Dec. 26, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
It’s been a weird half-week for Jason Peters, and likewise the past several days spent in Shreveport, La., have been – to use some cycling lingo reserved for very steep climbs in grand tour events — beyond category for all Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Tech didn’t want to finish its season in the Independence Bowl, obviously, but a 6-6 record landed the Yellow Jackets opposite Air Force. Since they’re there, Peters said they very much want to win.
That is an inherent motivation apparently boosted by external reasons.
Peters, a junior defensive end, red-shirted in 2007 when he was part of the most acclaimed recruiting class in Tech history. Three of his former classmates – Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer and Derrick Morgan – are already in the NFL. A bunch more will play their final game for Tech at 5 p.m. today, which means . . .
“There’s a little more energy in the air because it’s the last go-round for a lot of guys,” said Peters, who graduated Dec. 18 and will play next season while seeking a second degree in biology. “We want to send our seniors out on a good note. A lot of the guys I came in with . . . this is the last time we get to do this.”
Awkwardly, some guys won’t get to do it at all, and others will only get to do half.
Last Thursday, the same day the Jackets arrived in Shreveport, Tech announced that four players would not play in the game for academic reasons. Senior starting safety Mario Edwards, sophomore starting wide receiver Stephen Hill, reserve senior defensive lineman Robert Hall and reserve outside linebacker A.T. Barnes, who graduated in August, did not make the trip.
Monday, the school announced that starting outside linebacker Anthony Egbuniwe, a senior, and reserve defensive backs Michael Peterson, a junior, and Louis Young, a freshman, would sit out the first half as punishment for missing a curfew in Shreveport.
So a road trip that promised to have a funky vibe has grown even funkier.
The 2007 class was a close group even before they first put on Tech uniforms, and it has remained that way. Of the suspended players, only Peterson was a member of the ’07 class as Egbuniwe and Edwards transferred to Tech, and Hall and Barnes arrived earlier.
This is not the ending the ’07 group had in mind, but all Tech players have one thing in common – they’ve never won a bowl game while playing for the Jackets because Tech has lost five straight.
So there are some distinct rallying points. As senior cornerback Mario Butler said, “We’re trying to stay focused, and not go outside the box.”
Good idea, because if it’s already been a weird enough outside-the-box half week, especially for Peters.
He’s back in his native state, but his hometown of Baton Rouge is more than four hours from Shreveport by car. So, as of Monday afternoon, he had not seen family members yet, not even on Christmas.
That’ll change later today, in a big way, and here’s hoping that bowl streak changes for the better, too.
“The hospitality has been great, the food has been great, and we toured an Air Force base, which was one of my greatest experiences at Tech,” Peters said. “I’m looking forward to a lot of them coming up, about 20 [family members and friends]. It will be the first time since high school. My family always has a reunion at Thanksgiving, and one year we were in the playoffs and a lot of them came to see me play.
“[The goal of sending seniors out on a winning note and breaking the five-game bowl losing skid] are kind of one in the same. Both make the game extremely important. We have so many goals we can accomplish by winning this thing.”
With Monday’s men’s basketball game against Fordham cancelled because the team had problems traveling to Atlanta, a weird stretch on the calendar has grown that much odder still. Send thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.