Nov. 26, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
Roddy Jones stamped his name into Georgia Tech history in 2008 when the redshirt freshman from Chamblee High tight-roped his way down the Georgia sideline in Athens.
Much as he would have liked to bookend his stay at Tech with a second win over the Bulldogs Saturday, he’ll have to settle for leaving his name in the school record book after making his 51st career start. That’s more than anyone before.
Roddy felt like dirt by mid-afternoon, though, because there was no poetic justice to be had against UGA in Bobby Dodd Stadium — against whom Jones made the signature run in that wonderous rally to win three years ago.
Similarly, it is something of a shame that one delirious moment is more than anything why many Tech fans will remember him. There’s more, a lot more, to Jones. His essence, after all, has been on the Flats for a very, very long time, even if it has rarely shown up in human.
He is the exact model of what Tech coaches for decades have sought to recruit in student-athletes, which is to say young men (and women) who not only strive to be the best in the worlds on both sides of that hyphen (and others), but to far more often than not pull it off.
You bust out the name from a birth certificate in special situations, and Roderick Rinaldo Jones II deserves that. He is, after all, the Tech blueprint.
“Roddy’s just a great person. Besides [being] a really good football player, a model student-athlete, he’s got tons of character,” head coach Paul Johnson said after Saturday’s loss to Georgia. “He’s going to be very successful at whatever he decides to do. Personally, I’ll miss him a lot; he’s a great kid.”
Fans see Jones play. His 1,828 career rushing yards rank 13th in school history. He’s also scored 19 touchdowns, although he didn’t find the end zone Saturday, while leading all rushers with 72 yards on 11 carries.
Professors see him excel. He made the Academic All-ACC team in ’08, ’09 and ’10.
Underprivileged kids see him show up near Christmas time with gifts.
Tech students see him as a co-president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board.
Jones is not alone in any of what he does, but he’s singular in that he seems to do all of it rather than bits and pieces here and there.
His coaches see every bit of it, which is why – as the graduate student was waiting humbly in the wings Saturday afternoon, not far from Johnson — the head coach offered his testimonial.
In his turn before the media, Jones made good with the party line. “We’re definitely disappointed in the way that the game ended,” he said. “It was a pretty emotional game for us [seniors] being the last game. I guess that was the main disappointment, that that’s the way we’ll leave Bobby Dodd Stadium.”
You don’t sign up for this kind of stuff. Circumstances leave you with feelings you don’t want to have.
After Jones and fellow senior Steven Sylvester – still in full gear – finished speaking with reporters, they made their way down a hall in the Edge Center as quarterback Tevin Washington entered. He was not happy, clearly, as he did not say a peep nor even make eye contact.
The mood was miserable. Jones and Sylvester barely spoke a word to one another as they descended a certain staircase for the last time as Tech football players in a post-game at Bobby Dodd.
They split once outside the door as someone beckoned Sylvester.
And then the smallish running back took another moment to speak with a reporter. With a first-name greeting that is rare yet befitting the young man whom teammates suggest might one day be president, Jones patiently – while holding open the door to Tech’s locker room – answered a question or two more.
He had the joy of one grandmother visiting from Washington, D.C., another from New York, and a great aunt in from Birmingham – all for his home swan song.
But the wretched stenches of Georgia were still wafting as Jones admitted that he had to steel himself before his final post-game interview situation. He was upset, and he knew that annoying questions were likely to come.
Couple the reality of your last home game with a loss to UGA in it, and you’d have to set your jaw, too, “Especially after a loss,” he said. “You have to kind of check your emotions at the door, and just answer the questions without emotion.
“Yet it’s an emotional game. You have to look at the fact that they played better than us. At the end of the day, that’s just how it is. That’s the reality we have to live with.”
Having spent time working around a great many athletes who were as adept at the games of life and benevolence as they were afield – Chris Draft, Pellom McDaniels, Matt Stinchcomb, Sean Bedford and Jason Peters come to mind – I would put Jones at the top of the list for sake of his feel.
He handles a room, handles a situation, and without a scintilla of condescension while deploying razor-sharp skills of perception all the while. Paul Johnson is right; Roddy will rock.
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