My friend and fellow blogger Sean Breslin published a piece this morning that featured some great images from a 1955 Georgia Tech football souvenir program that he found on Reddit. The premise of the short story gives college football junkies, who are going through end-of-season withdrawal, their fix on a Saturday morning.

By the way, Sean is a great blogger to follow. Unlike me, he’s consistent in his posts, he knows the Atlanta sports scene better than many who do it on a full-time basis and Sean is a good writer.

That ’55 game program features some pretty cool old photos. The full-page ad for Lucky Stripe cigarettes makes you chuckle. But that game program was hardly the best Georgia Tech football publication of the 1950s. That distinction belongs to the 1952 Yellow Jacket Football Media Guide, which featured Marilyn Monroe wearing a Georgia Tech “T” sweater.

Marily Monroe 2

It’s a mystery — or perhaps just bad Photoshop work — that Monroe’s lower body is missing, but having Monroe on the cover of the media guide probably didn’t hurt Coach Bobby Dodd’s recruiting efforts, I imagine.

Monroe also donned Georgia Tech gear on the cover of LOOK Magazine, which I understand was a big deal back in the day. (By the way, that’s an odd photo just to the right of Monroe’s photo, isn’t it?)

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A few decades later, Brooke Shields showed up in this photo wearing Tech gear:

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Back before I became a real estate professional, I worked in PR for Georgia Tech athletics. I’m thinking my my biggest regret was not asking Olivia Munn to be on the cover of a media guide.

trainer-yellingThe LA Fitness parking lot was jam-packed today. The treadmills, the weight machines, the free weights all crowded with people I’ve never seen in my life.

Ahh, the Resolutioners.

You know who I’m talking about — the folks whose New Year’s resolutions include getting into shape. They show up in early January with their new Nike and Under Armour gear, full of energy and teeming with motivation.

They’ll be gone by Valentine’s Day.

Most will anyway. A few have March wedding photos to slim down for and still others have an Easter weekend trip to Cancun — and they plan to take lots of selfies. Those folks will stick it out for a few weeks or months.

Most, however, will be gone. Only eight percent of the folks who make a New Year’s resolution to get into better shape actually stick with it for longer than a few weeks.

They’ll be gone because they set a pace in early January that they just can’t keep — not physically and certainly not mentally.

Few gym-goers work harder in early January than the Resolutioners. They sweat, they pant, they grunt and they go home exhausted. The next morning they can’t wash their hair because it hurts too badly to raise their arms. They boast about their workouts on Facebook. They tell their friends how hard their personal trainer pushed them.

The physical and mental exhaustion, they think, is the only way to make improvements. No pain, no gain, right?

The problem is they can’t keep up the exhaustive pace. Physically, it’s difficult to work until complete exhaustion every day. Mentally, it’s darn near impossible.

The changes to the body come quickly in January. Pounds come off like butter melting in the Georgia sun. It’s when the improvement slows down, perhaps even levels off, that it’s not quite as fun coming to the gym.

Resolutioners not only come out of the gate too quickly, but they begin with a frequency rate they also can’t maintain.

In December, after the final Christmas cookie is digested and when most resolutions are made, there is an excitement. Resolutioners are about to make a commitment to change their body, and more importantly, improve their quality of life by working hard in the gym, on the treadmill or in the pool. They’re fired up and can’t wait for the New Year to begin, so they plan on going to the gym every day.

That won’t last long. You don’t go from zero gym appearances to seven and expect to maintain it.

Not to be all Dean Downer here, but life happens. Kids get sick. Boss wants you to work overtime. Some days you just don’t have the motivation. Soon, around mid-February, it’s just easier not to go to the gym.

Some kick it up a notch by hiring a personal trainer. After all, it’s more likely that they’ll make it to the gym if someone is actually there waiting on them. Besides, a personal trainer will, in theory, encourage them to work harder and develop healthy habits.

The problem is, some personal trainers are the reason some fitness resolutions don’t last past January. That’s right, the same people who should be teaching and preaching about the benefits of long-term fitness are the ones who are burning-out their clients in a matter of weeks, even days.

