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INDOOR FOOTBALL

CHAMPS, BY KNOCKOUT

summer 2011

Paul Johnson: New facility will be “huge for our program”

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summer 2011 • Volume 4, Number 4 EDITOR

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Dean Buchan

David Johnson, Danny Karnik and Sam Morgan

WRITERS

DESIGN & LAYOUT

Simit Shah Jack Wilkinson Adam Van Brimmer Matt Winkeljohn Wayne Hogan

Summit Athletic Media www.summitathletics.com

summer

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2011

In This Issue 4

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CHAMPS, BY KNOCKOUT

Yellow Jacket golf team blows past the competition in record setting fashion to win third straight ACC championships.

INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE

Tech’s spring sports have enjoyed great success, thanks in part to some talented student-athletes.

6

RELENTLESS LEADER

24

THE CARETAKER

10

RENEWED OPTIMISM

28

INDOOR FOOTBALL

30

TECH GUY AT HEART

14

After being named head basketball coach, Brian Gregory hit the ground running – and he hasn’t slowed down.

The Yellow Jackets must replace 11 starters, but a solid spring and an improved attitude has created optimism on the Flats.

A TRIO OF ACES

Behind the pitching of Pope, Bradley and Adkins, Tech’s baseball and softball teams eye ACC championships.

31

Walter Smith has been an important part of Yellow Jacket baseball for more than 25 years – and 1,100 victories. Paul Johnson: New facility will be “huge for our program.” The Dr. Gene Hauck Golden Tornado scholarship is awarded to a football player who is considering a career in medicine.

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MG Men’s Golf

CHAMPS, BY KNOCKOUT

Yellow Jacket golf team blows past the field in record-setting fashion to win their third straight ACC championship

P

Paul Haley birdied the final hole to complete a final-round 70 and win medalist honors, while three of his teammates broke 70 to help Georgia Tech post a 16-under-par round of 272 and capture its third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference golf championship April 24th. In winning the conference title for the fifth time in six years, the 4th-ranked Yellow Jackets got a 6-under-par 66 from John-Tyler Griffin and 68s from Kyle Scott and James White as Tech completed 54 holes on the Old North State Club in 831 strokes, 33 under par and a tournament record for the ACC Championship. Haley, Scott and Griffin finished 1-2-3 in the individual standings for the second consecutive event, duplicating their finishes in the previous week’s Yellow Jacket Classic, while White tied for eighth to give Tech four players inside the top 10 for only the second time ever.

“The course has been great, but you have to play well,” said head coach Bruce Heppler, who has guided Tech to eight of its 13 ACC titles. “That’s some of the best golf we’ve ever played. Duke was 13-under-par, which is an outstanding score. I couldn’t be more thrilled for these guys and how they played this weekend. For those three seniors (Haley, Scott and Griffin) to finish 1-2-3 and graduate in 10 days, that’s as good as it gets.” Haley, who had shot 68-68 the first two rounds, stayed steady Sunday and went to the final hole, a par 5, tied with teammate Kyle Scott for first place. The senior from Dallas, Texas rolled in a 10foot putt for his third birdie of the day to capture a one-stroke victory and become eighth ACC individual champion. His two career ACC Championship appearances have resulted in a tie for fourth and a title. “It was a pretty easy putt, a little

Paul Haley edged out a pair of teammates to win individual medalist honors as part of an overall dominating effort by the Jackets.

downhill on the right edge,” said Haley. “I knew if I just got it start-

From left: head coach Bruce Heppler, Kyle Scott, John-Tyler Griffin, Richard Werenski, Paul Haley, James White, assistant coach Christian Newton. (Photo by Robert Crawford/theACC.com).

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The Buzz

ed it would be good. I was little nervous, but I was able to stroke it in. I rolled it well all week. The greens are pretty fast and pretty tough. It feels really great to win here. It was a lot of fun coming down here. It’s my last time as a senior, and I thought I played really well.” Haley finished with a 54-hole total of 10-under-par 206, followed by Scott at 9-under 207. Scott had five birdies and a bogey on his card Sunday, and had an eagle attempt find the edge of the cup on 18 but stay out. Griffin, from nearby Wilson, N.C., had four birdies and an eagle on his card in the final round and finished in a tie for third with Julian Suri (69 Sunday) at 7-under 209. White had a 3-under-par total of 213 to tie with Virginia’s Ben Kohles. Freshman Richard Werenski shot 75 and wound up tied for 21st place at 2-over 218. ■


MB Men’s Basketball

RELENTLESS LEADER

After being named head basketball coach, Brian Gregory hit the ground running – and he hasn’t slowed down

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By Matt Winkeljohn

Not yet a month on the job as Georgia Tech’s newest coach and Brian Gregory had cause to be frazzled. Here it was Good Friday, more than three weeks after he was hired to steer the men’s basketball team back to regular prominence in the gauntlet that is the ACC, and he hadn’t seen his two daughters once in all that time. He saw his wife just once, when Yvette came down from Dayton for three days of house hunting. There’d been recruiting trips here, there, almost everywhere it seemed, even a brief journey to Spain on a moment’s notice. “You got to get your face out there, meet coaches, let kids know you’re going to recruit them seriously,” he said. Alumni have been coming out from under bleachers and dropping from rafters to meet him, former Jackets are engaging him with opinions, there have been workouts with players, geography lessons on the fly to learn the lay of his new land, and hours on the phone wrapping up loose ends back in his old environs. And just a few hours before it was time to hop on a plane and finally

