The last series of photos from my year covering Georgia Tech athletics. Razor-sharp focus is not a phrase I would use to describe most of them, unfortunately.
March 17, 2017, Brock Indoor Football Practice Facility. These are Justin Thomas’ cleats from the Senior Bowl, part of the collection of gear given to him for the game. He had them in his bag at Tech’s pro day. I want to say he said he wore them at the pro day, but in all the videos and pictures I saw, he was wearing black cleats. He ran plenty fast in them, though, finishing in the 4.3-second range in the 40-yard dash. That helped him get tryouts with the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints, the latter of whom signed him to a contract after his performance at their rookie minicamp.
If you’d like your own pair, I believe these are them. They are advertised as “primed for speed in the 40-yard dash.” I can certify that they are quite light.
March 19, 2017. McCamish Pavilion. This is All-American tennis player Christopher Eubanks serving up free Krispy Kreme doughnuts prior to Tech’s NIT game vs. Belmont. You may recall that coach Josh Pastner purchased 150 dozen doughnuts for fans as an incentive to come to the Sunday noon game along with offering to buy a ticket for every Tech student and a guest.
To distribute the doughnuts, the athletic department called all hands, which evidently is how Eubanks, who volunteers in the sports information department, was on hand. In an ideal world, Eubanks would have been serving bagels, but you can’t have everything. On its own, it was an amusingly dissonant moment to see Eubanks, who may someday have a spot on the ATP Tour, dealing out pastry.
March 29, 2017, New York. This is a photo of Pastner and his staff going over video of TCU in advance of the NIT final at the team hotel in Times Square. Assistant coach Eric Reveno (on the right in a gray shirt) led the session, having done the scout of the Horned Frogs.
I was granted access to the meeting and the subsequent presentation to the team. I was particularly appreciative of Reveno for sharing his thoughts with me later on how he tries to prepare a team on short rest, particularly the push and pull of wanting to make sure the team knows what to expect while at the same time not overloading players.
From the meeting, it was clear that coaches recognized that TCU guard Kenrich Williams was a dangerous player, and they were right. The Jackets couldn’t do enough to stop Williams, who scored 25 points with 12 rebounds and was the tournament MVP.
March 30, 2017, New York. This was just before tipoff of the final at Madison Square Garden. Pastner typically doesn’t join the huddle with the starting five just before the tip, but, if memory serves, there was some dead time and he came out and was joking around with his players. It was one of those moments that, if Tech had gone on to win, it would have made for a nice little story about how he read his team and gave the players what they needed in a tense moment. I asked Pastner about it later and he said something along the lines of how he was trying to keep them loose and that, obviously, it didn’t work.
Tech fell behind 10-0, 16-1 and 21-5 in a game that was largely decided by the first timeout.
Unrelated, but that’s school president G.P. “Bud” Peterson in the suit with gold tie left of Josh Heath, with wife Val. Mrs. Peterson was wearing a glittery gold jacket.
May 11, 2017, Covington. This is Tech freshman linebacker Jaquan Henderson in the driveway of his home in Newton County, which is where he keeps (and works out on) his weight rack. My editors assigned me to write a handful of profiles of members of the incoming class, which was (at least for me) a fascinating and revealing exercise (those I interviewed may have a different recollection of the experience). I visited homes, sat with family and learned a lot more about some of the young men who will play for the Jackets over the next four to five years than I ever could have talking with them on the phone.
I learned, for instance, the challenges that Henderson has faced growing up and also the entirely reasonable explanation why he wants to be a funeral director after football. Hopefully, it produced some enlightening stories.
May 17, 2017. New Orleans. I might have been the person least requiring of this seat on my Southwest flight home from New Orleans after visiting the Swilling family (and, serendipitously, Justin Thomas), but it sure was comfortable. I don’t know if I’d call it fitting, but it was a pleasant way to finish my final segment of air travel covering Tech this academic year.
The next flight – presumably to Orlando, Fla., for the Sept. 16 football game against UCF – is just around the corner.