Let me take one step back and say that there are many outstanding personal trainers out there. I’ve seen them help people become significantly healthier and stronger. Some have helped people make tremendous lifestyle changes.

I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the trainers who don’t help their clients ease into it. I’m talking about the trainers who think progress is measured with a stopwatch, not a calendar. Instead of focusing on proper technique and why a particular exercise is beneficial, they are more concerned about barking instructions than helping clients create healthy, long-term habits.

Not long ago I saw one LA Fitness trainer work with a woman in her 40s — a woman I would classify as severely over-weight, if not obese, and was in her second or third session with this particular trainer. The trainer had this client pushing a weighted sled — kind of a makeshift, smaller version of what you see football teams use — from one end of the gym to the other. It’s an extremely demanding exercise, even for someone in top physical condition, not some poor 40-something who was leading a sedentary lifestyle a week earlier.

The client nearly passed out from exhaustion. I’m guessing her heart beat was over 160 for the first time in, who knows, years? Her — and many others like her — won’t come back to the gym for a long time, if ever. And that’s a shame, really.

Not all personal trainers are bad. Just like with real estate agents, there are some that are really good, and some not so good.

Fitness is hard work. If it weren’t, everyone would be fit. But, it should also be fun.

So, how do you keep that New Year’s resolution? It’s not easy. But, it’s a lot easier than pushing that sled.

1. Develop a schedule you can keep — Fitness is a marathon — pardon the pun — not a sprint. Put your emotion and excitement to the side and develop a weekly schedule that you can maintain throughout the year.

2. Develop a list of motivations — Face it, there’s going to be days when you just don’t feel like working out and it’s easy to come up with excuses. It’s on those days you need extra motivation. Look at it this way — if someone offered you $5 million if you could be in the best shape of your life by the end of the year, you’d be pretty motivated. While it’s likely no one is offering you cash for your six-pack, you can and should develop a list of motivations.

I keep a list of such motivations on my calendar and pull them out on those rainy days.

3. Add some diversity — It would be extremely difficult to go to the gym and do the same exact workout routine day after day, week after week. I’m sure there are some that can, in fact, do that, but most of us are mere humans. We need to mix it up now and then.

When it comes to strength training, the experts suggest changing up the type of exercises you use, changing the reps, the sets, the weight, etc. They call it “confusing” the muscle. I call it keeping things interesting.

4. Set some very reachable goals — Whatever your ultimate goal may be — running a marathon, bench pressing 225 pounds or being able to walk up a flight of steps without breathing hard — you need some smaller, easier-to-reach goals along the way.

I’m not suggesting that you set “easy” goals, just “reachable” goals. Reaching these goals gives you confidence and gives you even more motivation en route to your ultimate goal.

5. Not every workout needs to be a max-workout — Not every single trip to the gym needs to be mentally and physically taxing. There should be days when you push yourself to the limits, but there should be other, lighter days, allowing you to recover actively.

Which brings us to perhaps the most important item:

6. Fitness should be fun — I asked a fellow gym patron in the locker room the other day, “How you doing?” His response — “I’m doing better… now that my workout is over” — almost made me sad for the guy. Sure, there are days when you have to push through it, I get that, but if you dread going to the gym, that New Year’s resolution is not going to last very long.

Fitness, for the most part, should be something you look forward to. If you despise running, then play tennis or racquetball. If you don’t like free weights, use the machines or plyometrics.

Sign-up for a class, go swimming, join one of those (dreadfully over-priced) boot camps, but do something you enjoy and you’ll be much more likely to keep that New Year’s resolution and develop a lifetime habit of fitness.

Note: While I was previously certified as a personal trainer, I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field of exercise and physiology. Fitness, however, is a passion of mine. This blog is my opinion only.

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Some say there are too many college football bowl games. It’s a fair point considering that with 38 bowl games, more than half of all FBS teams are participating in one this holiday season.

However, I say there are not enough bowl games… played in the Bahamas.

