Now that they’re older and wiser — as wise as a 21- or 22-year old can be — some of the veteran Georgia Tech football players are trying to pay it forward. They’re sharing their experiences with the freshmen who are going through preseason practice for the first time.
There’s no doubt that preseason workouts in college are somewhat more demanding than those from high school. Plus, there are many new things to learn: where to go, how to find places, where to avoid. That’s how the veterans can be especially helpful to the rookies.
“My freshman year, I spent a lot of time with Adam Gotsis, he was the tackle on my side,” defensive end KeShun Freeman said. “He really coached me up. In the game, if I forgot something, he was right there to say, ‘You’ve got to do this.’ Adam and the other guys like Pat Gamble really helped me out.”
Safety A.J. Gray’s roommate was linebacker P.J. Davis, who reinforced Gray’s attitudes toward hard work and preparation.
“P.J. mentored me in training camp,” Gray said. “He was telling me what I had to do to keep from being redshirted. He said, ‘Go out and show them what you can do. Don’t worry about the plays.’ ”
For offensive lineman Andrew Marshall, it was center Freddie Burden.
“They taught me a lot and what was expected, how to be a center, how to adapt from high school to Georgia Tech,” Marshall said.
The players said that it’s beneficial sometimes for a young player to get advice from an older teammate rather than hearing it only from their position coach.
“Sometimes a coach will say things one way and a player will explain it another way because they’ve done it,” Marshall said. “And we know what it’s like. There are things the older guys have learned through doing it. That really accelerated the learning.”
Last year, six true freshmen played big minutes for the Yellow Jackets. This season, head coach Paul Johnson has said that at least three will be on the field on defense — linebackers Bruce Jordan-Swilling, T.D. Roof and Jaquan Henderson. B-backs Jerry Howard and Jordan Ponchez-Mason are both expected to contribute, and wide receiver Adonicas Sanders has made some nice catches in practice. Plus, punter Pressley Harvin III and kicker Brenton King are likely going to handle duties there.
Regardless of the number of new faces, the older players are ready to do their part and help the kids.
“Now that I’m older, I remember how they impacted me and helped me,” Freeman said. “What I want to do with the freshmen is show them the brotherhood side. I want them to know, ‘If you’re on the field and you have a question, ask me and I’m going to help you out.’ ”
Marshall said, “You always have upperclassmen who help, and I’m definitely going to help and give them some pointers. It’s nice to be a senior and have the ability to give some pointers and give some advice.”