July 14, 2010
By Kyle Sears
ATLANTA – Living the life of a college football player involves much more than just a dozen or so glory-filled Saturdays each fall.
For the past week, the newest members of the Georgia Tech football team have been learning the extent of commitments they made to coach Paul Johnson anywhere from the beginning of last year until National Signing Day in February.
A total of 21 scholarship and non-scholarship freshmen reported to campus, Wednesday, June 23, to begin summer classes and workouts.
Right away, these student-athletes began tackling intimidating schedules, beginning with 5:45 a.m. workouts each day.
For Denzel McCoy, a defensive lineman from Lawrenceville, Ga., that means setting an alarm for 4:45 a.m. and being out the door 15 minutes later.
Synjyn Days, a quarterback from Powder Springs, Ga., is a late riser by comparison, waking up at 5 a.m..
“It’s an adjustment getting used to all the hours and hard work that you have to commit to,” Days said. “Waking up early, going to bed late, and not getting much sleep.”
After morning workouts, most players have enough time to grab a quick breakfast or catch a few more fleeting minutes of shut-eye before the first of their two-hour class sessions begins at 9 a.m.
McCoy, who has two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays and three on Tuesdays and Thursdays, said he generally arrives back at his dorm room by 6:30 p.m. and is in bed by 9:45 or 10 in preparation to do it all again the next day.
However, he and Days both appear unfazed by the grind.
“I was excited and ready to work [when I got here],” McCoy said. “I still am excited. I’m ready to put on pads and everything.”
“I’m very excited for the new experience, just being in college and being at Tech, a school that I love,” Days said. “It feels surreal.”
Both players made a point to relax during short breaks between high school graduation and college orientation.
McCoy took a week-long trip to Miami with friends who will be attending other colleges.
“We all just went there together to get away before reality hit that it’s time to go to work,” he said.
Days traveled to several football camps with his younger brother, Jabari, an upcoming senior in high school. He also spent his last few days at home visiting as many friends as he could.
By now, the focus has shifted to football.
“I’m fine with whatever the coaches need me to do,” he said. “I’ll give everything I have to play. I hope that I do. But if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. That’s more opportunity for me to develop.”
Days aims to have himself in shape to be a more-than-capable backup to starting quarterback Joshua Nesbitt.
“I really see myself as somebody that’s going to be able to step in if Nesbitt gets hurt and be able to produce the same amount as when he was in or hopefully maybe even better,” he said. “And if [the coaches] want me to play a little A-back or B-back or some receiver, I just want to get on the field.”
Days said former Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer, current running back Anthony Allen, and current quarterbacks Nesbitt and Jordan Luallen, have been among the upperclassmen to take him under their wing.
Such upperclassmen are not the only players setting examples, however. Days said that this freshman class has already earned the attention of older teammates for the quickly formed bond between its members.
“The upperclassmen have been telling us, `It’s pretty cool how you all are a tight class already,'” Days said. “We bond all the time, calling each other and making sure we’re waking up for workouts, making sure we know where to go for class, and making sure we’re working hard in the weight room.”
Days said his roommate Ryan Ayers, a cornerback who lined up against him all four years in high school, is constantly checking on him to make sure he is eating enough.
“Even if I have food in my room, he’s like, `Synjyn, you need something to eat?,'” Days said. “I’m like, `Nah, I’m good.'”
McCoy said he’s already very close with roommates Morgan Bailey, Shawn Green, and Anthony Williams, as well as a trio of freshman from nearby Marist High which includes Matt Connors, Sam McNearney and Justin Moore.
Together, these players are working together to navigate the start of what they hope will be something special at Georgia Tech.
“It’s just a new start in my life,” McCoy said. “It’s like I pressed the reset button with everything. I’m a freshman all over again. It’s just a new opportunity with school and athletic-wise. [There are] new people to meet, new coaches.”