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The Buzz

go back to Ohio to celebrate Easter with his family, Gregory sat a spell to talk about a planned resurrection on the Flats. Yes, he looked tired. But no, he sure didn’t sound that part. “The one thing that has happened in these three weeks is my energy level has been off the charts because of the positive response I’ve gotten in every one of those areas,” he said. “It’s hard not to be fired up when so many positive things are happening. “Georgia Tech basketball is definitely entwined in the fabric of Atlanta; it’s a big part of Atlanta.” OK, skeptics – and they’re out there – might suggest that Gregory was sleep-deprived, or perhaps he unwittingly mixed the realities of the present with his vision for the future. Part of the reason he was hired after putting together a record of 172-94 with two NCAA appearances and three in the NIT (including a championship win over North Carolina) in eight seasons at Dayton was because Tech hoops has flown below the radar more often than not in recent years. Crowds in Alexander Memorial Coliseum came to reflect a


drop in Q rating. Enter a man who, frankly, has known for a long time that basketball or the military was going to be his future one way or another. They play some serious hoops in Chicago, and Gregory threw himself in the mix early and often growing up nearby in Mount Prospect, Ill. Never a big guy (he’s 5-feet-8), he was (and appears to still be) relentless on court and between the ears. “The most important thing for me from fourth grade on was basketball,” he said. “I played baseball, but I’m in Chicago freezing my butt off at second base . . . I get two ground balls a game, I get to bat three times, and I’m like, ‘What am I doing when I could be in a nice, warm gym working at something I love?’ “I was single-minded when it came to basketball. I wanted to

earn a college scholarship, and was able to do that.” A commission to the U.S. Naval Academy fetched mixed results in 1985-’86. The atmosphere was a glovelike fit for the fastidious young man, but in a bit of an ironic twist Gregory was so impressed by former Navy coach Paul Evans and his ability to blend players (including David Robinson) into a machine that he made a career choice that the Academy could not well serve. “I loved everything about that place; I loved the discipline, the leadership qualities that you were being taught every day, I loved the toughness that you had to have mentally and physically, but nothing was better than the team I played on,” he said. “It was a unit within a bigger unit, and those guys were the

Gregory threw out the first pitch at Russ Chandler Stadium prior to Tech’s April 12th win over Georgia.

most unselfish guys I’ve ever been around. I didn’t play much as a backup point guard, but I ob-

served a lot. Coach Evans was able to push a lot of the right buttons, and I knew that coaching was

The day after being hired at Tech, Gregory was in the gym giving one-on-one instruction.

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Gregory with the Voice of the Yellow Jackets, Wes Durham.

what I wanted to do.” Gregory saw writing on two walls: his role as a player was approaching its peak, and he wanted to one day be a button pusher. So he transferred to Oakland (Mich.) with the goal of becoming a high school teacher and coach. It seemed natural from the start. “My father was in education . . . he was a teacher and a principal, and he coached on the side,” the new coach said. “My mom was a nurse, and then she became a counselor working with young women who were pregnant, drugaddicted, trying to get them clean and straighten their lives out. “With the fact both my parents dedicated their professional lives to improving young people, becoming a coach and being an educator wasn’t a stretch for me.” After one more curve in his road, when Gregory passed on the high school ranks and moved into college hoops -- first as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Jud Heathcote and then assisting Tom Izzo – the coach has bored

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The Buzz

down. So he’s back in Atlanta – or perhaps as you read this he’s recruiting or tending to some other portion of his whirlwind itinerary – cooking up a plan. That’s kind of funny, actually, because several of his ingredients are a conveyor belt. Seniors Moe Miller and Lance Storrs have moved on. Junior Iman Shumpert is pondering a jump to the NBA. Top recruit Julian Royal has pledged to honor the commitment he made months ago to former Tech coach Paul Hewitt, but it’s not clear what’s going on with another Hewitt commit. So he’s got all that going on. Eh, what’s a little whirlwind? Gregory’s going to do what he does. “Your core values don’t change. Obviously, until we’re able to have a full squad and recruit our players you have to tweak to give yourself a chance to be successful,” he said. “The idea of being a tremendous defensive team, controlling the glass, playing at a fast

pace, sharing the ball and moving it while keeping spacing . . . that’s proven to be successful. “At the same time, you know you’re going to be faced night in and night out in this league with a higher caliber of players. There are going to be one or two teams that are fundamentally more talented than the rest. There’s not a lot separating the others. It comes down to leadership and chemistry.” Not surprisingly, team building in the short-term – even before his recruiting skills will come to bear -- will revolve around relationships. Gregory has to earn the faith of his new players, they have to trust one another, squeaky wheels need to be ferreted out, modified or moved, and only then can he begin to bring a fan base back from a relatively dark place. Gregory was down-the-middle with most answers, careful not to promise rainbows. He hinted that there could be some tough early sledding. He seems to know that his arrival alone will not win the day at

the ticket office. What will matter most will be what his teams do on the court and in the classroom (where all 23 of his seniors graduated at Dayton). Some skeptics will not be wooed easily. Gregory has talked to all manner of Tech fans. His goal: work on chemistry first, the better to work on customers. “College basketball is riddled with talented teams that haven’t won championships,” he said. “I think [fans are] excited about the future, but I think they also understand that we’re embarking on the first step of this process. “I think they’re excited about watching the identity of Georgia Tech basketball -- with me, current players and guys we bring in -- grow. Tech basketball has the foundation. We just need to work our way back to that, and build from there.” ■


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Preston Lyons figures to be one of three or four B-backs contributing this fall.

