Dec. 14, 2010
For information on the alumni association pre-Independence Bowl tailgate, check here: http://gtalumni.org/pages/independencebowl
By Matt Winkeljohn
Today we have the tale of a man somewhat like many of you but for a couple facts that make him very different: he works in the Pentagon, and yet the poor soul constantly finds the enemy at his door. To be more exact, the bad guys seem to circle his cubicle like sharks about chum while saying silly things.
Paul Sturges graduated from Georgia Tech in 1993 with a degree in aerospace engineering. He’s a fan.
He’s also in the Air Force, as a lieutenant colonel, and that puts him behind enemy lines as the Yellow Jackets will play the Cadets Dec. 27 in the Independence Bowl.
As you might imagine, being in the Pentagon and working for the Air Force — where Sturges’ job is to track the condition of every aircraft in the USAF’s inventory – leaves him in the belly of a certain beast.
No surprise, then, that Sturges’ work station is marked by several talismen, objects that serve the dual purposes of lifting the spirits of one very ardent Jacket and warding off (mocking?) spooks.
His favorite is a recently acquired black-and-white photo of Eddie Lee Ivery doing his thing. In 1978, you see, Ivery set an NCAA single-game rushing record by gashing Air Force for 356 yards.
Hopefully, Surges can soon TP his colleagues’ cubicles with that photo and more Jacket doo-dads.
That would indicate a Jackets victory over the Cadets. That’s the bet: winner talks, loser(s) decorate(s) his work station(s) with marks of the winner’s choice.
At the Pentagon, “It’s probably 30 [Air Force] Academy guys or more for every one from Tech that I know either from when I was there, or I see wearing the swag in the gym,” Sturges said. “I have enough stuff to decorate all their cubicles.
“I have the helmet, a miniature of Bobby Dodd Stadium . . . pictures of Buzz drinking Coca-Cola, a Ramblin Wreck miniature, a Tech tower picture, Buzz, a national championship Coke bottle . . . “
Life could be worse for Sturges; he could be stuck in Athens, where the verbal flotsam and jetsam might be so unbearable as to land him in the news. The erstwhile Cadets, though, are not much for trash-talking. It seems few Air Force graduates follow their football team with a zeal to match Sturges’.
Their biggest zingers tend to go like this: you play in a conference that plays no defense.
“This coming from guys whose team plays in a conference with teams like Colorado State, New Mexico, Wyoming and UNLV,” Sturges said. “It’s been a little tougher to say that this year with TCU in the Mountain West , but if we played their schedule like theirs we’d be in a BCS game most years.
“They don’t have as much of the school spirit there. Most cheer for other teams [near where they grew up, perhaps] first and the Academy after that.”
Sturges steered hard away from schools near where he grew up, in Virginia.
While he was a lad, his father had a practice of taking him to roughly one Alabama home game a year. He remembers driving through Atlanta, and past Tech. When he decided he wanted to be an engineer . . . “I’d always heard how great Virginia Tech is, but I hated them and still do,” he said. “An ROTC scholarship made [Georgia Tech] possible.”
It’s been seven years since Sturges attended a Tech game in Bobby Dodd, but he went to three road games this season – at North Carolina, Wake Forest and Clemson – and over the past few years he’s seen every Tech game either in person or on TV unless it was not televised. That wasn’t so easy several years back when he was stationed in Okinawa.
The family is on board; daughters Reagan and Ryan have Tech cheerleader outfits, but there was a glitch back in 2004. Mrs. Sturges graduated from Oklahoma State, and when the Cowboys played the Jackets in the national semifinal game, she did not – for a change – root for the Jackets.
“It wasn’t really fun that day,” he said. “I knew we’d win, but it was quiet that day, and we moved on after that.”
Sturges may not have numbers in the Pentagon, but he has beef on his side.
USAF Lieutenant General Phillip Breedlove of Forest Park is a Tech fan.
The 1977 Tech grad has been confirmed for appointment next month.
He’ll become a four star general and vice chief of staff for the USAF.
As staunch a fan as he is, Sturges might like Breedlove give head coach Paul Johnson one order: “I’m a huge CPJ fan and I’m not going to say anything bad, but if they’d run a screen pass on third-and-5 just once, I’d make a donation. I can’t make a big donation, maybe good for a pair of shoulder pads.”
Problem is . . . Johnson was a [non-commissioned] Navy man, and that’s probably not the only reason that just wouldn’t fly. Thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.