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Choice Cuts

Nov. 9, 2005

by Simit Shah

Tashard Choice even talks fast.

There’s nothing that the Georgia Tech running back does at half-speed. Just like his running style, his words, dripping with enthusiasm, dart left and right, looking for the slightest hint of daylight. You’ll have to forgive the sophomore for being a little excited, because he’s not only getting a chance to play football again, he’s playing it close to home.

Choice transferred last January from Oklahoma to be closer to his mother, who lives in nearby Riverdale. She suffered a foot injury last year, and Choice decided he wanted to be near enough to help her.

Now he’s helping the 24th-ranked Yellow Jackets ground game, as the team is cranking out over 200 yards per game over their last three contests. Choice has teamed with senior P.J. Daniels to form one of the ACC’s best rushing tandems. The duo has amassed 1,073 yards so far this season, accounting for over 83 percent of the team’s rushing total.

“It’s a pretty good 1-2 punch,” said quarterback Reggie Ball. “If someone gets tired, you got another set of fresh legs that can get the job done. It’s a very good combination.”

Choice, still adjusting to a new system, started the season slowly. The 6-foot, 205-pound back rushed for only 155 yards in his first five game, and the bulk of that total was the result of an 89-yard, two touchdown performance against Connecticut.

“It was a tough start,” he conceded. “It just took me a while to get the feel for things. You know, it’s one thing to get it done in practice, but another to get it done on gameday. It took me a while to get going, but I’m rolling now.”

The turnaround began against Duke. After Daniels left the game with an injury, Choice stepped in admirably. He rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, leading a dominant second-half effort.

Against Clemson, he had a key 32-yard run and then a reception inside the five-yard line that set up the winning touchdown. Choice cited a play in the second quarter that provided him motivation for his late-game heroics.

On third-and-short, Choice was stood up for no gain by a Clemson defensive back, denying him the first down. He redeemed himself later in the game, but he caught plenty of grief from teammates during the following week.

“They put it on ESPN!” he exclaimed. “That really ticked me off. I was ready this week, I wasn’t going to let that happen again.”

Against Wake Forest, Choice rushed for 64 yards to complement Daniels’ 109-yard performance. Once again, his elusiveness was on display, as he nearly broke a run after being cornered in the backfield.

“I made a cut, and I was one block away,” he explained. “If I had gotten it, I would have been out of the gate.”

“He’s another back that’s able to bruise and able to break tackles for long runs,” said Daniels. “We both have that capability, so it definitely wears out defenses. You can’t take that many likes all game long. I think the defense gets worn down twice as fast.”

A prep star at Lovejoy High School, Choice racked up 1,200 rushing and 600 receiving yards as a senior, while scoring 17 touchdowns. He considered Tech before settling for powerhouse Oklahoma. He redshirted as a freshman in 2003, and then a preseason hamstring injury derailed his season before it started, limiting him to just 100 yards on 22 carries.

When he decided to transfer, Tech was on the short list. The location of the school and his familiarity with the program and a number of its athletes made Tech the easy selection. Now, he’s able in front of his friends and family.

“I have to get about 30 tickets every game,” he said, “but it’s been a real blessing to get them to watch me play. I feel at home, and I love being here at Tech.”

–30–

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