I came to that conclusion after being one of the lucky ones asked to work at the inaugural Popeyes Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, Bahamas last week. For six days I worked as part of an outstanding communications/media relations team that spent more time behind computers, moving boxes and making copies than we did on the beach, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

The logistics of hosting any bowl game are extensive. Hosting a bowl game on an island in the Caribbean are mind-numbing. I could write a dozen lengthy blogs about the challenges the bowl staff faced and overcame. The job done by the folks at Conference USA, media coordinator Chris Pika, as well as the operations staff and grounds crew from UCF, was remarkable.

The Bahamas, of course, aren’t the first island destination to host a bowl game. Hawaii has held bowl games, even Pro Bowls, for decades. But you don’t need a passport to get to Hawaii. Hawaii has a stadium built specifically for football and a local college team that plays in it. And I’m guessing that in Hawaii, trying to find a box of staples or some scotch tape doesn’t require an all-out scavenger hunt.

People will remember the first Popeyes Bahamas Bowl because of this crazy play that put an exclamation point on a game that was, well, bananas.

Even if that play didn’t happen, even if Central Michigan didn’t rally for 34 unanswered points and still lose on a failed two-point conversion, the bowl game would have been a success anyway.

Outside of the New Year’s Six — the biggest of the bowl games, including two national semifinal games — I would think most student-athletes would choose the Bahamas over just about any other bowl game. I know I would.

You Had To Be There

I heard three quotes over my last two days on the trip that I’ll remember for some time. To appreciate the quotes, to fully understand the context, you really had to be there. But, here you go anyway:

1. “Oh, so you wanted to go to the stadium NOW?!” — Bahamian taxi driver

On our taxi ride from hotel to stadium, our friendly driver pointed out historic sites and monuments as we traveled the curvy roads of Nassau (“On your right is the first prison built in the Bahamas…”).  We appreciated his efforts, but we were running behind schedule en route to a bowl press conference that included both head coaches and Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism. We needed some urgency from some very laid-back people. Our leader, media coordinator Chris Pika, calmly told the driver that we needed to get to the stadium as soon as possible, and that’s when our driver gave us the quote that we continue to laugh about.

2. “That. Just. Happened.” — Stadium public address announcer

Public address announcers at college football games, in particular bowl games where the staff is expected to remain completely neutral, generally stick to the basic facts. Not that they don’t inject personality, they do, but only the basic facts are needed from the PA guy: who carried the ball, how far he went, who made the tackle, and what down it is. Often they do it with enthusiasm, but he is not expected to give a play-by-play like a radio announcer.

I don’t know the name of the P.A. announcer at Wednesday’s Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, although I think he often works UCF home games. I thought he did a fine job during the course of the game, but when Central Michigan scored on the previously mentioned play — a Hail Mary coupled with three laterals — he was clearly shocked and could only muster those three words.

3. “And THAT folks, is why you wear your seat belt when seated.” – American Airlines pilot following a round of severe, consistent turbulence on the flight from Miami to Atlanta on Thursday

I’m not really going to die on Christmas Day, am I? That’s what I was thinking when we hit that turbulence, probably somewhere over Jacksonville. In the middle of it all, one of the flight attendants grabbed the microphone and with just a touch of panic in her voice, said, “Just…. haaaaaang onnnnnnn folks!”

Turbulence bothers me. I admit it. But when it also bothers the pilot and the flight attendants, then you’ve got something serious.

The flight home, however, was the only bump in the road on an otherwise outstanding trip.

This story ran on Georgia Southern’s website:

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There’s so much more to Matt Breida than football statistics. The Georgia Southern sophomore running back is an interesting character — a talented but humble young man who eats Chinese spare ribs and joins his offensive line for Bible study during the week.

But, those numbers he has put this fall, though…

  • Breida has rushed 152 times for 1,434 yards and 16 touchdowns, helping the Eagles to an 8-3 record (7-0 in the Sun Belt Conference) entering the Nov. 29 regular season finale against Louisiana-Monroe. Only three FBS players – Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (1,909 yards), Indiana’s Tevin Coleman (1,678) and Pittsburgh’s James Conner (1,562) – have rushed for more yards this season. Those three players, however, have significantly more rushing attempts than Breida does.
  • Breida, a speedster, is averaging 9.43 yards per carry, the highest average by any player in college football. To put into perspective, consider that the Atlantic Coast Conference, just for example, has been around for 62 years, and just one player from that league has ever produced a higher average. That was Maryland’s Chet Hanulak in 1953.
  • Even closer to home, University of Georgia true freshman Nick Chubb, a fantastic Bulldog running back with a bright future, has the same number of rushing attempts this season as Breida (152). Yet Breida has rushed for 405 more yards than Chubb.

