Nov. 12, 2010
Miami vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday at noon at Bobby Dodd Stadium
By Matt Winkeljohn
I’m going to enjoy writing this story, but it’s going to half kill me at the same time because I interviewed Bobby Ross Wednesday, but in something of a partial system dump on my laptop computer, I’ve lost all but a fraction of his wonderful comments.
When Ross watches Georgia Tech play Miami Saturday in Bobby Dodd Stadium, while he and about 100 former players from the team he led to the 1990 ACC and UPI national championship are feted, it will not be the first time this season he has seen the Yellow Jackets, and I’m not talking about watching them on TV.
He’s done that, too, but I was almost stunned to learn that Ross has attended two Tech games this season, traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., and Blacksburg, Va., to watch the Jackets.
Retired after serving as head coach at The Citadel, Maryland, Tech, the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions and Army, the man is still remarkably passionate about football.
“I just love the game, love to see it played,” is very close to what Ross told me. “I like to see all the energy, the color, the fans . . . things I never saw when I was a coach.”
It is a joy for those inclined to love college football to watch it from the comfort of a suite. Ross, though, traveled with one of his brothers to watch the North Carolina game, and with another brother to watch the Virginia Tech game, and they sat in the stands.
He said it was hot as Hades while he sat in the Tech section when the Yellow Jackets won at North Carolina, and cold when he sat high in the north end zone as Tech lost last Thursday night to the Hokies.
Ross loved it both times.
He’s looking oh so forward to this weekend as well.
The coach began to sense before the 1990 season began that the team could be special. He could see in their offseason work ethic the formation of special bonds.
“We had great internal leadership . . . Ken Swilling, Marco Coleman and Willie Clay defensively. [Quarterback] Shawn Jones and [lineman] Joe Siffri really stood out on offense,” the coach said. “Commitment — from the top to the bottom — you have to have that to have that type of year.”
Ross has been back to Tech a few times since he left after the 1991 season to coach the Chargers. He has a son living in Atlanta, back for a few years now in the city where he went to college at Tech. The coach saw a few of his former Jacket players in 2007, when they gathered to honor the family of former offensive lineman Mike Mooney, who passed away that year.
That was sad.
This weekend will be rapturous.
Ross was so happy on the phone to say that he had heard more than 100 former players were expected in town this weekend, so eagerly looking forward to seeing, “so many young men whom I had the pleasure of working with.”
One of his favorite parts of the weekend will come when he and the Jackets of 1990 will lead the current Jackets down Yellow Jacket Alley (Fowler Street) at about 9:45 a.m. Saturday.
And the plan to tailgate, or “picnic” as Ross called it, ahead of the game.
Maybe you’ll bump into him.
But there will be a tight window there. The man still has football in his blood.
“I love to watch warm-ups, get a feel for things,” he said. “I just love everything about the game. It has meant so much to me. I’ll have to head inside [Bobby Dodd] at about 11, I guess. I’ll have to get settled in.”
Probably in the stands.
I’m so sorry about my computer issue because coach Ross had incredible comments about the teaching points offered uniquely to those who play football. He also had fantastic memories, especially about how when he and the team went out to play Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl that year and he was shocked that, “with all the tradition of Nebraska, I figured they’d have so many fans. But I saw so much gold and white; we tripled `em.” Send complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org.