Oct. 30, 2013
By Jon Cooper
“Smart player” and “Georgia Tech player” have always been phrases that could be considered redundant. That idea was proven once again last week with the announcement that the Yellow Jackets’ football program exceeded its GSR (graduation success rate) by eight percent to a record 63 percent, and that 73 percent of the 2006-07 freshman class received its diploma.
Quayshawn Nealy will be part of the freshman class of 2010, for whom he is actively helping raise the GSR bar.
Nealy contributed last fall by making the Dean’s List — he is on pace to graduate in the fall of 2014, with a degree in management — but he is never one to sit on his laurels, be it in the classroom or on the field.
On the latter front, the redshirt junior WILL linebacker from Lakeland, Fla., has turned his game up lately. “Q” is averaging 3.2 tackles over his last five games, including making six stops (three solo) in last week’s victory at Virginia.
That effort capped off a week that saw him share ACC Linebacker of the Week honors for the second time in his career by virtue of his effort against Syracuse. Against the Orange, Nealy recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass (his second of the season and sixth of his career) and batted down another pass, while making a pair of tackles (one solo), in support of the defense in the 56-0 rout.
Sting Daily talked with Nealy about what it means to be a Dean’s List student, what the linebackers mean to each other and to the defense in “pitching a shutout,” and why the phrase “pitching a shutout” nearly meant something completely different for him.
Nealy Significant Facts:
Games Played/Starts: 34/27
First Game: 9/1/11 vs. Western Carolina
First Start: 9/10/11 at Middle Tennessee State
First Tackle: 9/1/11 vs. Western Carolina
First Double-Digit-Tackles Game: 10/15/11 at Virginia (10, 4 solo)
First Tackle For Loss: 9/17/11 vs. Kansas
First Multiple-TFL Game: 11/10/12 at North Carolina (for minus-14 yards)
First Sack: 11/10/12 at North Carolina
First Multiple-Sack Game: 11/10/12 at North Carolina (for minus-14 yards)
First Interception: 10/8/11 vs. Maryland (off Danny O’Brien)
First Fumble Recovery: 9/1/11, vs. Western Carolina
Most Tackles: 12, 11/3/12 at Maryland (8 solo)
Longest Int. Return: 74 yards, vs. Utah, 12/31/11 (for TD in Sun Bowl off Jon Hays)
FIRST DOWN: What’s been the key to the tremendous linebacker play this season?
NEALY: Ever since Coach [Andy] McCollum has stepped in there has been a big difference. He has done a tremendous job with us as far as with our footwork, alignment, the little things, making the little things happen. So when big plays happen they come second-nature to us. Working together in the off-season just carried over into the season. The linebacker core has been together quite some time now so we’re just like family. We look out for each other on the field.
SECOND DOWN: What was a greater achievement: Earning a starting spot (he’s started seven of eight games this season) or making the Dean’s List?
NEALY: Making the Dean’s List because the classes here are so hard. I came to school to get my education first and to make my mom proud, especially because I will be the first one in my immediate family to graduate. That was always No. 1, to get my degree first. It’s definitely a pleasure to play for Georgia Tech but I’m here to get my degree first. It’s hard but that’s definitely a goal that I set for every semester and I feel like everybody should set that goal and don’t limit yourself. I definitely strive to make the Dean’s List.
THIRD DOWN: According to the media guide, you said the thing you’d like to be better at is baseball. Why?
NEALY: I grew up a pitcher. I didn’t play in high school because when I was going to try out my freshman year I had broken my ankle playing basketball. So I was like, ‘I’ll just play basketball and football.’ I wish I would have stuck with baseball because I won a Little League championship in our hometown and I was pretty decent. So I wish I would have stuck with it a little bit more.
FOURTH DOWN: Are you comparable to DeAndre [Smelter]?
NEALY: Nah. That guy’s a great baseball player. I went to plenty of games and saw him pitch. He threw until he injured his rotator cuff. DeAndre is a great baseball player.
BONUS: As a former tuba player, what was your reaction to the “Tuba pile-up” that occurred during a halftime show at a recent high school game?
(Here is a clip of the incident, which made ESPN’s Not-Top-10 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STB7PsAHqj4?
NEALY: (laughs) Wow, man. I didn’t see it but my heart goes out to them because that tuba is pretty heavy. For that to fall on you, oh, man. That’s sad.
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