
"We still keep in contact," Reed said last week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "I've been up to Chicago to visit with him. Just being [at Georgia] and playing with him and some of those guys on that team was just amazing. Just seeing his work ethic and how he led are some of the things I like to implement in my game."
In 2017, Smith won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker after leading Georgia with 137 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14.0 tackles-for-loss and 20 quarterback pressures. Reed was named second-team All-SEC after registering 79 tackles, two interceptions, five tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
Selected by the Bears with the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Smith recorded a team-leading 121 tackles, three shy of Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's Bears rookie record set in 2000. Smith also compiled five sacks, eight tackles-for-loss, one interception and five pass breakups while playing in all 16 games with 15 starts.
Smith was limited to 12 contests in 2019 due to injuries. He's currently recovering from surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle that forced him to miss the final three games. At the time he sustained the injury Dec. 5 in a Thursday night win over the Cowboys, Smith led the Bears with 100 tackles.
Reed, meanwhile, continued to perform at an elite level at Georgia. Last year as a senior he was named first-team All-America and was one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the nation's top defensive player.
Reed was a key member of a Georgia defense that ranked No. 1 in the nation in points allowed (12.6 per game) and rushing yards (74.6 per game). He was also an instrumental part of Bulldogs teams that won 11 or more games in three straight seasons, won three straight SEC Eastern Division titles, and played in three straight New Year's Six bowl games.
As Reed prepared for the Combine, Smith provided some sage advice.
"He said, 'Just enjoy it. Take it all in. Walk around with a smile on your face. You're there for a reason,'" Reed said.
Reed has been exited to see Smith excel with the Bears and is eager to join his close friend in the NFL.
"It's amazing because we all know we're built for it," Reed said. "We talked about it—me, him and [Georgia linebacker and 2020 draft prospect] Tae Crowder. I know all of us are going to have a bright future ahead."