RENEWED OPTIMISM

The Yellow Jackets must replace 11 starters, but a solid spring and an improved attitude has created optimism on the Flats

S

By Adam Van Brimmer

Spring is a time of renewal, and the signs of the season extended to the Georgia Tech football program and spring practice. Renewal in the attitude up and down the roster, something coach Paul Johnson demanded. Players “answered the call.” Renewal in the defense, where second-year defensive coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme seemed familiar -- if not yet second nature -- to the much maligned unit. Renewal in the offensive backfield, where there are indeed viable candidates to replace Joshua Nesbitt and Anthony Allen. Renewal in the changes at Rose Bowl fields, where the Brock Indoor Practice Facility is under construction and the outdoor field is getting a Ty Pennington-like makeover. Yet ever cautious, Johnson offered a measured assessment following the T-Day Game in late April.

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The Buzz

“This spring was productive and we got some things accomplished,” Johnson said, “but we have a long way to go.” Georgia Tech at least renewed the climb under Johnson that was so rudely interrupted by last season’s late collapse. The Yellow Jackets lost five of their last six games and finished with a losing record – 6-7 – for the first time since 1996. That the disappointing season came on the heels of the program’s best two-year run since the “Golden Era” of the early-1950s made it harder to fathom – or more predictable, depending on the perspective. “I think there was a sense of complacency to a degree,” Johnson said of his team’s approach to the 2010 season. “When you win nine games the first year and then you win 11 games, I think some guys just think, ‘Well, this is going to happen again.’ It doesn’t work like that.” Consider the message received. The Yellow Jacket had a “physical


spring” without suffering any serious injuries. The camaraderie and sense of accountability teammates felt toward each other was apparent, and the absence of headline-grabbing stars made spring success more a matter of “we” than “me.”

Defense Improves Renewed hope starts with the defense. Groh was hired in January 2009 to make the defense as stingy as Johnson’s offense is prolific. Groh implemented his 3-4 scheme, which utilized three lineman and four linebackers, last spring. As smart as Georgia Tech players are, the learning curve proved steep. The Yellow Jackets performed worse statistically under Groh than they did the previous year. The most telling shortcomings were the absence of turnovers forced and sacks – 21 and 17 respectively, in a 13-game season. Put simply, the Jackets weren’t making many plays. And they weren’t making any plays because they were playing tentatively. “Every defense has to eventually decide what they want to become known for, what their identity is going to be. That’s half of the deal,” Groh said. “The other half is the learning and the execution of the schemes. We put an emphasis on both those areas in the spring and we think we moved down the road in both cases.” The first-team defense dominated the scrimmages. They forced the starting offense into five turnovers and held them to seven points in the T-Day Game. Led by a front seven featuring three returning linemen and a linebacking group sparked by sophomore Jeremiah Attaochu and redshirt freshman Quayshawn Nealy, the defense played fast and loose. “Grasping the scheme has required a gradual progression,” defensive lineman Jason Peters said. “It can’t be a deal where all the sudden we’ve got it, because then it can go away all the sudden, too. The more gradual it is, the more cohesive we can be and the more staying power we can have.”

Redshirt freshman Quayshawn Nealy (in gold) was impressive at inside linebacker.

Georiga Tech Yellow Jacket Fans

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11


Offense Displays Raw Talent An improved defense should take the pressure off an evolving offense. The Yellow Jackets have plenty of triple-option talent, but it proved to be raw talent in the spring. Very raw. The quarterback and B-back positions are unsettled and might

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The Buzz

be that way into September. Quarterback Tevin Washington, who stepped into a difficult situation and played decently in place of an injured Nesbitt late last season, showed incremental improvement during the spring. He outplayed his competition, redshirt freshman Synjyn Days, for much of the spring, although Days clearly had a more productive day in the T-Day Game. Days rushed for 112 yards, accounted for two

touchdowns and didn’t commit a turnover, albeit against the secondteam defense. Ball security issues plagued Days in the other 14 spring workouts. “We’re going to play the guy who gives us the best chance to win,” Johnson said of the quarterback situation. “Sometimes winning the game is not losing it, being able to manage and do those kind of things.” The B-back competition is more

straightforward, appropriate given the position’s role in Johnson’s offense. Four players shared carries in the spring, and Johnson said he felt “pretty good about all four.” As Johnson admitted last spring, he thinks he can get 1,000 yards out of the position regardless of who is back there. Such is the nature of the position in the offense. That’s assuming the offensive line can block for the B-back, and that was a poor assumption this


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Roddy Jones is pursuing his MBA while returning as a fourth-year starter at A-back.

spring. Thin in numbers and beset by nagging injuries, the Yellow Jacket line drew Johnson’s ire often during the drills. But three starters do return, and help is on the way: Johnson moved J.C. Lanier from the defensive line to the offensive line this spring and the 2011 recruiting class included four linemen. The next time the Yellow Jackets practice, they’ll be back on Rose

Bowl fields, the program’s practice home since the early-1930s. And if it’s raining that August afternoon, they’ll be inside their new indoor facility. “We’ll have a lot to work on,” Johnson said. “But I am encouraged that we have what we need to move forward in fall camp.” ■

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gt georgia tech athletics

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The Buzz


A TRIO OF ACES

Behind the pitching of Pope, Bradley and Adkins, Tech’s baseball and softball teams eye ACC championships