No one – not even Breida himself – could have seen this coming.

“He has surprised a lot of people,” Eagle guard Darien Foreman said. “I think he even surprised himself.”

Last season as a freshman Breida had just one rushing attempt for the entire season. He worked hard, was a solid contributor on special teams, but the spotlight belonged Jerick McKinnon, who now plays on Sundays for the Minnesota Vikings.

If there were an award for Most Improved Player on the Planet, Breida would be the leading candidate.

“I didn’t expect to play at all last season,” Breida said. “I wanted to contribute on special teams. I wanted to learn, and I wanted to adjust to the speed of the game.”

It’s the speed of Breida’s game that is making a difference for Georgia Southern. The Brooksville (Fla.) native has emerged into one of college football’s top big-play threats.

Breida has eight rushing attempts of 50 yards or longer this season. No other FBS player has more. He has 16 rushing attempts of 20 or more yards. Only Wisconsin’s Gordon, a Heisman Trophy candidate, has more.

“When he first came in as a freshman (during pre-season conditioning workouts) you could see how fast he was,” Foreman said. “I mean, he looked very fast.

“I have never played with a running back that fast. I think he’s even faster than Jerick (McKinnon). We gave him a nickname: The Cheetah. I have yet to see anyone catch him.”

The college football world is beginning to take notice.  Earlier this season he was named to the list for the Doak Walker Award, which goes annually to the nation’s top running back.

Doak Walker was an All-American running back at SMU and went into the pro football Hall of Fame in 1986. He was one of the most accomplished college football players ever. It’s doubtful, however, Walker was ever timed at 3.9 in the 40 as Breida has.

“I am just honored (to be on the list),” Breida said. “I definitely didn’t think it was a possibility before this season started. I’m thankful for my teammates for putting me in this position.”

Breida’s relationship with his teammates, in particular the offensive line, is special.

“We hang out off the field,” Breida said. “For example, some of us will go over to (starting center) Manrey Saint-Amour’s house for Bible study.”

The offensive line, Foreman said, takes special pride in the numbers Breida has put up this season.

“Our offensive line coach (Alex Atkins) is big on establishing the run,” Foreman said. “If we don’t rush for 400 yards (as a team), we’re kind of disappointed.”

The line has turned Breida’s ridiculous rushing numbers into a game of sorts.

“We talk a lot about how many yards he wants to rush for this week,” Foreman said. “We joke around about it. We’ve been telling him lately he needs to break Gordon’s record.”

Foreman was referring to the above mentioned Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin, who recently ran for an NCAA record 408 yards against Nebraska.

Breida, though smaller than the Badger running back, sees some similarities between his game and that of Gordon.

“I feel like I do have some physicality to me,” he said. “I run a lot harder than you might think for someone my height (5-10) and weight (190). But Gordon… he’s something else.”

What’s the opposite of ‘sophomore slump’? Whatever the answer, that’s the season Breida is enjoying this fall. In fact, he seems to be getting stronger and more productive as the season progresses.

He has seven 100-yard rushing games this season. Over the last five games he has averaged 151.6 yards per game, including a 210-yard, two-touchdown performance in Southern’s last outing, a 52-19 loss at Navy.

While Breida and his teammates are focused on closing out the 2014 on a positive note next Saturday, the future for him and the Eagles appears very bright.

Next season Southern will be a full-fledged member of the FBS. The transitional or re-classifying stage, will finally be over. Conference championships and bowl games, GSU faithful hope, are on the horizon.

Breida wants to be a part of that team success, but he’s also allowed himself to think about what he wants to accomplish individually.

