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A Tale of Three Graduates

May 3, 2001

By Jack Williams

George Godsey threw 23 touchdown passes for Georgia Tech last football season-and lit up the scoreboard, too, in industrial and systems engineering.

Kori Jacobson helped the Jackets win 70 softball games in three seasons-and hit a home run in the course of management.

Jesse Tarplin made All-Atlantic Coast Conference for Tech in football-and then became a bigger all-star on a long, winding road to graduation.

This is a Rambling Wreck tribute to those three special Tech athletes at a special time of the year. It’s a story about graduation day and three people who took entirely different paths to get there.

Oops! One of them hasn’t quite made it. Tarplin is a credit or two shy, but is on course to graduate this summer. He’s dog-gone proud of it, too.

Godsey and Jacobson, meanwhile, will join 40 other student-athletes in Georgia Tech’s graduation class Saturday morning. The commencement exercise is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Athletic personnel are extremely proud of the large number of student-athletes who will don caps and gowns.

Let’s take a look at the three Tech athletes who approached graduation day in such contrasting ways:

If you are a sports fan, you certainly know about Godsey. He’s the quarterback who started for the first time last season after Joe Hamilton ended his career and stunned everyone by throwing the football for 2,906 yards with pinpoint accuracy.

His sparkling performance paved the way for Tech to go 9-2 in the regular season and earn a fourth straight bowl bid for the first time since the 1950s. Although Tech lost to LSU, 28-14, in the Peach Bowl, the Godsey story drew major attention across the country.

The unique thing about Godsey’s graduation is that he wins his sheepskin with a year of Yellow Jacket football still ahead of him. He was a football red-shirt as a freshman and thus graduates on time with other members of his class. Godsey has a 2.85 grade point average in the tough curriculum of industrial and systems engineering. He will play his final season of football next fall while enrolled in Tech’s graduate school of engineering, specifically studying manufacturing and a logistics track.

The quarterback from Tampa, Fla., says football helped-not hindered him-in pursuit of a diploma. “You learn things in football that carry over to academics-particularly time management,” he said. “A Georgia Tech degree is very special. It carries with it prestige that goes a long way, especially when you graduate in the School of Engineering.”

Godsey is recovering now from a knee operation he underwent at the end of last season. “The knee is getting better all the time,” he said. “By June, I will be ready to undergo all the same conditioning as other members of the football team.”

The highlight of Godsey’s first season at the helm? “That’s easy,” he said. “We went into two stadiums and beat two teams ranked ahead of us, Clemson and Georgia. That was special.”

Godsey, incidentally, believes Tech has a chance to be even better next football season. “On paper, we have the potential to have a great season,” he said. “We have a lot of experience on both sides of the ball. But that won’t mean a hill of beans if we don’t work hard.”

Speed Reading

Jacobson’s story is even more unusual. She graduates Saturday, completing her college career in just three years. Talk about speed-reading! This young lady must have invented the course.

Jacobson is an honor student in management, having finished with a 3.2 grade point average.

Her high school, Mountain Pointe in Chandler, Ariz., had a dual credit system where students could study for college credits while completing high school requirements. “Basically, I took my freshman year in college while still in high school,” Jacobson said. “Also, I have taken a full schedule of courses each semester I’ve been at Georgia Tech.”

Jacobson is excited that she soon will start a new and important job as a consultant in management consultant services at Price Waterhouse-Coopers in New York City. “I will train for a period in Tampa, Fla., and then head for New York,” she said. “I’m nervous about living in New York, but also excited about the opportunity.”

Everyone who came in touch with Jacobson at Georgia Tech knew she was headed for big things. She recently won one of the Yellow Jackets’ major athletic awards – The Total Person Award – given for excellence in athletics, academics and other phases of college life.

“That was a big honor,” she said. “I was surprised and flattered. It really is an award that will live forever because the winners are posted in our school publications each year.”

Jacobson came by her athletic ability quite naturally. Her mother, Karen, has been a high school coach in a variety of sports for 20 years. Her father, Keith, is assistant director of the Student Recreation Complex at Arizona State University.

Kori burst on the Tech softball scene with a bang, starting every game in right-field as a freshman and batting .304. She also played right field her second year on the team, batting a solid .345, and finishing eighth in the ACC in that department. Her average dipped to .204 this season when a broken arm limited her participation to just 19 games. She did, however, have a number of sparkling performances.

“My first semester at Georgia Tech as a softball player was a tremendous shock with all the travel and time away from class,” she said. “But soon, I learned to rearrange my priorities. Time management became very important.

“The Georgia Tech experience was all I had hoped it would be,” she said this week. “I’ve had an opportunity to experience college life, and get a degree that is respected world-wide. Some of my friends from high school did not have a good experience on teams in college. But I was very lucky. I developed wonderful friendships with my teammates. It’s more fun to play when your teammates are your good friends.”

The Winding Road

Tarplin’s path to graduation day has taken a lot of turns over a period of six full years and provides an entirely different perception.

He played football for the Yellow Jackets for four seasons, starting in 1995. He finished in style with an All-ACC selection on the outstanding 1998 squad that went 10-2 and toppled Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, 35-28. Tarplin recovered a Notre Dame fumble to seal that victory. He finished his career with 14 quarterback sacks and 21 total tackles for minus yardage.

A dream to play in the National Football League delayed Tarplin’s bid for a Georgia Tech degree. He spent six months as a member of the New York Giants before being cut from the squad. He came back to school at Tech in the summer of 2000 and it was full-speed ahead in the quest for that degree. He will get it this summer with outstanding marks in management.

“It will be a huge accomplishment for me when the time comes,” Tarplin said this week. “A Georgia Tech degree comes with a lot of weight. If you can make it through Georgia Tech, you can make it anywhere.”

It should be noted that Georgia Tech always is supportive of student-athletes and others who sometimes take extra time or additional direction to obtain a degree.

A native of Decatur, Ga., Tarplin will pursue a career in law enforcement when he gets the degree. “It’s my bloodline to be in that line of work,” he said. “I have a brother who is in the county sheriff’s department in Atlanta. My uncle is a member of the Atlanta Police Department, and I have cousin who is with GBI. I will try to get a job with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation when the hiring process re-opens in September.”

Tarplin says the Georgia Tech experience has been tremendously rewarding for him. “For one thing, I enjoyed every minute I played football,” he said. “I got off to a slow start when I broke my thumb and missed six games as a freshman. The rest was great. I was not a very vocal player. I let my ability speak for me.

“The highlight came when we beat Georgia my senior year. That was Tech’s first win in that series for a while. It is something I will not forget.”

Georgia Tech will not forget Tarplin, Godsey or Jacobson, either-or the 40 other student-athletes who graduate Saturday. A graduation salute – and a verse or two of The Rambling Wreck- to all of them!


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