June 4, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
In that photo, the one of Ty Rawlings hoisted up by Georgia Tech fans in the delirious glow after the Yellow Jackets beat Clemson in 2011, a young man looks like a football star.
Rawlings never was all that. He walked on as a kicker at Tech in ’09 after playing the sport for just one year at Georgia Military College, and upon The Flats he never found his way into a game.
Stardom has a knack for attaching to those who earn it one way or another, however, and it’s found this precocious young man who doesn’t seek the spotlight nor to be lifted but rather to raise others who actually need the help.
On June 15th, Rawlings will catch a flight to Argentina, specifically Mendoza, where he’ll do not good but great work. It will be a missionary trip to help expand an orphanage down there. The goal will be to help some who need sympathy, a category into which he does not fit.
This will be Rawlings’ trip, organized by and for him alone. He’s not doing this with an organization or a group. A Christian is following his faith with such passion that when he was hired recently and asked to start working as a wind turbine and natural gas engineer one week after graduating, he had the conviction to ask for a stay.
“The Georgia Tech degree gave me a fantastic opportunity to get a job at GE, and I asked GE if I could have two months off just to go on this trip,” he explained.
“I said, ‘This is something I feel like would be great for me, and give back to people who are less fortunate than I am.’ They said, ‘Great; go for it.’ They gave me until August 1st.”
Quite the soccer player at Spalding High in Griffin and then for a year at Gordon College before he went to GMC, Rawlings has done this before. In the summer after his high school graduation, he went to Paraguay.
There, his life’s baseline was painted for all to see.
“I enjoy working with young people, so when I was in Paraguay we went into schools and distributing Bibles and trying to promote the Lord, Christianity and ethical living in general,” he said. “Any way we could help the world be a better place, we wanted to do that.”
Had his schedule allowed it, Rawlings would have more of these missionary trips on his resume, but summers have been packed for the past several years.
This one will be as well. Soon after returning from Argentina, he’ll start work for GE upon re-locating in Greenville, S.C.
First, though, that trip to Mendoza is on his mind. He found out about the orphanage through a contact at his church, The First Assembly of God in Griffin, although the church is not sponsoring his trip. “I know someone who knows a missionary,” Rawlings said of how his idea was hatched.
He sounds like he can’t wait; never mind that he has no experience of note swinging a hammer, nor running levels or saws.
“There are a lot of children who are kind of given up for adoption or some people literally throw them away in trash cans,” he said. “There is an organization down there that puts them in this orphanage, and they have a need to expand. I’m going to help.
“The average age is infancy to about 16. They’re trying to bring in more kids . . . more houses, more beds, more cafeteria . . . almost a whole new orphanage. Georgia Tech exposed me to a lot of diverse cultures, and I’ve always had a heart to help other people. I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time.”
Rawlings, who maintained a Hope Scholarship all the way through Tech before graduating with a 3.3 grade-point average, will soon put to use his industrial and systems engineering degree.
Before that, and not for the first or last time, he’ll put his heart on the line.
His football days at Tech, for example, were a tad bittersweet. He wanted more, yet loved what he had: “I never got a chance to play. Obviously, I wanted my chance to show what I could do, but they wanted me to do my best to motivate or push the starters . . . whatever I needed to do to be part of the team.”
The future is out there. It’s easy for Rawlings to see himself coaching in it one day, working with youth on fields of play. In the interim, he’ll work his way into the lives of the young whenever his heart leads him to do so.
“When I retire from being an engineer . . . I enjoy teaching and helping others, I enjoy seeing others get something, seeing the light bulb click on. Absolutely I could see myself coaching,” he said. “Whatever I feel like I’m led to do I’ll do. Whenever I feel ready to help others, I’ll help.”
With the help of family, friends and church acquaintances, Rawlings has raised some of the funds he needs for his trip. He hasn’t crossed that finish line, though. If you’re inclined to help, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Tech sports information director Dean Buchan for making me aware of this; writing about the Ty Rawlings of the world – which is to say true stars – is a good thing. Comments to email@example.com.