Sept. 5, 2001
ATLANTA– – As 10th-ranked Georgia Tech (2-0) travels to Navy (0-1) this week, junior defensive end Greg Gathers has good memories of the Yellow Jackets’ last visit to Annapolis in 1999.
Tech and the Midshipmen kick off at 12 noon at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in a regionally televised contest on Fox Sports Net South.
“That was my first college game,” recalled Gathers of Tech’s 49-14 win in 1999, “and I was a little nervous, but I ended up having a good game, and that helped my confidence.”
The LaPlace, La., native had three tackles for loss, including two quarterback sacks, against the Midshipmen while causing and recovering a fumble to set up a touchdown.
Gathers has gone on to start every game since, a total of 26 in a row entering Saturday’s game. He has continued to add to his sack total as well, collecting the 21st of his career in last weekend’s win over the Citadel. He already ranks fourth in Tech history in career sacks, trailing all-Americas Coleman Rudolph (28.5), Marco Coleman (27.5) and Pat Swilling (23). Both Coleman and Swilling went on to earn NFL All-Pro status.
“It would be a good thing because I know the people ahead of me–Pat Swilling, Coleman Rudolph and Marco Coleman–were all great players here and in the NFL,” said Gathers, who grew up in New Orleans watching Swilling star for the Saints, “but that’s not my focus. The main thing is just getting ‘W’s.'”
After earning first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in 2000, when he ranked third in the nation with 13 sacks, Gathers is a preseason all-America candidate as well as a nominee for the Lombardi Award.
Tech head coach George O’Leary, a former defensive line coach at Tech and in the NFL, had this to say about his top defensive playmaker.
“I don’t think Greg is ever going to win a 40-yard dash, but he has great quickness,” said O’Leary. “The other thing he has is good hand strength. And he has great flexibility. “Greg is a smart football player. He picks up things very well, and football is very important to him. He can play the run as well as the pass.
“He’s just a good football player.”
Gather was not the only freshman to make his debut in the starting lineup in that game at Navy two years ago.
“We had three or four freshmen starting and playing college football for the first time after we had watched it on TV our whole lives,” said Gathers. “I think we have about nine people back from that defense, and the maturity we have now is a big factor.”