Jan. 3, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
The transition away from sport is easier on some than others, and while Anthony Egbuniwe appears well on his way to being fine (he’ll soon start a job with Microsoft), his road away from Georgia Tech was not easy nor paved in gold.
Egbuniwe loved playing football, loving being a defensive end and then an outside linebacker for the Yellow Jackets. He’d go back and in less than one second and sign on to again put up with all the hassles that go with being a Division I football player.
If he could.
He can’t. Having graduated in December, 2010 with a degree in management with a specialization in IT and marketing, Egbuniwe’s eligibility is up.
The real world is right around the corner, as he’s slated to begin training in February to become a technical account manager with Microsoft. That’s a job much like the one taken last summer by former Tech teammate and fellow linebacker Albert Rocker.
Rocker took that job with a year of eligibility remaining. There was pressure; Microsoft said now or never.
Egbuniwe was the other way around, taking a year or so after his eligibility expired to land a job. In the interim, he tried to keep his toes in the football pool where Rocker made a clean break even though he could have kept swimming.
It’s a tough deal, although some of what “Boonie” has to say about the transition sounds a lot like what Rocker said.
“While playing football, you want to make it to the NFL,” said the former Tulsa transfer. “The biggest thing I miss is the team camaraderie, the small things. After every game [at Tech], I’d get my guy, Derrick Morgan, in the back of the bus free-styling.
“We all thought we were rappers. I loved being able to communicate with my brothers. You’d wake up with them, work out with them, go to class, practice with them, go to meetings, study hall . . . then sleep and do it all again. Every time I went to a game last season, I wanted to suit right back up. I even miss practice.”
Egbuniwe will work out of a Microsoft office in Reston, Va., outside of Washington, D.C. Much of his work, once he completes extensive training, will relate to contracts with the U.S. government.
He may never make a complete break from football.
As you read this, Egbuniwe is — weather permitting — driving from Cincinnati back to Atlanta. He went up there last week to visit with and watch friend and former teammate Michael Johnson play for the Bengals. Snow kept him around longer than he’d planned.
Earlier this season, Boonie traveled to Nashville to visit with and watch Morgan play for the Titans against the Saints.
It’s a process, this business of moving away from ball and into business. Hence, “I almost got kicked out of the stands. I was getting so emotional. They told me I had to calm down.
“When you’re a player, you’re in football mode when you’re around it. I was ready to suit up. If I saw a play that I didn’t like, I’d yell about how to take on a block or something.”
Tech is not in the business of building football players, but rather building people who can take on the real world. Some of them happen to end up playing professional football.
Egbuniwe will go to the wall to testify that he’s better equipped to work for Microsoft than he would have been if he hadn’t gone to Tech, and if he hadn’t played football.
“I think the business world and the athletic world are very similar. If anything it prepared me even more than someone who just went to school,” he said. “If you play a D-I sport, you have a job while going to school.
“You learn teamwork, about working hard, and . . . to be able to critique your mistakes and take criticism from coaches, who are like your boss. D-I athletes are all goal-oriented. In the business world, all of these things are needed. The only difference is you’re not doing anything in a physical way.”
Entering Egbuniwe’s junior season, Tech head coach Paul Johnson began matching his elder players with some of Atlanta’s movers and shakers — local captains of industry.
This is not the first time someone has bragged about the benefits.
“He had a dinner for us where . . . we’d talk about careers, and what they do in their jobs. The good thing is it opened doors to so many Georgia Tech graduates, fans and business men around Atlanta.
“That gave us the opportunity to start making contacts so that when we were finished with football, we were able to make moves in that direction. It was a great thing.”
So, too, was the Tech job fair where Egbuniwe last fall launched his pending career with Microsoft. He also had interviews with Coca-Cola, McKesson and IBM.
There’s more moving coming.
Once back in Atlanta, Egbuniwe will pack up and on Monday he’ll climb in a rented U-Haul truck with his car hitched to the back end and head for metro D.C. Next up, the start of a new chapter in the same book as his football career — the tale of his life’s trail.
Football has been in a rear-view mirror of sorts for a while now, yet it may not slip any further away even with each mile he drives.
“It’s a joy to be able to watch the game and be a fan. I’ve become a real big fan of all the [Tech] guys who left and are playing in the NFL now. It’s good to see them succeed,” Egbuniwe said. “Sometimes, it’s good to be a fan and not be yelled at by a coach any more.”
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