“I would like to compete down the same path (as this season),” he said. “I’d like to rush for over 1,000 yards, bring the school some Sun Belt championships and leave a good legacy.”

Breida also has his sights set on playing in the NFL one day – “That’s always been a dream of mine,” he said – but it’s not a topic that dominates his conversations.

“Matt is really just a laid-back guy who tries to make everyone laugh,” Foreman said. “Off the field, he is really a funny guy.”

On the field, however, Breida is no joke.

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The stars are aligning perfectly for Georgia Tech to upset defending national champion Florida State in the ACC Championship game one week from Saturday in Charlotte.

Florida State’s remarkable run of consecutive victories will come to an end in the Queen City, most likely ending any chance for an ACC team to be a part of the four-team national college football playoff (although back-to-back wins over Georgia and FSU would actually put Tech into the conversation).

Does Florida State have more 5-star recruits than Georgia Tech? No question. More future NFL players? Probably. But, so did Clemson, which Georgia Tech throttled last week.

Here are the reasons why, in my opinion, Tech coach Paul Johnson will be accepting the championship trophy from ACC commissioner John Swofford on the evening of December 6th:

1. Never fear, Underdog is here. Georgia Tech has historically played its best football when no one gives the Yellow Jackets a chance to win. Heading into this game, there will be more conversation about where Florida State should be ranked in the College Football Playoff poll, NOT whether FSU can beat Georgia Tech.

2. The stage is not too big. Two years ago in the same stadium, the same two teams met for the ACC title, and many of those Yellow Jackets will be playing key roles in this year’s championship game. Tech won’t be intimidated by Florida State. After narrow victories over Boston College, Clemson and Notre Dame, among others, there are too many chinks in the FSU armor to be in awe. Plus, I’m not sure there’s a more confident football team right now than the Yellow Jackets, who haven’t lost in a month, and seem to be getting better as the season progresses.

3. It’s not the same Jameis. Let’s be clear, even on a bad ankle Jameis Winston is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. But that ankle is clearly bothering him and it showed against Boston College this week. More than that, though, this is not the same fun-loving Winston we saw last year. It’s not the same guy who always had a smile on his face as FSU whipped foe after foe. Perhaps the negative attention he’s received all season is wearing on him, or maybe he’s fatigued from carrying a team that waits until the fourth quarter to play above the level of competition, but something is different about him this year.

4. For one night, Tech will be “America’s Team.” Don’t underestimate the power of having an entire nation of college football fans — well, at least those outside of Tallahassee — sending positive vibes to the Yellow Jackets. Florida State has become the nation’s most-hated team — in part because of their on-going remarkable success, in part because there’s a perception the star quarterback is allowed to do whatever he pleases off the field, and maybe because even Seth Greenberg thinks head coach Jimbo Fisher complains about committees too much.

5. Watch the knees, boys. Let’s get this out of the way. Georgia Tech’s cut-blocking (blocking below the waist, usually at knee-level) is legal, every team employs it to some extent, and there has never been any data proving cut-blocking causes more injuries than traditional blocking. Yet, linebackers and defensive backs in the ACC despise preparing for Georgia Tech. Your head has to be on a swivel, constantly looking for Tech A-backs diving at your ankles, like 190-pound gnats.

Florida State, meanwhile, has a roster full of guys who will eventually play on Sundays. Many will be playing their next-to-last college football game December 6th. Sure, they want to win a title, but they just want to get to the finish line in one healthy piece. The last team on the planet Florida State wants to play is Georgia Tech.

Meanwhile, the team Georgia Tech wants to play more than any other is Florida State.

Make that “undefeated” Florida State. Should the Seminoles get knocked off by Florida on Saturday — and that’s possible because we’ve been told by ESPN that every team in the SEC could win the NFC South — then that would change the dynamics of the ACC championship game.

One of the most overblown storylines next week will be about Florida State defensive coordinator and all-around great guy Charles Kelly, who previously worked five seasons under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. Much will be written about Kelly’s familiarity with the Yellow Jacket offense, but I don’t consider it a huge factor because Tech and Johnson are equally familiar with Kelly.