T

By Matt Winkeljohn

Today we’re going to visit a variety of aces. For purposes of this endeavor, Georgia Tech has three pitching anchors – baseball juniors Mark Pope and Jed Bradley, and softball senior Kristen Adkins. Together, they’re stifling the ACC on diamonds near and far. Apart, they’re cards of differing sorts. In them there is evidence that there is no one right approach to the art/science of pitching but rather ways aplenty. Bradley, the strikeout king, might pass for an ace of clubs; he takes a power approach on and off the mound. Adkins is of hearts, or heart. Her baseline approach is more about her commitment to pitching with a higher power – God – in mind. Pope goes the route of a spade. Choose your type: a blade for carving, a digging device, a game of cards, an oar blade . . . whatever. The analogy fits because he is, after all, a six-pitch man. They share a commonality; they’re good at what they do. They just don’t do it the same way. Differences are easiest to see in Pope, Tech’s Friday’s starter, and Bradley, who works on Saturdays. Pope’s a righty and Bradley hurls from the other side. Baseball head coach Danny Hall considered using Bradley in the Friday “ace” hole, but opted to pitch him on Saturdays so that Pope, Bradley and Buck Farmer give the Jackets a righty-leftyrighty run in weekend series. “We both go after hitters, but Jed pitches a lot more off his fastball whereas I’m going to give you more looks,” Pope said. “There are situations where you want to go for a strikeout, but in general I’m trying to let them hit it but not on the fat part [of the bat].” Like Pope, who is the only Tech

Kristen Adkins

pitcher who calls his own pitches (or rather takes them or shakes the signs off from his catcher), Bradley wants to throw strikes. The part about letting them hit it? Not so much. He’s pitched fewer innings (60.1) than Pope (80.1) yet is third in the ACC with 78 strikeouts, or a whopping 11.64 per nine innings. Pope, who leads the ACC in innings pitched, is tied for eighth in the conference with 67 Ks.

“There are certain situations where you do need to strike somebody out, [like with runners on] second and third, less than two outs. Those are the only situations where I’m going to try to strike somebody out,” Bradley said. “[The high strikeout totals are] kind of a product of the way I throw.” In a nutshell, Bradley throws harder than Pope, and in addition to two- and four-seam fastballs he www.ramblinwreck.com

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Mark Pope

has a hard slider, a changeup and a curve ball. Pitching coach Shaina Ervin calls most of Adkins’ pitches. She’s throwing a lot more of them this season than last. She was Tech’s ace as a sophomore, when she was 24-7 with an ERA of 1.69. Freshman Hope Rush assumed that role last season, and over the winter Adkins (8-2, 2.30 last season) underwent changes inside and out. With re-designed mechanics, she’s moved back into the No. 1 starter spot, and she’s leading the ACC with a record of 18-5 and an ERA of 1.42. Freshman Lindsey Anderson (10-0, 2.31) and Rush (11-3, 2.55) are Nos. 7 and 8 in the ACC in ERA. Mechanically, Adkins said, “there have been times, for sure, where I could have gone back to my old ways when things weren’t going well. But I haven’t.” There haven’t been many of those situations, and when she finds herself in a tough spot, she goes to her personal bullpen for relief. Her biggest change has been in approach. “It’s not about me. I’m not playing for myself, for my parents, I’m playing for God,” Adkins said. “Colossians, 3:23-24: `Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord, not for human masters since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.’ “That’s become a mantra for me.”

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The Buzz

Pope has put up absurd numbers. He leads the conference with a 9-1 record and five complete games (all other pitchers in the ACC have combined to throw seven), and three shutouts. His league-leading ERA of 1.01 is the craziest thing of all, unless you consider the fact that he has suffered little or no arm fatigue despite throwing every day. Yes, every day. While Bradley (4-2, 2.98 ERA) takes at least one day and sometimes two off from throwing per week, Pope nearly never rests that arm. “I’ll just toss [play catch] the day after pitching,” Pope said. “I’ll do a heavy long-toss two days after I pitch, on Sunday. [Soft toss on Monday], Tuesday will be a bullpen

Jed Bradley

day, probably 45 pitches throwing hard, probably not game speed,” and so on. Once or twice between starts depending on how his left arm and shoulder feel, Bradley said, “I’m throwing a short box where you move the catcher up five or six feet and throw about half speed to work on mechanics.” Bradley takes an otherwise more physical approach to training than Pope, although Pope says he works hard to build strength in his back and legs. Three days a week Bradley does sprint work and he runs distance three other days. He also lifts weights a lot more than Pope, who says, “that’s something Jed will do for the rest of his life.” That’s no joke, Bradley said.

“I’ve just always been a fan of working out,” he said. “I kind of pride myself in being one of the hardest workers on the team. When I came in I weighed 188 pounds, and I’m like 220 now.” It’s working for all of them. Bradley began the season considered by pro baseball executives as a potential first-round draft choice, and he’s done nothing to change that thinking. Pope, whose career record at Tech is 22-3, is garnering plenty of attention from MLB scouts as well. “The difference between his two- and four-seam [fastball] is a lot more extreme than mine,” Bradley said. “I don’t throw nearly as much as Mark; I don’t know how he does it. “Our main focus is to go as deep in games as we can, and obviously [Pope] goes a lot deeper than I do. My pitch count gets a little bit higher. We’re both trying to put our team in the best position to win.” If the Yellow Jackets are going to defend their consecutive ACC softball titles, Adkins will be in the middle, in the circle. “I have become a mental giant rather than a mental midget,” she said. “Whatever I take on, I take a relentless attitude regardless of the outside circumstances . . . control what I can control. “If I did not give everything I have it would be unfair to my teammates, and a waste of what God has given me.” ■


