Aug. 5, 2013
By Jon Cooper
Georgia Tech begins its 2013 football season on Aug. 31st, but the Yellow Jackets recorded their first victory of 2013 on Saturday afternoon.
It was Fan Day at Bobby Dodd Stadium and from the crowd filling Callaway Plaza to the monster lines stretching all the way up Bobby Dodd Way in either direction in anticipation of the opening of the entrance onto Grant Field, there was nothing but positive vibes.
Even the weather cooperated.
“We’ve had a great day, I think it’s our first non-rainy weekend here in three months, which maybe is a sign of good things to come,” said Athletic Director Mike Bobinski. “It’s exciting when you get started with football.
“Georgia Tech is a tremendously special place. We’ve got great young men in the program and we’ve got a terrific coaching staff. We’ve got all the makings of a top-notch, successful football program. Everybody’s just been really positive today. Everybody’s been really encouraging. People just keep saying, ‘Welcome to Tech.’ I love it. I hope they keep saying that for the next 20 years. It’s a great thing.”
Bobinski made the rounds to meet Jackets fans and also proudly introduced Georgia Tech’s new broadcasting partners from Dickey Broadcasting, Jim Mahanay from Cumulus Media (106.7 FM and 680 The Fan), David Dickey from Dickey Broadcasting (106.7 and 680 The Fan), and local personalities Chuck Oliver and Matt Chernoff of 680’s afternoon drive show “Chuck and Chernoff.”
“To me it’s really exciting. It’s something we needed. We needed to have a way to get deeper into this market place, to be spoken about more often,” he said. “680 is the dominant sports-talk station in this market and we had no presence on there. Now we’ll have a presence on there. People have to hear about you in order to get interested and I think this will really help that along.”
There was plenty of fan interest Saturday, as, despite the sun glaring down, lines to meet the players — grouped by position — stretched beyond midfield in every direction.
That presence meant a lot to the team.
“You always look forward to Fan Day. It’s fun,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson. “You get a lot of the real die-hard fans who come to Fan Day and are willing to stand in line in the heat to have a chance to visit with the players and talk to the coaches. So you want to do all you can to make sure they have a good time while they’re here and be supportive of them because they’ve been pretty supportive of us and our program. I think the players enjoy it. There will be three or four funny things happen today, I guarantee you, out there, while we’re getting ready to take pictures or sign things or whatever. It’s always interesting.”
Fan Day is so much fun that quarterback Vad Lee admitted he couldn’t wait for the doors to open at 4:00 for the approximately 90-minute autograph-signing period to start interacting with the fans.
“It’s always been fun for me. Usually I go out before Fan Day and play with the kids with the games and stuff outside,” said Lee. “I usually sneak out for like 10 minutes and play with them.
“I never had to do this media day so it’s cutting out my time,” he added, with a laugh. “It’s fun just being able to interact with the fans.”
Lee wasn’t exactly able to sneak out, as he got no further than 20 feet onto Callaway Plaza before he found himself surrounded by fans, including several youngsters wearing replica No. 2 jerseys. The genuine smile that he wore the entire time that he signed every autograph and posed for every photo showed that he didn’t mind losing that anonymity.
Once fans were allowed onto Grant Field, they stormed the field, as if following a big win, then camped in front of the tent of their favorite position players. The quintet of quarterbacks was among the busiest as was Johnson.
But long lines didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the fans, who enjoyed being on the field and meeting the team.
“I haven’t been to [a Fan Day] since I was a little kid,” said John Alexander of Jefferson, Ga., who was lined up near the right sideline, waiting patiently to meet the signal-callers, on the opposite sideline. “I was sitting around the house today and I knew this was up and I said, ‘Hey, I’m going to zip down there and be a part of it.’ I think a lot of people are selling this team short. But I really think there’s something special. I don’t know what tells me that. I’ve just got a gut feeling.”
The defense drew huge lines, as the defensive line and linebackers both had fans lined up in an L shape, 10 yards down then nearly stretching all the way across the field.
“It’s a great day out here. It’s a beautiful day. I’m glad the coaches and team take time out to do this for us,” said Mike Lassitter, Class of ’91, who brought his wife and 16-month-old twins — his daughter donning a Georgia Tech cheerleaders outfit, his son wearing a No. 13 Tech football jersey. “Our little twins are having a great time. We’ve been to several but this is the first one with the kids. I’m excited that we’ve got a new defensive coordinator in. I’m hoping he’ll bring a lot of excitement to the defensive side of the ball. That’s my personal favorite, the defensive side of the ball.”
Sitting in between the D-Line and Linebackers were the kickers/specialists, who had a little less fanfare.
But that didn’t bother Special Teams Coordinator Dave Walkosky, who assured that the self-esteem of the members of his unit was not affected by the comparatively shorter line of fans.
“They fit right in. It’s perfect. We’re all one. They’re in their own world. They’re fine,” he said, with a laugh. “They’re good. They’re very strong-minded young men, very confident.”
Walkosky said the best part of the day for him was watching the joy his players — and the entire team — had interacting with the fans.
“I like to watch the players. I like to see people there supporting them,” he said. “You’re on the field and they’re in the stands and you know they’re cheering for you. It’s nice to see the interaction and see the players get to meet the fans and the people that are following them.”
For the players, Fan Day is a day that never gets old.
“I love to see the die-hard Georgia Tech fans because it’s always fun,” said redshirt senior center Jay Finch. “I like to see them coming out in their different outfits and see all the kids sprint onto the field. It’s always nice. It is Fan Day and I look forward to seeing everybody out there.”
“From my freshman year, where we saw the lines [Jonathan] Dwyer and [Joshua] Nesbitt it’s been memorable,” said redshirt senior B-Back David Sims. “I cherish it and I appreciate every fan that comes out.”
Get Sting Daily in your e-mail box — it’s free! Just register here to get the latest features on Georgia Tech Athletics.