Jonathan Dwyer has no idea where it is exactly, but he knows that in some obscure spot at his Marietta home rests a piece of hedge from the famed bushes that line Sanford Stadium.
Placed there just this weekend, the piece of hedge has apparently been keeping a spot warm for a trophy of a different kind.
“I don’t know where it is, but my mom put it down somewhere inside the house,” Dwyer said of the piece of hedge, snatched away from Athens after Saturday’s 45-42 Georgia Tech win over rival Georgia.
On Wednesday, the ACC announced that Dwyer, Georgia Tech’s ever-elusive sophomore B-back, was the recipient of its 2008 Player of the Year Award.
“I was shocked, I didn’t really know what to say other than, ‘Thank You,’” Dwyer said on campus Wednesday. “My mom was just jumping through the roof (when I told her), and my dad was excited, and so was my little brother. He’s my No. 1 fan, he looks up to me a lot.”
As the ACC enters postseason play, the sophomore leads the ACC in rushing with 1,328 yards, averaging 110.7 yards per game. He’s also rushed for 12 touchdowns — the fifth-most single-season tally in Georgia Tech history.
This season alone, Dwyer produced the longest run from scrimmage in team history (88 yards against Mississippi State), as well as the fourth-longest (85 yards against North Carolina). Both resulted in touchdowns.
“It speaks volumes for John,” said Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, who was named ACC Coach of the Year on Tuesday. “We’re really proud of him, and it certainly speaks to what type of player he is. He was really consistent all year for us. Even in games where things didn’t go so well for him.”
Of all the games Johnson coached Dwyer in this, the first season under the head coach’s triple option offense, none stood out more to him than September’s Week 3 loss to Virginia Tech. During that game, things didn’t go well for Dwyer, who was held to 28 yards on 10 carries.
“They kept hitting him and were committed to taking him out of the game,” Johnson said. “But he never gave up. He kept taking their hits, and never once offered to come out. He was always doing whatever he could do to help his team win.”
Seemingly ignored by conference media for much of the season, Dwyer didn’t receive ACC weekly honors until the final week of Georgia Tech’s conference schedule, when he rushed for 128 yards against Miami.
Praise, it would seem, came slowly because of the type of offense Georgia Tech runs. Before the season began, Johnson and Dwyer heard critics argue that the run-based option system yielded “three yards and a cloud of dust” on every play. Short gains were the offense’s forte, they said.
“(The B-back position) is the main position in any other offense that you run; it’s pretty much the feature back,” Dwyer said. “Any running back, you’re going to always get those two or three yards, or maybe five or four. If you’re getting that many yards, that’s a positive gain each and every play, and that means eventually you’ll always be able to break that long run and get a play that gets your team fired up and inspired.”
Dwyer’s award announcement came on the same day that Georgia Tech announced that it has accepted a bid to play in the Chik-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. Bowl president Gary Stokan said that the Yellow Jackets’ win over Georgia last weekend improved their chances at the selection.
“The Georgia win was huge in our process, we were certainly looking at Florida State and their game against Florida,” Stokan said.
Florida State lost to Florida last Saturday, 45-15.
It’s for that reason — not to mention the pride that goes along with defeating a rival — that Dwyer was more excited over last weekend’s victory over Georgia than receiving his award.
“To me, that’s more important than being the ACC Player of the Year,” Dwyer said.