Jan. 22, 2017
Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Don’t be surprised while attending today’s men’s tennis match between Tennessee and Georgia Tech if Christopher Eubanks appears to be in a hurry. The Yellow Jackets’ junior and his teammates go to work at noon but he’s got business — serious business — a few hours later.
Eubanks’ beloved Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers will kick off shortly after 3 p.m. with a Super Bowl berth at stake. The idea of missing his hometown team in the NFC Championship Game . . . well, don’t even go there.
“Oh my goodness; I can’t put it into words,” he said of his Falcons fandom. “Each year we’ve kind of lived this whole thing in the city of Atlanta where we get our hopes up and they come down . . . I cannot wait for this game.”
When the topic of professional football came up the other day, Eubanks wasn’t sure where he was going to watch the game in part because he couldn’t be sure where he’ll be. It depends on how long the match against the Vols lasts.
“We’re going to have to try to get on and get off really quickly,” he said with a grin. “We’re going to see what we can do.”
There’s no word on any trash talk between Eubanks and teammate Phillip Gresk, a Packers fan whose father is from Wisconsin.
Today won’t be the first time this has happened.
Last Saturday, as the Jackets were playing Columbia at the Byers Tennis Complex, the Falcons were beating the Seattle Seahawks to punch their ticket to the NFC Championship Game. Shortly before the match, Tech head coach Kenny Thorne saw Eubanks wearing his Falcons hat. He had some advice.
“You got to wear a Georgia Tech hat on the court, brother,” Thorne told his player. “He was playing his match and the game was on TV.”
Eubanks won his singles match last Saturday. He also rolled on Sunday against Illinois and again on Monday against Georgia to capture the title in the MLK Invitational.
Two days ago, he beat Georgia’s Wayne Montgomery in the Jackets’ dual-season opener, a 5-2 loss to the Bulldogs.
So the Falcons’ run to glory hasn’t knocked Eubanks off beam.
“I made sure [Thorne] didn’t see me sneaking peeks at the Seattle game,” he said with a smile.
He found ways to follow the Birds last Saturday, although when he was on the court playing double first and singles later, he had no idea.
“Of course not. I was too busy trying to come back in a three-set battle,” he said. “But immediately afterward … We have [a TV] in the locker room and we have one right by the court and I had to do an iPad, thank goodness, in the locker room.
“While the game was on, there’s [a TV] upstairs between courts one and two. While I was cheering on [teammates] from there, I kind of just peeked my head back in the room. If I had to go back on the court, I would ask our facility manager thumbs up or thumbs down and he kind of kept me up to date.”
The Falcons have surpassed Christopher’s expectations and that has increased his anxiety.
“The entire year, I was just saying let’s continue to focus on the NFC South, win the division and then see what happens,” he said. “[Getting the] No. 2 seed and hosting [playoff games]? That didn’t even come into my mind until the second-to-last week. I was like, `Wow. We could be the 2 seed.’
“When I saw Green Bay go the other way [in the first round of the playoffs to earn a game at No. 1 Dallas], I thought let Dak Prescott and those guys have a hot Aaron Rodgers right now and lets focus on Seattle.”
The Packers beat the Cowboys and the Falcons took care of the Seahawks to set up a whopper of a last-ever game in the Georgia Dome.
“With each game that happened, my emotions started to rise a little more and a little more,” Eubanks said. “It’s going to be fun to say the least.”