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INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE Tech’s spring sports have enjoyed great success, thanks in part to some talented student-athletes

S

By Adam Van Brimmer

Spring cleaning around the Edge Center always extends to the trophy cases. Workers dust and polish the awards and clean the glass. And, in the interest of time, they make room for more trophies. After all, Yellow Jacket teams tend to claim plenty of spring sports hardware. Golf has three consecutive and five of the last six Atlantic Conference Coast titles and is a perennial NCAA contender. The women’s tennis team will make its 12th straight NCAA appearance this month and has won four ACC championships and three national titles in recent years. Men’s tennis will be headed to the NCAAs for the ninth time since 2001. The softball team is the frontrunner for the ACC title after dominating the league all year and baseball will be among the favorites at the league tournament. School record holder Joanna

Kyle Scott (Golf)

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The Buzz

Wright leads the track and field teams into the postseason. Yet any trophy case additions this spring will likely depend on contributions from Yellow Jackets who hold student visas – the kind you get from the State Department, not the bank. The rosters of Georgia Tech’s spring teams are stocked with student-athletes who hail from beyond U.S. borders, with five continents and eight countries represented, from Vietnam and South Africa to Luxembourg and Colombia. Three of those international student-athletes will lead their teams in the postseason.

Kyle Scott (Golf)

Georgia Tech golf is a program of prodigies, from Bobby Jones and Larry Mize to David Duval, Bryce Molder and Matt Kuchar.

Scott doesn’t fit that mold. The South African didn’t take up competitive golf until age 16. Two years later, he broke his back in a “freak golf cart accident.” The injury delayed the start of his college career and relegated him to college golf’s hinterlands, Division II West Florida. His skills were so raw he redshirted his freshman year. Now age 24 and competing at the major college level, Scott is one of the most consistent players in the country. His runner-up finish at last month’s ACC Championship was his fifth top-five finish in nine events this year. He’s shot par or better in all but one round since last September. “I’m pretty happy with my play and our team play, obviously,” Scott said. “We’re at the point where if we don’t win at nationals, we’ll all be disappointed.” Disappointments tend to drive

Scott toward success. He took up golf after a promising baseball career fizzled. He actually made South Africa’s junior national team and trained for several months only to realize it was going “nowhere.” He devoted himself to golf shortly thereafter and was faring well on the country’s amateur circuit until he and a buddy decided to do doughnuts in a golf cart on a rainy afternoon. The cart flipped and Scott was thrown from the passenger seat and broke his back. Scott was a two-time All-American at West Florida following his redshirt season. And his success this year at Georgia Tech came on the heels of a 2010 season in which he was hampered by back spasms. If the trend continues, don’t be surprised if he does what all those prodigies couldn’t: help Georgia Tech win a national title.


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Jillian O’Neill

(Women’s Tennis)

Jillian O’Neill (Women’s Tennis) You can be a one-dimensional tennis player and win titles on the Canadian amateur circuit and the junior college national championship, so long as you excel at that single facet of the game. Jillian O’Neill’s ability to broaden her game this season, her first at Georgia Tech, makes the Yellow Jackets a postseason darkhorse. O’Neill is a power player. She stands 5-foot-11 and possesses a big serve and forehand. As coach Bryan Shelton describes it, O’Neill wields her racquet like a hammer and sees every ball as a nail. Shelton spent much of his first several months with O’Neill convincing her the hammer needn’t be the only tool in her box. He coaxed her to incorporate drop and spin shots into her game and alter the pace on her ground strokes. O’Neill showed enough confidence and prowess in her evolving game Shelton elevated her from No. 3 singles to No. 1 in March. She went on to earn All-ACC honors and defeat No. 11 Zoe De Bruycker from North Carolina, 6-4, 6-2. “My first instinct is to hit the ball hard because that’s how I was brought up, but at this level, girls get used to the pace after while, no matter how hard it is,” O’Neill said. “Now I’m making opponents adjust to different balls. And the funny thing is, it has actually made my power ball that much more effective because they don’t know what’s coming.” O’Neill has long kept folks guessing between points. She was raised

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The Buzz

in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Montreal, Quebec, and was an unknown at the random tournaments she played at in the United States. She was the French-Canadian girl with the big swing who was only as good as the weather. Mild temperatures and no wind, look out. Heat and a bit of a breeze, easy pickin’s. “Training indoors nine months a year does not prepare you well to deal with the elements,” O’Neill said. “I had great coaches in Canada who helped develop my game well, but I really came into my own when I moved to Florida.” O’Neill arrived at Florida’s Hillsborough Community College in 2008 after an issue with her high school transcript kept her from attending the University of Georgia. She’d committed to the Bulldogs because her best friend was headed to Georgia and they wanted to go to college together. O’Neill won the junior college national title in 2009 and met Shelton through a friend in Canada. She earned her associate’s degree from Hillsborough last summer and chose Georgia Tech over Stanford to continue her college career. “It was pretty weird how it ended up,” O’Neill said. “People make a big deal out of me coming to Tech after initially wanting to go to Georgia, but it’s not to me. In Canada, we don’t have big rivalries between schools, so it didn’t mean that much to me that Georgia and Georgia Tech were rivals.”