Given the potential impact on the inaugural college football playoff, combined with Florida State’s propensity to live on the edge, this year’s ACC Championship has the makings of an Instant Classic.

Georgia Tech wins a thriller.

This story I wrote appeared on the Georgia Southern athletic department website.

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By Dean Buchan

When Georgia Southern’s Edwin Jackson picked off a pass in the fourth quarter of a 28-6 win at South Alabama earlier this season, there wasn’t a spit second when senior linebacker allowed himself to think of the play’s significance before being hauled down at the 12-yard line, a 48-yard return.

The play, which foiled any thought of a late South Alabama rally, was significant for many reasons. It was the first interception of Jackson’s remarkable walk-on-to-star-performer career and it secured the first FBS conference victory in Georgia Southern history. In some regards, Jackson’s INT may have symbolized the team’s official arrival as a legitimate player on the FBS level.

“When I first caught the ball,” Jackson said, “I thought, ‘This is really happening.’ But I didn’t think about the significance of it all. It didn’t hit me until a day or two later.

“I do remember seeing my teammates on the sideline. I saw how happy they were. That’s what I remember.”

And that is Edwin Jackson in a nutshell. Even when he owned center stage, he thought of others.

Growing up in a home where he was one of 10 children – Edwin is the fourth-youngest of the group — lends itself to being unselfish. His parents, Wesley, Sr., and Mary Ellen’s strict, but loving, environment helped make sure of it.

“My family is very close,” said Jackson, who attended Atlanta’s Westlake High School. “I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have such a big, close family.”

The Jackson 12 squeezed cozily into their modest four-bedroom house in southwest Atlanta.

“It was a great experience,” Jackson said of his childhood. “Every one of us knew our role. My older brothers had to look over us.”

One of those older brothers, Adam, the second-oldest of 10, has a different perspective.

“Of course Edwin says it was a great experience,” Adam said with a laugh. “He was one of the younger ones, so it was all fun and games for him, maybe not for the older kids.”

The family – with the likely exception of older sister Michelle, who lives in Oregon – will all be at the Georgia Dome Saturday when Jackson and the Eagles play Georgia State. A count of family and friends at the game to support Jackson will spill over the 100 mark.

Saturday’s game marks the Eagles’ second trip to Atlanta this fall. Earlier this season, Southern lost a 42-38 heart-breaker at Georgia Tech.

Playing two games in two of Atlanta’s most famous sports facilities is not something Jackson could have envisioned five years ago when he first came to Georgia Southern.

Jackson had no idea he would be a part of a football program that would make the jump from FCS to FBS. He didn’t know that he would play for two different head coaches and two defensive coordinators.

Jackson didn’t know he would be playing college football, period.

Even though he was a three-year captain at Westlake, he wasn’t highly recruited. Heights, weights, 40-yard dash times are evaluated for college prospects. While Jackson’s other measurables might have been average, the size of his heart was far from it.

At the urging of Adam, Jackson decided to attend Georgia Southern, even though there was no offer of a scholarship.

“I was aware of the (football) tradition here,” Edwin said. “I look up to my brother (Adam) a lot, and he told me, ‘This is the school for you.'”

Adam, who played basketball at Albany State, saw something in his little brother that the college scouts may have overlooked.

“I know what a Division I athlete looks like,” Adam said. “I knew he deserved more attention than what he was receiving.”

Jackson and Georgia Southern have proved to be a perfect fit, although the marriage didn’t come without hard work.

First, Jackson earned a spot on the roster as a walk-on and toiled on the scout team for 2.5 years before working his way on to the two-deep. Last year he emerged as one of Georgia Southern’s top defenders, started in every game and was the team’s leading tackler. This season, his last as a collegian, he has developed into one of the premier linebackers in the Sun Belt Conference.

He has witnessed firsthand Georgia Southern’s transition from being one of the most successful, tradition-rich FCS programs to competition in the bigger FBS arena. The transition to FBS began last season, a year of limbo stuck in between the Southern and Sun Belt Conferences, ineligible for either league’s championship, the playoffs or a bowl game.

