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Crossing Paths To Graduation

Jan. 23, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

Izaan Cross is in a different place now, which may seem a strange way of describing the former Georgia Tech defensive end because you can find him criss-crossing campus to classes just like the not-so-old times.

A mere one season removed from last playing for the Yellow Jackets in 2012, with a bit of NFL experience under his belt in between, he’s grinding away on the books again, yet much has changed.

“It’s a totally different ball game; I feel like a regular student,” Cross said Thursday. “It’s small situations such as me getting up in the morning and not having to go to breakfast check-in . . . I can just go straight to class.

“Not having study hall at the end of the day; I can sit in my room and study. I don’t necessarily miss the structure. I’m older than that now, but being out there with my brothers and playing, I’ll always miss that.”

You could say Cross was a stalwart for the Jackets and not exaggerate. A three-year starter, he played in 52 games for Tech from 2009-’12 and started 41.

After going undrafted last spring, a spring trip to workouts with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills led to a training camp invite, and although he did not make the active roster, he spent about a month on the practice squad.

Then, a taste of the game’s dark side helped him decide to return to school, where this semester he is taking four classes.

“I had a couple inquiries about future contracts, but my mindset was . . . this football situation, even though it’s something I love, I realized once I got released that the plug can be pulled at any second so I’d be better off going back and getting my degree,” Cross explained.

So football is not off the table for good, but it’s not happening this semester.

With 14 hours on tap this spring, he’ll need 12 more hours to wrap up his degree in History, Technology and Society.

“In theory, I could take two classes during summer term because that’s the only time it’s offered, and then two classes in the fall and finish,” Cross said. “That’s the plan.

“I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing with myself going forward the next five months from now, whether it’s going to be school or back to the cleats. I’m trying to figure that out right now. I’m definitely staying in school this semester.”

Returning to Atlanta has been good for the soul.

While his younger brother is a running back at Nebraska, Cross’ older brother lives minutes away and in fact joined Izaan to play basketball at the Campus Recreation Center a few days ago.

The youngest sibling, Ithello, and parents Tim and Sharon Cross live in Gainesville, where Ithello is a standout basketball player.

There are still decisions to be made. Izaan has not decided what he wants to do with his degree. He’s considering the possibility of being a school guidance counselor among other things, and one transition seems likely above others.

“I know I could definitely get into coaching,” he said. “I know that’s something I can get into that would be like first nature, basically like the same things I was doing when I was playing.”

While the future remains TBD, the smile is unchanged. The easy manner remains. Tech is home again for Izaan Cross, and this time there are more freedoms.

There are aspects of his previous Tech home, however, that he would take again in a heartbeat if he could.

“Absolutely. The locker room scene, just being around your teammates and those conversations that you might take for granted while you’re playing,” Cross said. “Once you miss that setting, and the friends you were with, you miss that.

“I like this situation, though, where I’m removed from the team because it’s allowing me to focus on school work.”

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