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#STINGDAILY: Walking the Walk

May 3, 2013

Jon Cooper, Sting Daily –

Scoring a touchdown is commonly referred to as every lineman’s dream.

In the context of a football game that’s probably true.

Outside of football, however, there are bigger dreams out there.

Offensive linemen Ray Beno and Will Jackson will live out one of their’s — and every student’s — dream on Saturday afternoon when they walk across the stage at McCamish Pavilion and receive their diplomas at Georgia Tech’s 2013 Spring Commencement.

“It’s something I’m looking forward to and that’s what’s powering me right now through finals,” said Beno, a two-year starter at tackle, with a pass reception and a first down to his credit, who at the time, still had three finals remaining to complete his degree in Business Administration.

“I can’t put it into words. I think back to June of 2009, when we moved in here as freshmen. I was living with Ray, Jay Finch and a couple of other guys. That seems like yesterday,” said Jackson, who played at both left guard and right tackle last season and had one final remaining — although he called it one of his toughest — to complete his Business Administration degree then had GMATs pending. “It’s a unique experience in the fact that every day, every week, every semester, is a constant grind. You’re just powering through and pushing through and you don’t really have time to look up and see where you’re at. This semester I’ve had a little bit lighter course load so I’ve been able to kind of enjoy things. It’s kind of hit me all of a sudden, ‘I’m done. I’m finished. This is it.’ It’s weird that a week from tomorrow I’ll be graduating and will be done as an undergraduate here.”

Both have excelled on the field, as Beno earned the team’s 2012 Team Offensive Effort Award, while Jackson was 2012 Honorable Mention All-ACC but both take as much pride in their ability to lead in the classroom.

Beno is a Dean’s List student and was 2012 Academic All-ACC, while Jackson is a three-time member of the Academic All-ACC Team. Keeping their places on those high academic lists has been as big a priority as keeping their spots on the depth chart.

“It’s a big deal to me,” said Beno of staying on the Dean’s List. “I started out as an engineer and that didn’t really work out that well for me. Ever since I got into Management I told myself I was going to make Dean’s List every year. So far I’ve been very successful on it. It means a lot to me and hopefully I can finish out strong this semester with it.”

Jackson was as determined to go 4-for-4 as an All-Conference academician.

“That’s very important,” he said. “There’s not many guys that have done it. That’s certainly a big goal I have to finish out and make it all four years.”

Both harbor dreams of making it to the NFL — both were very excited to see eight O-linemen get selected in the first round of the recently completed NFL Draft, including three of the first four selections and six of the first 11 picks — but they also have given themselves a fall-back option.

“I’m interning this summer with SunTrust, Robinson Humphrey doing investment banking so I’m going to give that a try,” said Jackson, who has a concentration in Finance. “If that’s something that peaks my interest then I can certainly see myself making a career out of that. Other than that, athletics administration, whether it be a general manager or being an athletics director would certainly be something I’m interested in as well.”

“Working with a marketing agency somewhere dealing with sports is ideal for me,” said Beno. “Sports marketing is something I’m very interested in and hopefully it works out for me in the future.”

While they are excited thinking about their professional careers, they’ve put those dreams on the back-burner. First there is the 2013 Georgia Tech season.

Even ahead of that comes Saturday. Beno and Jackson are expecting to be well-represented family-wise.

Beno, who has called Newnan, Ga., home since sixth grade, expects his mom, dad, and younger brothers, Christopher and Tyler, to attend.

“Oh, it’s a big deal for my parents and my family,” he said. “My dad is actually making my two brothers come. Usually my third brother is not as sociable as the other two of us. He’s dragging him to make sure he comes to see this big accomplishment. I’m the first child, I’m one of the first in my family on both sides to graduate from college.”

Jackson, who was born in Athens, Ga., but grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., is expecting both parents and his younger brother and sister to make the trip from Knoxville.

“Everybody’s real happy about it. They’re ready to come down and celebrate with me,” Jackson said.

“My mom, she’s fired up about it,” he added. “I texted her in the middle of class — which I shouldn’t have been doing — but I texted her and said, ‘Hey, mom. I’m sitting in my last day of undergraduate class at Georgia Tech.’ All I got back was her saying, ‘Oh happy day.'”

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