Jackson helped make sure that the 2013 season didn’t just go quietly into the night. The Eagles closed the season with a memorable 26-20 victory in “The Swamp” against the Florida Gators.

Jackson remembers the week of the Florida game vividly.

“That entire week the team just came together,” Jackson said. “The student body came together. The community came together. When we got down (to Gainesville) you could just feel it was the perfect moment to do what we did.

“On defense, we love one another. We knew we weren’t as big as an SEC team, but we felt like we were quicker. Faster. And I think we wanted it more than them. It was our bowl game. It was our Super Bowl.”
Jackson, the top tackler in that epic win, stepped off the field and said to those nearby, “that just happened!” making the statement for himself and for the program.

The celebration following the win over Florida continued for most GSU faithful through Thanksgiving. For Jackson, however, there wasn’t much time to party. He was already thinking about a way to share his passion for the sport of football with others.

Jackson knew that he wanted to spend part of the Christmas holiday on a trip. He knew he wanted to go somewhere his Spanish minor might come into play (he’s an international trade major who is on track to graduate in December). He knew he wanted to go to a place he could help others.

“Don’t just take a trip,” Adam told him. “Think about doing something outside the box. Do something different.”

You want outside the box, you got it, Mister.

Jackson teamed with his friend, former Eagles’ soccer player Chris Claxton and Claxton’s family, and formulated a plan to put on a clinic in the Claxton family’s native Costa Rica, where Jackson would teach local children the game of American football. The plan moved quickly from dream to reality with Jackson organizing the logistics for the clinic during Georgia Southern’s Christmas break.

Jackson wants to develop this initial idea into a non-profit program, Global Gridiron, to share his love of football with underprivileged children. Despite transportation woes and equipment shortages in Costa Rica, the trip was, according to Jackson, an overwhelming success.

It’s just not clear, however, who benefited the most – the children or Jackson. The children were entranced by the game Jackson taught them, by the football drills they learned, and absorbed the healthy lifestyle lessons Jackson taught. To them, he was bigger than life.

“People there are going through things I can’t even imagine,” Jackson said. “Kids are having to take care of siblings, cook and provide for their families.

“What I got out of the trip is that I am blessed that I have the power to give back to people, and I am blessed to have an older brother like I have.”

The moments of celebration, of success, and gratitude came with a price. Jackson’s time on the Eagles’ scout team made him appreciate his opportunities, his invitation to preseason camp, and the hard days of preparing Georgia Southern’s starters for their upcoming opponent.

His tenacity and toughness were forged by his family, too, where his older brothers taught some painful lessons. When Jackson was just a little tyke, he played the older, bigger, stronger Adam in a one-on-one basketball game in the Jackson driveway.

“We had a five-foot goal set up at one end of the driveway,” Edwin said. “I got the ball and dribbled towards the goal. When I put up the shot, Adam blocked it. He didn’t just block it — he swatted it over the roof of the house.”

Jackson ran away, tears running down his cheeks.

“Edwin was really little when that happened – like 3 or 4 years old – and I was a teenager,” Adam said. “But I never gave him any slack. I tried to make him tougher.”

One of many lessons Adam has given his younger sibling. And one Jackson never forgot.

“Adam has never let me be average,” Jackson said.

Adam’s lifelong influence on Edwin helped steer him to Georgia Southern. Jackson’s hard work and  determination, with encouragement from Adam, pushed him from being a walk-on to Eagles’ defensive leader.   On Saturday, Jackson will be playing for and thousands of Eagle fans, but most importantly, for his family and friends who never let him settle for being average.

1997 - LaFrentz-Vaughn - Wooden Award, LA

The 1997 John R. Wooden Award ceremony in Los Angeles, that’s 6-11 Raef LaFrentz and current Orlando Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn with the vertically challenged guy.

Why am I wearing a brown suit to a black tie affair? I was an SID — I couldn’t afford to rent one. Besides, the brown suit was free, compliments of the old Kuppenheimer Classic held annually in Atlanta.

That 1996-97 Kansas team was outstanding, going 34-2, losing only at Missouri (in double-overtime) and to Arizona in the Sweet 16. Working with guys like Raef, Jacque and the others made that year special for me.