Guillermo Gomez (Men’s Tennis)

Guillermo Gomez (Men’s Tennis)

He goes by “G”, and good luck finding a better moniker. “G” as in grand. “G” as in gold. “G” as in the greatest tennis player in Georgia Tech history. Spaniard Guillermo Gomez recently broke the Yellow Jacket record for career singles victories, a mark previously held by his coach, Kenny Thorne. And Thorne himself admits Gomez’s success far surpasses his own: Gomez has played first singles since late in his freshman year, meaning his 116-plus wins came against the best competition opponents had

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The Buzz

to offer. “(Gomez) is the best player to come through Tech, and he deserves to have every record here,” Thorne told NCAA.com. “He’s been winning consistently since his freshman year, but at the same time, he’s really focused on the team and helping us get to where we want to be.” The only W’s G is interested in during this, the sunset of his career, are team victories. Gomez has helped re-establish Georgia Tech’s tennis program as a national player in recent years, and he’d like to finish it off with an NCAA Championship run. Call it payback for all Georgia Tech has given him. He initially

planned to pursue a professional tennis career out of high school after reaching the semifinals of Spain’s national junior tournament. But many of his friends and rivals sung the praises of playing collegiately in the United States first. Gomez could face top competition without the pressures of pro tennis and adjust to living on his own. He decided to go to Georgia Tech. Gomez has made the most of that decision. He’s qualified for the national singles tournament every year and will earn his industrial engineering degree this fall. He’s learned the toughest lesson a young tennis player must learn – to

compete on every point. Gomez has rounded out his game, too. His long-time weakness, conditioning, is no longer an issue. He dropped 20 pounds between his junior and senior year and sees the benefits of improved fitness. Where he once feared matches going three sets, he is now “comfortable” with long matches. G is also getting used to his status as the top J, or Jacket. “It’s something I never thought I could do,” Gomez said of breaking the school record for victories. “The record is not something I think about, but to share it with my head coach, who is someone I really admire, is very special.” ■


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Bb baseball

THE CARETAKER

Walter Smith has been an important part of Yellow Jacket baseball for more than 25 years – and 1,100 victories

By Adam Van Brimmer

T

The 10 baseballs sit perched atop makeshift pedestals on a knee-high shelf next to their owner’s work desk. Each is inscribed with a round number framed by the words “CAREER” and “WINS.” Walter Smith displays his trophies proudly if not very publicly. Georgia Tech’s baseball trainer for the past 26 years, he’s been a part of six Atlantic Coast Conference championship teams, 21 NCAA tournament qualifiers and three College World Series participants. Smith’s collection of baseballs underscores the program’s tremendous success over the last quarter-century. He has one from every 100th Yellow Jacket victory during his tenure, starting with No. 200. Do the math, and that’s more than 1,100 wins – and counting. “I think I can legitimately claim to be the winningest athletic trainer in major college sports,” Smith said. “Something tells me they don’t keep that stat, but they should. And I’m shooting for 1,200 next and 1,500 before I’m done.” Smith obviously isn’t ready to hang up his tape yet. The 60-year-old is already as much a part of Yellow Jacket baseball lore as Jason Varitek and Danny Hall. The room in which he works is named in his honor, complete with a gold plaque. “He’s the caretaker of the baseball program,” said Hall, the Jackets’ head coach since

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The Buzz

1994. “He’s one of those guys who cares not just about his job but about his people.”

Answering Tech’s Call Smith is an accidental Yellow Jacket. Bill McDonald hired him in 1985 following a fateful visit to campus to watch a Georgia Tech football spring practice session. Smith was the head athletic trainer at his alma mater, Morris Brown, at the time and ventured up Northside Drive that afternoon out of boredom. “We didn’t have spring practice that year for some reason, so I pretty much had the spring off,” Smith said. “I was standing there at Rose Bowl field talking to Bill when we started to here the ping, ping, ping of aluminum bats next door.” McDonald responded to the sounds of batting practice with a shake of the head. “I’m looking for somebody to be the trainer for baseball,” said McDonald in an off-handed way. “Heck Bill, I’ll do it,” Smith responded nonchalantly. Smith visited McDonald’s office the next morning to reiterate his interest. McDonald, it turned out, had talked to athletic director Homer Rice about Smith earlier that morning. “We’re going to hire you,” McDonald told Smith. “You start July 1st.”

The Georgia Tech job came along as Smith stood at a career crossroads. He’d aspired to be a trailblazer, following the example of the man who baptized him in the church located across the street from his childhood home. The church was Ebenezer Baptist. The christener? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I’d bring him and his father, Reverend King, food that my mother cooked,” said Smith, who was a teenager at the height of the civil rights movement and a senior in high school when King was assassinated. “If you spent anytime around them, you came to believe you could be anything you wanted to be.” Smith wanted to be one of the first black athletic trainers in Major League Baseball or the National Football League. He thought he had an in with the Braves – he worked as an usher at Fulton County Stadium for 15 years, starting at age 14. The organization never showed any interest, however. Smith did test the NFL, moonlighting as an assistant during training camps with the Falcons, Dolphins and Eagles. He found the atmosphere too business-like, however, citing an example where he was prohibited from talking to a player he’d formed a friendship with. The team had cut the player that day, and when he came into the training room to collect his things, all Smith was permitted to do was exchange nods of the head with the player.


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“I knew right then he NFL wasn’t for me,” Smith said.

