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Back in the Limelight

Oct. 3, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

So sorry that I wasn’t in Winston-Salem Saturday night, catching some smoke, but I think it’s smoking that Correy Earls busted his way back into Georgia Tech’s limelight.

Let me tell you a few things about Mr. Earls.

First, some background. We at Sting Daily don’t travel with the team, and I saw only a few plays on TV (Saturday night). Long before Tech’s game drew a nighttime start, my wife locked us into a Midtown party off of 10th Street. Only thing on the TV was Alabama kicking Florida.

I saw the last 3:03 of Georgia choking away that game at Colorado, but Tech-wise I saw only a few first-half plays. That’s my version of transparency.

But I know of Earls, and I’ve checked on-line and know a little bit more than the derelicts behind me.

Bear with the buildup here . . .

When I was still working at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before people stopped caring whether or not the right words began with capital letters, I covered the Jackets for the paper.

Earls was ascendant.

He had dragster wheels, hands like Spider Man, and courage.

Then, he got knocked goofy at Virginia in 2007 . . . left on a stretcher, if memory serves. That season, he started three games and played in 11, caught 14 passes for a 13.4-yard average. Dude had a knack before he got blasted. And I mean blasted. Thought he was going to collect on insurance.

Long before he caught Tech’s game-winning pass at Wake Forest Saturday night, he fell out of favor at Tech.

The transition to Paul Johnson did not serve Earls well. A second phase did not serve him well, either.

In Johnson’s first year, ’08, Earls caught four passes for an offense that couldn’t care less about wide receivers. The Macon Central High star was eventually switched to safety and 2009 ended up a near bust. He had eight tackles, mostly on special teams, and drifted.

I say that because I saw him in summer practice in ’09, and in spring practice that year.

Earls became something of a brooder. His body language was poor. He was quiet (still is, actually, but maybe not quite like that). His reputation didn’t exactly take a beating; he just fell out of the margins.

There were a couple meetings with Johnson.

“The meetings are . . . they’re waiting for me to get out there and show my potential,” Earls said. “The meetings have been really emotional. I said, `I can give great effort.’ And he was like, `Let’s see it.’ I’ve been trying to go hard in practice.”

Obviously, Earls has gone hard in practice, and his coaches have noticed.

He called me before getting on the bus in Winston-Salem Saturday night.

Correy Earls refuted me.

“I never wanted to waste my time, or the coaches’ time,” he said. “It’s a way of life.”

He said this when I asked about the appearance a year ago that he had given up, that he was coasting.

I wouldn’t bother trying to translate. The noise behind me here may have obfuscated what I heard.

Players fall out of the margins in big time college football programs all the time. ALL THE TIME.

Earls, has rescued himself from the margins. I’ll write more about him in the upcoming week.

But you as a Tech fan should feel warmth in unusual places because whether Earls ends up an engineer, or a Tech graduate, or any approximation thereof, he’s shown a spirit with which you probably all want to identify.

I swear there were times I thought he was going to quit. He didn’t.

“Never. I love the game, and I don’t know what I would do without it,” Earls said. “I had opportunities at the end of the game, but we have a long season ahead of us and we need to go out and win games.”

I marvel now at Earls, and I SWEAR I saw this coming (in a way). After the loss last week to N.C. State, I told a colleague that Earls – who caught a pass, and made a couple plays on special teams – was worth a story; he looked re-energized.

Honesty alert: there came a time when I thought Earls was going to mail it in to the finish line. There was no way he wasn’t going to have his scholarships renewed after leaving a game wearing a Tech uniform while in an ambulance, so he could have put the gear shift in “N” and rolled on momentum.

Perhaps, in fact, he did for a while.

But Correy is back, it seems.

And most importantly, he decided at some point that he wasn’t going to coast to the finish line.

Correy Earls is balling.

He caught two passes for 18 yards Saturday night, including the game winner in the final minute. He’s caught three passes in the past two games, which is one more than starting wide receiver Kevin Cone, who made his first career catch Saturday night in his eighth career start.

Hey, the Tech passing game was better than the running game Saturday night, and that’s not entirely a shock. Wake Forest knows a thing or two about option offenses. I wish I could offer more detailed analysis here, and some quotes. I can’t.

I have some color commentary, though.

“I had opportunities at end of game, but we have long season ahead of us and we need to go out and win games,” Earls said. “I love the game. I don’t know what I would do without it.”

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