Happy Throwback Thursday everyone.

Georgia Tech Virginia Tech Football

There’s a scene in ‘Remember The Titans’ when Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass comes off the bench to play quarterback for the first time. It took just a couple of plays before Doc — Denzel Washington’s assistant coach — proclaimed: “We got ourselves a football player!”

That’s the scene that popped into my head on Saturday when I watched sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas calmly complete a 4th-and-forever pass to DeAndre Smelter late in the 27-24 win at Virginia Tech. If Thomas failed to complete that pass — game over. We’d be talking about Georgia Tech’s fifth consecutive loss to the Hokies. Instead, we’re talking about the Yellow Jackets sitting on top of the ACC Coastal Division standings.

Everyone knew Thomas had talent and athleticism. What no one could know — maybe not even head coach Paul Johnson — was that Thomas may have the toughness and late-game moxie of a Joshua Nesbitt to go with the respect Tevin Washington received from his teammates.

Even his very capable back-up, junior Tim Bylerly, seemed impressed with Thomas’ calmness in crunch time. Late in a come-from-behind victory over Georgia Southern, Thomas confidently told Byerly on the sidelines, “I got this.”

“He’s a gamer; I can’t say enough good things about him,” Johnson said of Thomas after the win in Lane Stadium on Saturday. “Did he play perfectly? No. But he makes plays. He’s not afraid of the moment. He likes the moment. We need to get some more guys who get into that.”

Thomas isn’t the only gamer. Senior B-back (fullback) Zach Laskey is as dependable and as hard-nosed as they come. Senior Shaq Mason is one of the top o-linemen in the nation. And senior wide receiver DeAndre Smelter — how did he get so wide open in Blacksburg? — has emerged as a future NFL-er.

sadturkey_0  Smelter makes turkeys sad.

And what the defense has done under coordinator Ted Roof is remarkable. Remember, Roof lost Tech’s all-time leading pass-rusher in Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu’s replacement, Jabari Hunt-Days, became an academic casualty. Hunt-Days’ back-up, Kenderius Whitehead, didn’t gain eligibility either.

But the key, in my opinion, is Thomas, who is beginning to remind me of talented Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. As Thomas gets more proficient and gains more confidence, the offense will only get better.

When Johnson’s offense works, it’s like watching the San Antonio Spurs cut up NBA opponents. A few naysayers may find it boring, but when it works, it’s a beautiful thing to watch unfold.

Most of the experts predicted Georgia Tech to win six to seven games this season and finish fifth or sixth in the ACC’s Coastal Division. I told you back in July that the Yellow Jackets would be better than that.

Georgia Tech’s 4-0 start has given Yellow Jacket faithful a license to dream a little. In the conference where Duke and Wake Forest have played in league championship games, why not Georgia Tech in 2014?

Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, Jacket fans can take comfort in that they’ve got their quarterback for the next 2.5 years.

You see some unusual things in the Metro Atlanta real estate world. Here’s a few of my photos for the week (September 6-12)..

I call this the "lonely throne" bathroom. The tub, inexplicably, is missing.

I call this the “lonely throne” bathroom. The tub, inexplicably, is missing. Saw this home in Midtown Friday afternoon.

My clients have a puppy -- a Lab named Cotton -- so naturally I insisted the pup ride along with me. He didn't offer to fill my gas tank, however.

My clients have a puppy — a Lab named Cotton — so naturally I insisted the pup ride along with me. He didn’t offer to fill my gas tank, however.

I don't even know what to say about this house, except that it is listed for $300,000. Seriously. The only reason my clients even stopped was so that I could take a photo.

I don’t even know what to say about this house, except that it is listed for $300,000. Seriously. The only reason my clients even stopped was so that I could take a photo.

After looking at a home in Smyrna, these turkeys chased our car. Look, I like a little Wild Turkey, but this isn't helping me find a house for my clients.

After looking at a home in Smyrna, these turkeys chased our car. Look, I like a little Wild Turkey, but this isn’t helping me find a house for my clients.