Relationships a staple in rivalry

charvey@macon.comNovember 26, 2010 

ATLANTA -- In its game notes packet each week, Georgia Tech compiles a list of “Yellow Jackets connections” outlining relationships its players have with members of the team it is set to play that weekend.

The latest list was rather exhaustive.

Traveling to Athens on Saturday for their annual game against rival Georgia, several Yellow Jackets will be experiencing a reunion of sorts, as they encounter familiar faces from their not-so-distant pasts.

Of the more than 100 players on Georgia Tech’s full roster, 24 will be squaring off against former teammates; be it those from college, junior college or high school. Those types of previous relationships help give this particular game the type of meaning and uniqueness that sometimes can be lost in other rivalries.

“I have a lot of friends there,” Yellow Jackets linebacker Steven Sylvester said with a smile. “The game is exciting; it’s definitely something you look forward to. You get to hear about it all year all week, especially where I’m from.”

In McDonough, Bulldogs fans reign supreme, Sylvester said. Whenever he returns to the area, he constantly is reminded about what happened in the game the year before.

For the Yellow Jackets, 2009 wasn’t pretty.

Outpaced by a blistering two-man Georgia rushing attack, the Yellow Jackets lost 30-24 the week before they were to take on Clemson in the ACC championship game. They were able to recover, however, beating the Tigers for the conference title and a berth into the BCS’ Orange Bowl.

“A game like this just brings a great excitement to this state and to both schools,” Sylvester said of the rivalry. “We can’t wait.”

This year’s rivalry game will have a tinge of out-of-state flavor, as several of both teams’ biggest stars hail from locales that extend the Peach State’s border.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green, a likely first-round NFL draft pick, is from South Carolina, while Yellow Jackets starting quarterback Tevin Washington was raised in Alabama. Similarly, Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray is from Florida, like Georgia Tech B-back Anthony Allen.

Allen and Murray, both Tampa, Fla., natives, even have a previous relationship with one another, after playing together briefly in high school. Just before transferring to Tampa’s Plant High School, Murray was a freshman quarterback at Jesuit High School with then-senior running back Allen.

“He had a good arm,” Allen said of Murray. “The summer before the season started, he was my roommate when we were doing a summer camp at UCF (Central Florida) and I remember him out there just slinging the ball and him being in the room getting his arm together doing those arm exercises and everything like that.

“He was a good quarterback when we played together. He looked like he was going to be pretty good.”

As a redshirt freshman, Murray has passed for 2,580 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. He also is averaging 234.5 yards per game with a 61 percent completion rating.

Although Allen grew up mostly watching the Florida-Florida State rivalry with his Seminoles-supporting father -- Anthony was a loyal Gators fan before college -- he grasped the Georgia-Georgia Tech series rapidly, he said.

“Once I got here and you see that ‘To Hell with Georgia’ is in the fight song and everything, you can tell, it’s definitely a big deal up here and I’ve embraced that,” said Allen, who transferred two years ago from Louisville. “I’ve taken to it and grown a hate for those guys.”

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