ATLANTA (Aug.9) – It would be hard to picture Beethoven mixing it up on the gridiron, so you can imagine the surprise when Jon Carman (Waldorf, Md.), Georgia Tech’s mammoth offensive tackle, first sat down at the piano to treat his teammates to some of the works of the famed Austrian composer.
“The first time I sat down I saw shock on everybody’s face, and I loved that,” said Carman, a self-taught pianist since the age of 10. “That was great. It shows that I’m somewhat of a renaissance man.”
And the winding down of summer and the fast approaching fall means that the crashing of helmets and pads is right around the corner, which is music to Tech’s renaissance man’s ears.
Sixty-one varsity letterwinners return to the Flats this week as the Yellow Jackets open full-squad practices Thursday. Carman is one of the 15 Tech starters returning, nine on offense and six on defense, who are looking to pick up where the Yellow Jackets left off a year ago in their 10-win campaign.
“We’re concentrating on Navy right now and taking things one game at a time,” Carman said. “We want to have a high-powered offense and be able to run or throw the ball whenever we want to. We want to control the football for all four quarters. That is the main goal of the offense. Besides, we’ve got Joe Hamilton (Alvin, S.C.) back there. When the ball is in his hands, anything can happen.”
Carman started every game at right tackle last season and was indeed one of the main cogs in one of the nation’s most productive offenses, which featured the playmaker Hamilton.
“It’s awesome blocking for a guy like that,” Carman said. “He’s the heart and soul of our team. He makes our offense go. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see a lot of the things he does because I’m usually pretty busy trying to keep guys off of him. The coaches don’t like it when he gets hit, so I’ve got to keep them off of him on Saturdays.”
Keeping the opponents off of Hamilton comes naturally for Carman, who is the biggest player on Tech’s roster and one of the largest ever to suit up for the Jackets. Being big, though, is nothing new to Carman, who weighed close to 13 pounds at birth and was a whopping 26-1/2 inches long.
“Pretty much from the start,” Carman says of always being the biggest boy on the block. “It turns a lot of heads. Everybody always asks you how tall you are (6-8), how much you weigh (335) and what size shoe you wear (17). Those things are constant.”
And for Carman, along the offensive line, size definitely matters.
“The bigger you are, the more you can wear down your opponent,” he said. “They have to constantly push your weight back against you. Plus, you’re always hitting them with the same amount of force, so your body has a little bit more endurance when you have a little bit more size. You can take more beatings than some of the other guys can.”
Size isn’t everything, however. Since coming to Tech by way of Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y., Carman has dropped close to 30 pounds which has resulted in increased quickness and stamina.
“That was a process of just getting stronger and losing body fat,” Carman said. “I’ve tried to maintain about 335 pounds. I’m a lot stronger and faster now and have a lot more endurance. I don’t have to carry all of that extra weight around which helps me make it through all four quarters.”
“Jon Carman is what you want to see at tackle,” said Yellow Jacket head coach George O’Leary. “He’s a guy that has some wingspan, good size and can move well. Jon has played a lot for us the past two years, and the experience we have on the offensive line is a major plus.”
As accomplished as he is on the offensive front, Carman is just as accomplished on the piano.
“I’m getting kind of rusty now, though,” he said. “I’ve got a piano in my room but haven’t played lately because I’ve been too busy getting ready for the season. And it’s hard to play during the season because you always jam your knuckles and can’t play too much.”
“I started playing when I was 10 years old and have been playing for as long as I can remember. My parents always used to take my sister to piano lessons, but she never wanted to go. I always wanted to go, but they never took me. So I just sat down and started playing. I taught myself how to play. I got pretty good and eventually took a class for one semester at a community college in Maryland. The teacher told me I played real well for someone who had never taken any lessons.
“I just kept picking it up and picking it up and now it’s something I do for stress relief or when I want to get away from everything.”
Or on road trips when Carman tickles the ivory to the tune of Fur Elise or Beethoven’s Fifth in the hotel lobby.
“When we get to the hotel and there’s a grand piano sitting around, I’ll play a couple tunes,” Carman said. “The guys make me do it now. They really can’t believe it because it just doesn’t mix. It’s like oil and water. When somebody this big sits down at the piano, it’s not supposed to happen.”