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Inside The Chart: Drawn To It

Drawn To It: What animates defensive end Jordan Domineck? Besides chasing quarterbacks, catching up on his other passion, anime.  And he’s ready to convert you next.

By Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets)

When he coils into his crouch, eyes blazing, ready to pounce on another unsuspecting quarterback, Georgia Tech defensive end Jordan Domineck has two people he tries to emulate.

The first is Von Miller, his favorite NFL player, the eight-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker for the Denver Broncos.

The second is an 18th-century vagrant samurai who uses breakdancing moves as part of his fighting repertoire.

“Nobody could ever hit him. And he went up against some of the best fighters in the world and never lost,” Domineck explained.

Okay, so an explanation may be in order here. Domineck is referring to Mugen, one of the main characters in Samurai Champloo, a Japanese animated series that debuted in 2004. When he’s not hunting down quarterbacks or working toward his degree in business administration, Domineck is often indulging his other passion: watching anime, the stylish, globally popular form of animation that has its roots in Japan.

But don’t simplify this as a trite, “football player watches cartoons” story. Domineck has no problem breaking down your misconceptions about the genre. In fact, he’s happy to serve as your 6-foot-3, 247-pound anime ambassador.

“It’s something that anybody can relate to. It’s eye-pleasing. It’s aesthetically pleasing to watch. If you sit down and find an anime that you like, I promise there’s an anime for everybody,” he said.

A primer for the non-otaku reading this: anime, broadly, refers to any animated show that originates in Japan. It has a wide range of subgenres, from mystery to romance to action to sci-fi. They all share certain artistic signatures, like dramatic panning, bright colors and cinematic storytelling. Its popularity has exploded in the U.S. over the past two decades, with shows like Dragon Ball Z and Naruto becoming part of mainstream pop culture.

So what drew Domineck – pun intended – to anime?

“It’s just so immersive,” he explained. “They go into so much detail, especially if you watch it in the original language in which it was made. I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s just a lifestyle.”

For Domineck, that lifestyle began as an eight-year-old in Lakeland, Fla., watching Dragon Ball Z. He can still give you a detailed, point-by-point breakdown of the first episode he ever watched. As he discovered more shows, he appreciated how in-depth and personal they felt – even if it meant catching some unexpected feelings by them.

“If you watched Naruto then you know exactly what I’m about to say. I was so invested in the show that I cried when Jiraiya died. I burst out crying in tears,” he admits.

Even his choice of school seems preordained. When Domineck signed with Georgia Tech following an all-state career at George Jenkins High School, he didn’t realize that Cartoon Network’s headquarters were located a quarter-mile from the Tech campus. The network regularly airs anime as part of its late night Toonami programming block.

“Georgia Tech is amazing to me, honestly. I just love everything about it,” Domineck said, unprompted.

Free time may be scarce for a Division I athlete, but even at Tech, Domineck’s passion for anime hasn’t waned. A giant Naruto Sharingan poster hangs on the wall of his apartment. Anime-themed hats and shirts fill his closet. He enjoys binging colorfully named titles like Sword Art Online, Demon King Daimao, The God Of High School, and Dead Man Wonderland in their original Japanese, subtitled in English.

He’s also found a group of like-minded teammates at Tech. Safety Derrik Allen, offensive tackle Jordan Williams and defensive end Antonneous Clayton Sr., among others, all consider themselves anime fans. And their fandom, Domineck says, isn’t that unique. Across pop culture you can find scores of people, from MMA fighters to hip hop artists to NBA and NFL players, who openly share their love of anime, drawn to its storytelling and striking visuals.

It isn’t a passion that has to be abandoned in adulthood or sheepishly kept in the shadows. Like Domineck said, it’s a lifestyle.

“People tend to describe it as childish, per se, which I honestly don’t see how. Children can watch anime, but adults can watch anime too,” he explained.

And for him and others, it has a deeper meaning than people may think.

“Anime really does have a deep sense of culture and value. It teaches a bunch of valuable life lessons that people do need to know,” he said.

His viewing habits will undergo a change this fall, when film study of Clemson, Notre Dame and Georgia overtake episodes of Gun Gale Online for the majority of his screen time. Domineck will look to build off a 2020 season in which he emerged as one of the more promising pass rushers in the ACC, with his four sacks leading the Yellow Jackets and his 8.5 tackles for loss ranking second. He also forced three fumbles and recovered two. The upcoming season will be his fourth on The Flats, yet he still has three seasons of eligibility remaining, thanks to a redshirt campaign in 2018 and the extra season granted to all NCAA student-athletes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But all the while, his passion for anime will continue to influence him. He and Clayton have talked about creating an anime-inspired celebration for sacks this season (look for it on a 404 Go-Pro near you this fall). And when he takes his spot on the line, he’ll look to continue channeling Von Miller, the Pro Bowl pass rusher, and Mugen, the vagrant samurai antihero, as he hunts opposing quarterbacks.

Domineck said he gravitated to Mugen because he’s wild and unorthodox in his style, not unlike the way he plays. He also picked a more fitting anime analogue than he thought.

In Japanese, Mugen roughly translates to “without limitation.”

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2021 Georgia Tech football season are on sale now. Starting at just $299 per seat, season tickets include reserved seats for all seven games on the Yellow Jackets’ 2021 home schedule, including “Mayhem at MBS” versus North Carolina on Sept. 25 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the return of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” versus archrival Georgia on Nov. 27 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. For full 2021 Georgia Tech football season ticket information, visit ramblinwreck.com/footballtickets.

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Alexander-Tharpe Fund

The Alexander-Tharpe Fund is the fundraising arm of Georgia Tech athletics, providing scholarship, operations and facilities support for Georgia Tech’s 400-plus student-athletes. Be a part of developing Georgia Tech’s Everyday Champions and helping the Yellow Jackets compete for championships at the highest levels of college athletics by supporting the Support The Swarm Fund, which helps Georgia Tech athletics offset the significant financial challenges associated with Covid-19, and the Annual Athletic Scholarship Fund, which directly provides scholarships for Georgia Tech student-athletes. To learn more about supporting the Yellow Jackets, visit atfund.org.   

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