Oct. 22, 2010
By Matt Winkeljohn
Georgia Tech @ Clemson, today, 3:30 p.m. (ABC regional; ESPN national)
Spend enough time around Joshua Nesbitt – and it doesn’t take long to hit the qualifying mark — and you learn that he’s a straight forward fellow. Pre-tense? Please!
He lugs a football pretty much the same way he comports himself, which is to say with minimal skittering around but rather with an obvious order of operation – to move firmly forward and conclude the action at hand.
Rarely one to dwell on minutia, he’s had no choice this week but to at least contemplate pending history. If he rushes for 44 yards or more at Clemson today, No. 9 will become No. 1 — the leading rusher among QBs in ACC history.
Notably, he’ll displace one of Clemson’s former quarterbacks, Woody Dantzler, who rushed for 2,761 yards for Clemson from 1998-2001. Nesbitt’s number on the way into Death Valley is 2,718.
Being disinclined to wax poetic about anything, when asked if breaking the record at Clemson would be special, he suggested at first that becoming the record holder today in Clemson’s house would not mean any more than if it happened, say, Nov. 4 at Virginia Tech.
Then, there was a pause, during which I looked at him kinda crookedly. That’s easy for me because my nose is out of whack. Here was his answer, which as you can see evolved from start to finish:
“It wouldn’t mean that much if I get it at Clemson or anywhere else. [Pause here combined with half-vacant (normal) stare from inquisitor.] It means a big deal going in the history books, but I’m just worried about the defense they play. I doubt they’re thinking about the record right now; they’re thinking about the last couple years.”
In just a few sentences you have the quintessential Nesbitt.
# First, the baseline: everything is quick hitting with no drawn-out sentences.
# Second, demonstrating how he has matured into a more PR-savvy senior relative to the hyper under-spoken lad who arrived on campus more than three years ago from Greensboro, Ga., Nesbitt took a cue via the pause, played just a little media game and threw his interrogator a bone.
It was a tiny morsel for sure, just 10 words, and not even a complete thought unto itself but part of a compound sentence that dovetailed away from the individual accomplishment at hand and to the defense Clemson plays, but it was his nod of respect to the way the media game is played.
Uncomfortable talking about the first person, after teasing the inquisitor with that tiny treat he quickly optioned away from the topic of himself and to Tech’s opponent.
Nesbitt’s not one for self-deprecation, but neither is he prone to self adulation. The young man moves quickly to and through points. He does not dawdle. He is not self-centered.
These are the ways he rolls; respectfully, quickly, with minimal wasted action. Nesbitt is not thinking much about himself, but he’s on the minds of the Tigers.
Clemson has lost four straight games to Tech, last beating the Jackets four years ago when the Tigers wore all-purple uniforms for the first time and pasted the visitors 31-7 in Memorial Stadium with ESPN’s Gameday crew nearby.
The second entry in Clemson’s football notes package this week is about Nesbitt, and his dance with Dantzler. It points out that No. 9 has averaged 90.3 rushing yards in three games against the Tigers, and that he rushed for 91 and 103 yards in the two games these teams played last season.
More importantly for Tech, Nesbitt doesn’t need to say much to cause great effect. That’s good because he’s not much for talking.
To say he was central to Tech winning the ACC title last season would be understatement deluxe. Even though he hasn’t been nearly as proficient a college passer as most top-shelf quarterbacks, Nesbitt has won through not only his running yardage but his ability to will teammates to over-achieve.
“He is a very competitive young man and he likes to win and that is what makes him special as a quarterback,” Tech head coach Paul Johnson said a couple weeks ago. “If I to pick two things that I think separate him from other guys it is his toughness and he is competitive. Those are two pretty good things to have in a football player.”
Nesbitt is more football player than quarterback, if that makes sense. Somehow, it does.
Hey, send thoughts on Nesbitt to firstname.lastname@example.org and perhaps if we gather enough today (before, during and after the game) we’ll publish them if he passes Dantzler today.