Big League Feel To A College Clubhouse The cut player incident corresponded with his first weeks on the job at Georgia Tech. Giving up on his big league aspirations, Smith decided instead to create a professional atmosphere in the Yellow Jacket clubhouse. He attended the annual pro baseball athletic trainers convention and would “pluck the brains” of his peers for the latest ideas, from stretching exercises to rehab techniques, and implement them at Georgia Tech. “A lot of my programs are a lot like you find in the big leagues,” Smith said. “I’ve copy-catted many things, and I’m not afraid to admit it.” Smith even borrowed from the big leagues in designing Tech’s current baseball training room, built as part of the Russ Chandler Stadium renovation in 2002. It’s modeled after the one attached

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The Buzz

to the visitors’ clubhouse at the Braves’ spring training facility at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. And it’s a big improvement over Smith’s original workspace at the old Rusty C -- a converted storage closet. Smith’s desire to create a big league experience at Tech extends to the way he treats his players. He plays no favorites, giving the walkons the same care he does the AllAmericans. He added equipment manager to his athletic training duties several years back to ensure high standards in that area, too. Previously, a student had filled that role. Smith is a constant in the clubhouse. “When the players are here, he’s here,” Hall said. “I don’t think he ever goes home.” Consequently, Smith has formed tight bonds with Georgia Tech’s players over the years, relationships he counts as his greatest rewards. Many players feel the same way about Smith as he does about them. Former Yellow Jacket great Victor Menocal calls Smith an “unsung hero” who always had the time and patience to listen to student-athletes talk about everything from their dreams to

their problems. Smith admits he’s massaged as many psyches as he has shoulders and hamstrings over the years. Another Smith disciple, Scott McIntyre, sums up Smith’s influence best on a framed tribute poster that hangs in the training room and commemorates Smith’s 1,000th career victory. It reads: “Make no mistake about it, Walt Smith has left a little part of him-

self on every life he has touched, and we should all be grateful for the time we had under his care.” The poster is nice, but Smith is partial to the collection of milestone win balls and the team success they signify. “That’s my own little private area down there, those balls,” he said. “Obviously I take a lot of pride in us winning.” ■


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27


fb football

INDOOR FOOTBALL

Paul Johnson: New facility will be “huge for our program”

C

By simit shah

Come August, when the skies light up and ominous clouds unleash a patented southern thunderstorm, the Georgia Tech football team won’t have to go far to take cover. The John and Mary Brock Football Practice Facility is nearing completion and will be ready when fall practice kicks off in early August. In the past, inclement weather forced practice to be halted or moved to the Georgia Dome or Flowery Branch, creating what Johnson called a “logistical mess” on a regular basis. “Early in Coach Paul Johnson’s tenure, we discussed the importance of having a place where the team could practice away from the ele-

ments,” said director of athletics Dan Radakovich. “There have been times recently when we have used the Georgia Dome or the Falcons’ practice facility in Flowery Branch for practice, but it has become increasingly difficult for us to utilize those spaces efficiently. This new facility will provide us with significantly more efficiency in scheduling our practice sessions.” “It’ll be huge for our program, especially in the fall with all the thunderstorms and lightning we have,” added Johnson, who had some input on the design of the structure. “The lightning is as much a problem as the bad weather. We’ll be able to move everyone inside and not miss a beat.” The impetus for the facility began about a year ago and gained steam when alum John Brock and his wife Mary committed $3.5 million towards the construction costs, covering about half the total price tag. “This was a quick process,” explained senior associate director of athletics Paul Griffin. “There’s always been a desire for an indoor practice

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The Buzz

space, and the designs started to come together about a year ago. Mr. Brock and his family stepped up, so we put it on a fast track. The only window to do this was after the bowl game until summer.” Construction on the facility began in January and had continued through the spring, requiring the football team to conduct its spring drills inside Bobby Dodd Stadium. The 88,000 square foot steel structure is essentially being built atop the west field at Rose Bowl Field. It roughly resembles a hangar with the tallest point the roof rising to 65 feet. A retaining wall was carved out to the west of the structure, and some measures to protect it from baseballs hit from Chandler Stadium will be implemented. “It’s a pretty simple building in terms of design,” stated Griffin. “The unique part is the space in which we had to put it. We didn’t need a lot of ideas from other schools, but we did have to make a lot of adaptations to our space. “It’s also different from other schools in that we intend to use it on a daily basis,” he continued. “Other facilities are for inclement weather, but we’ve built in six large garage-like doors that allow continual player flow between the fields. It’s very functional.” You can’t build something at Georgia Tech without a little innovation baked in, so the facility boasts a pretty impressive underground water system. Rather than letting water run off into the sewer system, it is collected and stored in an underground cistern, located under the east (outdoor) field. Combined with the condensate used to cool the adjacent Ford Environmental Science and Technology Building, which produces nearly 1,000 gallons an hour, the system will be able to store up to 280,000 gallons of water. “Once that’s full, we’ll have enough water to irrigate the football fields, track and baseball for two weeks if there’s no rain,” noted Griffin. “That’s probably more water than we’ll ever use. That’s a good value, since we won’t have to pay the city for extra water. Plus, we won’t have to worry about any watering restrictions imposed by the city, county or state if there’s a drought.” At this point, the project is on budget and slightly ahead of schedule. If the weather cooperates and construction continues at its current pace, it will be ready for occupancy a week ahead of schedule. While the team will start using the facility in August, the official dedication will take place Friday, Sept. 23. The following day, the Jackets face North Carolina, and fans will get a chance to tour the new building. “We’ll see when it’s finished, but I’m sure it’s going to be exactly what we need,” declared Johnson. ■


