Time to Move On

Jan. 14, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– This whole week has felt like a konk on the head so I should not have been surprised to learn at around 3 p.m. Friday that Jerrard Tarrant has decided, like former Georgia Tech teammate Nick Claytor, to take a shot at the NFL even with a year of college eligibility remaining.

I was way late to this news because one of my daughters actually did get konked on the head.

While speaking to Claytor at Tech early Thursday afternoon, my kids – out of school for the fourth consecutive day because of lousy roads, and for the 24th day out of the past 27 with four more off days coming before school resumes Tuesday – were horsing around. Cabin fever had them bouncing on a bed and off the walls, and our youngest child eventually bounced her head off a table.

By the time I made it to the emergency room, the Claytor story had been written and submitted (it was more than half finished when my wife called with the news), and our little Roo had thrown up seven of what would be eight times. Her speech had been slurred earlier, for a time she said her hands were numb, she had a monstrous headache, and her balance was poor.

That was a reality check.

She’d stabilized in just about every way by about 6:30, and I set out to shuttle an old family friend home from the ER, and then head to one of my jobs. I could hardly think straight, though, and when my wife called and said that doctors wanted to admit Roo overnight, I turned around.

When I couldn’t reach the supervisor of my night shift, further knocking me askew, I accepted a co-worker’s offer to call and help smooth that out.

I had no computer at the hospital, where I ended up sleeping on something that passes for a couch, and my phone died around 9 p.m.

So I hadn’t a clue about Tarrant until I got on-line shortly after returning home. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. After a couple other reporters and I finished speaking with Claytor Thursday, Tarrant appeared and was chumming nearby with his classmate/teammate.

Jerrard is a playmaker, even if his punt return game was blunted this past season relative to last. Those skills will cause NFL personnel types to spend a little more time looking at his tape. The decision by Tech coaches to move him from cornerback to safety was probably in his best interests relative to the NFL (though it has nothing to do with why coaches did it), but he’s got some climbing ahead of him, for sure.

An attempt to reach Tarrant Friday failed, although I left a message, and without his input it borders on folly to try and get into his head. Yet . . .

There may have been clues in some of what Claytor said a day earlier. He alluded to the great times he had at Tech, on and off the field, and with one exception – Roddy Jones – all the players he kept alluding to are no longer Yellow Jackets.

It’s impossible for me not to wonder if some sort of internal clock in both Claytor and Tarrant just ticked itself out.

There will be just a handful of players on next fall’s team left from the esteemed 2007 recruiting class. Unless they redshirted, their eligibility is gone. Claytor redshirted and had a year left, but he’s opted out, and Tarrant had a year left as well after missing an entire season when he was dismissed from the team after being charged only to eventually have said charges dropped.

Superimposing what I felt like as a fifth-year college student — when most of the chaps who’d become my friends as freshmen in Bowling Green’s Kohl Hall had graduated — I have a hunch: perhaps Claytor and Tarrant have a gnawing feeling that they should be somewhere else, that they no longer fit.

Most of us have internal clocks that try to tell us when it’s time to move on to the next phase. Sometimes, we’re able to ignore these tell-tale clocks, and press on in what might be our true best interests . . . even if it’s not comfortable. Some of us can’t ignore the clock, whether its alarm rings in our best interest or not.

To be clear, I cannot say – nor can you – whether Claytor or Tarrant are acting in their best interests regarding their football careers. Time will judge that. We haven’t much right to suggest one way or the other, although human nature leads us to try anyway.

Over the past couple hours, I’ve settled back into myself and my more normal way of thinking.

It takes a lot to rattle me, but I didn’t handle certain aspects of my daughter’s situation as well as I would have liked. I was agitated and grumpy last night, and again this morning. It was difficult for me to think without passion, passion in fact clouded my thinking.

I’m less surprised now than I was a few hours ago about Tarrant’s decision. I’m back to a baseline that chalks things like this up to a “stuff happens” defense, even when I don’t understand.

Roo’s sitting next to me on the couch at home, while her brother and sister play outside in whatever you call whatever is left out there.

She’d like to go out, but it’s not in her best interest. I can make that decision for her, and until she returns to the Egleston Concussion Clinic Thursday and gets a green light of sorts, her mother and I will make some decisions for her – in her best interests. Normalcy will, God willing, return.

The Jackets and head coach Paul Johnson are now tasked with building an entirely new secondary next season (wonder what Cooper Taylor is thinking of his decision to leave now?).

Yet like the situation with my Roo, life will likewise march onward in Tech’s football program, and at some point a sense of normalcy will return there as well. No fan or coach can make decisions for Claytor or- Tarrant. Yet everybody will get over it even as they worry a little behind the scenes.

Sorry if this has left you feeling as if someone konked you on the head. If it will make you feel as though turnabout is fair play, send delirious thoughts to stingdaily@gmail.com.

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