March 31, 2012
One week of spring practice is in the books for Georgia Tech Football, and while it’s been fun for the players to get back on the field, it’s also been a grind.
There actually might be quite a few times that the brothers will hear or experience something on the field that will remind them of things their mother said.
That’s because there was a time that their mother, Paula, was not only there for her boys prior to and after practice, but during it as well, serving as an assistant coach for her husband Calvin, at Osborne Middle School in Hoschton, Georgia.
The program, resurrected by Calvin, called upon Paula for help in coaching and set up a dynamic that was out of the ordinary to say the least.
“At first it was a little awkward just seeing my mom out there like, rain, shine or whatever, she was out there coaching, constantly, getting on the kids,” remembered Days, who is older by a year and 30 days. “It was like, `That’s my mom out there.'”
“It was a funny experience because I couldn’t believe I was playing under my mom,” Hunt-Days said. “I couldn’t call her ‘Mom’ on the field. I had to call her ‘Coach.’ It didn’t sound right. A few times I messed up, it wasn’t an altercation, it was just a correction, she’d say, ‘Don’t call me mom when I’m on the field doing my job.'”
While playing under both parents may have been awkward at times, Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson believes the brothers couldn’t have been in better hands.
“They’ve done a great job bringing the guys up,” Johnson said of Calvin and Paula. “They’re disciplined, they stay after them, they make them accountable and they’re fun to be around.”
Days admitted that being around his parents at Osborne wasn’t exactly his first choice, but he eventually relented to his dad’s wishes.
“It kind of made me appreciate her more, knowing all the time that she sacrificed just being out there,” he said. “My dad was the same way because at first she didn’t want to coach and my dad asked her, ‘Can you help us, Paula?’ because we were kind of short on coaches. She was like, ‘I don’t know anything.’ He said, ‘I’ll teach you.’ She was all ears. She’s a great learner. She’s an engineer. So….”
He also got the opportunity to play with Jabari, something both have always enjoyed.
They excelled at Osborne then took off at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, where they lined up in the same backfield on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, they provided a speed-and-power combo — Synjyn at quarterback, Jabari at fullback — that was almost impossible to stop. It was made even harder when Kenyon Drake, who has committed to Alabama, joined the mix.
“It was amazing because either I’m keeping the ball, Jabari’s getting it or I’m pitching to Kenyon,” said Days, who ran for 75 touchdowns and passed for 30 more in his four-year high school career. “So it was like three Division-I athletes are going to have the ball in their hands. It was pretty hard to stop when you had a three-headed monster like that.”
“A lot of people didn’t like it because he could run or I could run,” agreed Hunt-Days, who switched to linebacker after his sophomore year and had 188 tackles and four sacks, two interceptions, two blocked PATs and also still holds a number of school weight-lifting records. “I was more of a power guy, he was more of a speed guy. So it was two forces back there you didn’t want to mess with.”
Defensively, opponents faced the same problematic tandem.
“He was a linebacker and I was a safety,” Days recalled. “We were on opposite sides. If they broke long on my side I’m right there and if they tried to go the other way they had Jabari there. So it was kind of an unstoppable defense because we had a lot of other D-I players, too, on defense and offense.”
Once it was time to choose a college, the brothers were highly recruited but knew they wanted to go to the same school. Again, Paula was the overriding voice as to which one.
“My mom liked Georgia Tech because it’s a great academic school,” Days said. “My mom wanted academics to come before football.”
Johnson certainly wasn’t going to argue with her. He was pleased to get a commitment from Days. That Jabari would follow was a pleasant surprise.
“It was a great bonus,” he said, with a laugh. “It worked out good that way. Both are really good athletes. They’re different. Even though they’re brothers, they’re natured differently, but I hope both have a bright future in front of them. I think they can both be really good players.”
Days called himself his brother’s biggest recruiter for Georgia Tech, but Hunt-Days said his decision was all but made once his brother’s was.
“Synjyn being here definitely influenced my decision to come to Tech,” he said. “Having my family here and them being able to travel to every game was the main reason why I came to Tech, and I loved the coaches. What you saw is what you got and it’s still like that to this day.”
Both brothers are in heated battles for playing time. Days is pushing incumbent Tevin Washington for the starting quarterback job, after having played several successful series last season, while Hunt-Days, who redshirted, is attempting to crack the linebacking corps, which has significant losses following the graduation of Steven Sylvester and the unfortunate career-ending injury to Julian Burnett.
“I know this year I’m more comfortable with the offense and doing the things that I need to do to try to get the starting job so I’m more relaxed,” said Days, the 6-1, 212-pounder, who was 8-for-12 passing for 198 yards, while rushing 48 times for 237 yards (4.9 per carry) and four TDs last season.
“I’ve got to work hard and I’ve got to play hard,” said Hunt-Days, who stands 6-3, 226. “We’re all out there competing. So it’s great competition. We’re having a fun time.”
Being on the same team again is something both appreciates and neither takes for granted.
“It’s great having my brother out there,” Days said. “It’s a blessing because just to see how hard he’s worked and the things that he’s been through in his life, it’s amazing to see what God can do and how God ended up having us both here together only a year apart that’s just God’s grace.”
“It’s nice coming all the way from when we were little, four years old, five years old and actually playing at the collegiate level now,” agreed Hunt-Days. “It’s just amazing. It’s a blessing. “
The brothers also have each other to lean on off the field, as they’re both Biology majors and last semester shared a Sociology class.
“There was one day I was sick last semester and I wasn’t able to go to class,” recalled Days. “But I was able to go to my brother’s room right down the hallway and be able to get the notes. It’s a great advantage having somebody in there that you know, that you’re familiar with and you know takes his education as seriously.”