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TECH GUY AT HEART

The Dr. Gene Hauck Golden Tornado scholarship is awarded to a football player who is considering a career in medicine. Allen Hauck

By Simit Shah

A

Allen Hauck didn’t attend Georgia Tech, but you’d never know it. “People always assume that I did, and most of the time I don’t correct them,” he laughed. “I almost feel like an alum from spending so much time there and knowing so many people.” His ties to the Institute started with his father Gene, who played fullback at Tech under William Alexander in the late 1920’s. The elder Hauck later attended medical school at Emory and became a prominent surgeon in Atlanta. Before he passed away in 1999, Dr. Hauck was the last remaining member of the 1928 Rose Bowl team. As a youngster, Allen Hauck got to experience Bobby Dodd’s football teams up close thanks to his father’s connections. “My dad had season tickets in the west stands, but he also got two lettermen’s tickets,” he said. “These were temporary seats down on the track, and I got to sit down there most games, usually with an Emory intern and later with my kid brother. I saw great players like (Leon) Hardeman, (Billy) Teas and George and Larry Morris. And I vaguely remember that national championship (in 1952).” “I had three heroes growing up,” he added. “One was my dad, of course. The second was Coach Dodd. My other hero was Jeb Stuart, the Confederate cavalryman who gave the Yankees fits.” Hauck attended Marist, which was a full military school at the time. He thought about following in his father’s footsteps, but he was advised to stay away from North Avenue. “I would have gone to Tech, but there were too many math courses involved,” he laughed. “Just say I was never a threat to have a Phi Beta Kappa key dangling from my watch chain. “I figured I’d better go to Emory, the lesser of two evils, but only because of calculus and the like.” While his intention was to go pre-med, Hauck found an early obstacle in organic chemistry. “Yeah, there’s that math thing again.” He was then bitten by the journalism bug and started working for Emory’s and later Georgia State’s student paper. That led to a job interview at the Atlanta

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The Buzz

Constitution with sports editor Jesse Outlar. A few weeks later, he was brought on as an intern. Hauck was willing to do whatever was needed, and his role quickly grew. “I was 20 and working full-time at night at the paper,” he remembered. “I was paring down my class schedule and covering high school football. I went from there to cover just about everything else.” “Everything else” included Georgia Tech, Georgia, the U.S. Open, the Masters and more, as Hauck became a fixture on the local sports media scene for the next eight years. “I’d go over to Tech practice and sit with Coach Dodd under the tower,” he recalled. “It was just great, some of the best times of my life. Of course, people at the paper knew I was a Tech guy at heart, but that wasn’t a big deal. Heck, most of them went to Georgia.” One year, he arranged to sit with Dodd during the spring game and capture his thoughts. “I think we spent more time talking about bass fishing than we did on what was going on down on the field,” he said. “Ergo, I’m sure I turned in a less than sterling report. A couple of weeks later Coach Dodd offered me a job. I was very tempted and often wondered, what if...” Hauck would cover Tech football under Dodd, Bud Carson and Bill Fulcher and basketball under Whack Hyder. “Coach Hyder,” Hauck said. “What a great guy!” The Carson years were turbulent ones. “One day Bud was unhappy with one of my stories and took a swing at me but a couple of assistant coaches clamped down on him before he got hurt,” he remembered. Later that year he broke the story of Carson’s dismissal. “Bud called me a couple of weeks later and told me he had been hired as the Steelers’ defensive coordinator,” Hauck chuckled. “Pretty good story, huh? I guess we made up.” Hauck moved to the news side of the paper in 1972. He eventually became the news editor and was on duty for historic events. “On my first night as ‘the news editor’ Patty Hearst was captured,” he said. His more memorable front pages included Hank Aaron’s record-breaking home run, the death of Elvis Presley and Jimmy Carter’s presi-

dential victory. “After the paper went to bed on election night, we went over to Carter’s party at the World Congress Center,” he said. “There were thousands of people there, including John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. We talked for a while. Dan was nice, but Belushi, well, let’s just say he was aloof.” After he moved out of sports, he reconnected with Georgia Tech and helped keep defensive charts and perform sideline duties for 14 years. He eventually purchased season tickets in the upper west stands. Through his role at the paper, Hauck was also responsible for the meeting that led to Dodd’s autobiography. He suggested to the features editor that he send reporter Jack Wilkinson over to catch up with Dodd and write about his retirement. The two hit it off and decided to collaborate on “Dodd’s Luck,” which was published in 1988. Hauck left the AJC in 2002, and he and his wife Cathy live in Sautee Nacoochee in the north Georgia mountains near Unicoi Park and Lake Burton. Some of their patio furniture is fashioned from the old east stands wooden benches. “Tech was in the process of replacing them with aluminum ones, so a Tech coach and I went over there and chiseled through the old bolts and carted off a dozen or so,” he said. “I had two benches made. I kept one and gave the other one to my dad.” Hauck recently endowed a scholarship to honor his father. The Dr. Gene Hauck Golden Tornado scholarship will be awarded annually to a football player who is considering a career in medicine. “My dad never talked much about his football exploits but did have a lot to say about his teammates,” Hauck explained. “By the time I was a pre-teen I could just about name everyone on the 1928 Rose Bowl team. Dad was a ‘scrub’ on that team but started at fullback the next year. “He did joke, ‘There was a headline in one of the Atlanta papers – the Georgian I think – that said Hauck to Start, Tech to Lose.’ I thought it was funny back then and even funnier now.” ■


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