Nov. 26, 2010
Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather and enjoy good food and company. For some former Georgia Tech football players, it was a workday. Seven NFL Jackets took the field on Thanksgiving, and all managed to shine in the spotlight of a national holiday audience.
As has been the case on 70 previous Thanksgivings, the Detroit Lions took their turn on the national stage. After giving up an early field goal to the Patriots, the home team grabbed the lead on a 19-yard pass from Shaun Hill to former Jacket Calvin Johnson, the first touchdown scored of the day before most of the country had cut into the turkey. The two-time All-American winner finished the game with four catches for 81 yards and the touchdown. He even carried the ball once, rushing for 15 yards. “Megatron” remains tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions with 11 on the season.
Johnson wasn’t the only former Tech standout featured in the first game. Linebacker Gary Guyton had a stellar day as well, tallying eight tackles, one pass breakup, and a sack of Shaun Hill for -5 yards, helping lead the Patriots to a 45-24 win, improving their record to a league-best 9-2. Will Heller, a tight end in his 9th season in the NFL, had one catch for 13 yards in the losing effort for the Lions.
The second game of the day saw three more Jackets take the stage as the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints headed into Dallas. The Cowboys defense has been led all season by Keith Brooking, who leads the team with 58 solo tackles and has the second most combined tackles with 79. The veteran linebacker finished the day with six tackles and two pass breakups, including an impressive pass disruption on a big third conversion that forced the Saints to go for it on fourth down.
The Cowboys trailed 20-3 in the second quarter, but were able to stir together a comeback and trailed 23-20 entering the fourth quarter.Running back Tashard Choice has had to fight for his chances this season, having been stuck in the depth chart in a loaded backfield behind Marion Barber and Felix Jones. On Thanksgiving, he only got one carry, but managed to make the most of it. The 2007 graduate from Georgia Tech got his chance at the goal line in the fourth quarter, and scored his first touchdown of the season to give the Cowboys the lead with 5:51 left in the game.
Brooking and Choice had a former Jacket on the other sideline as well. Anthony Hargrove, a defensive lineman in his 6th year in the league, tallied a season-high 3 tackles, his second week in a row with that many. Saints’ QB Drew Brees went on and led New Orleans on a game-winning drive to beat the Cowboys 30-27.
The last game of the holiday featured the New York Jets hosting the Cincinnati Bengals. The only former Georgia Tech player in the game was linebacker Michael Johnson. In his second year in the league, he recorded a career-high in tackles with five and broke up two passes as well. The Jets won 26-10, improving their record to 9-2 and keeping pace with the Patriots atop the NFL standings.
All across America, families sat down to give thanks on Thursday. For seven former Georgia Tech players, they will have to wait a day to celebrate the holiday with family and friends. But those seven have a lot to be grateful for after their outstanding performances in the national spotlight.