Sept. 9, 2009
In just a few hours, Georgia Tech and Clemson will kick-off in front of a frenzied Bobby Dodd Stadium crowd and a nationally-televised audience. Yellow Jacket sophomore linebacker Kyle Jackson takes you through what the players are thinking and doing – the nervousness and the anticipation – leading up to kick-off.
Ladies and Gentlemen… can I please have your attention, please? I need you to stop what you are doing and listen up.
IT’S GAME DAY!
Tonight is the night for what we hope will be our second straight Whiteout vicory. REMEMBER TO WEAR YOUR WHITE!
For many of you, Game Day is a family, fraternal or exhilarating experience – perhaps all three. From your perspective, you witness the glitz and glam of the game. You witness the tradition and pageantry that is college football, and more specifically, Georgia Tech.
It appeals to all senses — the smells, from concession stands to your sweaty neighbor; the sounds, from the crushing hits to the Budweiser Song; even the sights, from Yellow Jacket Alley to the Spread Option at its finest. THIS IS COLLEGE FOOTBALL!
From a fan’s view at least.
But, would you like to know a secret? We (the players) see things differently on a night like tonight.
This morning, after a tight week of practice and meetings, the nerves have been turned on. It’s not fear, but excitement and anxiety. Thursday Nigh Lights on The Flats are no joke, especially when you are in the national spotlight against your conference rival.
For me personally, I’m in class today. With a damaged Lisfranc joint and surgery scheduled for sometime between late September and October 7th, I don’t expect to play this season. However, let me give you some insight on what the boys are going through.
After arriving at the hotel yesterday afternoon, the guys ate as a team and endured meetings before calling it a night. Today began with an early 8:00 am. wake-up for breakfast. Coach (Johnson) likes to get us up early and get those juices flowing.
My teammates will then retire to their rooms for R&R until around noon when a sandwich and soup style lunch is offered. Meals are consumed and it’s back to the room again. By now, guys are antsy. It’s been a long day in the hotel and they’re hungry. As they walk downstairs for the pre-game meal, it isn’t the nourishment of chicken breasts or potatoes they crave. These boys are hungry to hit someone wearing something other than Old Gold and White.
After a meal and meetings, the busses pull out of the hotel parking lot around 5:15 pm. The destination? The feeding grounds known as Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. As the busses pull up, there is no more electric feeling than walking though a packed out Yellow Jacket Alley. (So be there early and pack it out!)
As the boys enter the stadium, it’s all focus. I personally like to get in the hot tub for a quick 10 minutes to warm-up and stretch before changing and heading out to walk the field. I always bounce three times in the tunnel before breaking into a sprint out to the 50. I immediately turn right until I hit the center of the field where I stop to get in a quick prayer.
I then head back in and get dressed for warm-ups, but most guys will stay out and toss the ball around or stretch. The team then goes through warm-ups and heads back in to the locker room.
At this point, game time is 20 minutes away. You can hear the fans, the students directly above us, stomping the bleachers as the locker room is otherwise completely silent in focus. With five minutes left, the captains are called up. It’s time to hear Coach Johnson and team chaplain Derrick Moore speak.
Before you know it, it’s time. Tonight is finally here. Pupils dilated in anxiety, we approach the tunnel. The fog billows and you can see the “Whiteout” crowd. The fight song cranks, and here come the Yellow Jackets, ready for what surely will be a battle.
For me, tonight will be different. Back when I was a true freshman, I sat out the season as a redshirt, and that was difficult. I wanted to play. Last year I got a taste of it. I played in 12 games and started 10 times, including the Thursday Night win over Miami. Now that I’ve had a taste of it, it’s even more difficult.
Clemson is a great team and tonight will be a war — a good, old-fashioned, bare-knuckled brawl. I want to be on the front lines, assuming my familiar linebacker position. But as much as I enjoy playing the game with my teammates, I’m going to equally enjoy watching them play tonight. I’m going to be their biggest fan on the sidelines.
Next season when we play on Thursday Night, I’ll be back – bigger, stronger, faster and more hungry.
Tonight will be a helluva war. I hope you’re ready for the show!
Go Jackets, and To Hell With Georgia!