ATLANTA - A.J. Suggs doesn't particularly like to focus on the past. Especially when the subject concerns his playing days at Tennessee.
One of the south's top quarterback prospects his senior year at McEachern High in Powder Spring, Ga., the life-long Georgia Tech fan surprised even some of his closest friends when he decided to sign with the Volunteers in February of 1999.
As Suggs explained, the idea of playing quarterback in front of 105,000-plus fans at Neyland Stadium was a thought he once found appealing. It wasn't until he had been in Knoxville for two years that he realized he should have stayed true to his heart.
Suggs had hoped to be the quarterback who would replace Tee Martin. But with Joey Mathews already there, along with a hotshot freshman from California named Casey Clausen, Suggs knew his opportunities in orange and white were going to be limited at best.
Thus his decision to transfer to Georgia Tech in January 2001.
"I transferred to play, that's why I left," Suggs said. "Obviously, there was some pressure on myself. But I've worked hard and I'm grateful for the opportunity that I have."
Suggs is no stranger to the Georgia, which is at Georgia Tech Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS-Ch. 12).
One of Suggs' four starts for Tennessee in 2000 was against Georgia. It wasn't one of his memorable efforts.
The 6-foot-4, 224-pounder completed 13 of 21 passes but for just 96 yards and was sacked four times as the Bulldogs snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Vols with a 21-10 win.
"I remember for me, that game was a big deal, I was coming back home," said Suggs. "The outcome was disappointing, but Georgia played well. We couldn't do what we wanted to do. But that's an old memory. I've moved on from that. I'm just glad to be here at Tech."
No doubt his family feels likewise.
Besides growing up in Powder Springs, Suggs has other relatives who call northeast Georgia home.
Two grandparents, several aunts and uncles, along with numerous cousins call Jefferson home which only adds to the excitement for Suggs when he takes the field against Georgia Saturday afternoon.
"It definitely means more," Suggs said. "But not just because of the family aspect. I think the game itself is bigger than the Tennessee-Georgia game being that it's in the state and we're (Georgia and Georgia Tech fans) are around each other all the time."
With the way he has been played, Suggs' family has every right to be proud.
After throwing for over 200 yards just once in his first six games, Suggs comes into play with five straight 200-plus efforts.
"It's just been a matter of A.J. becoming more comfortable," wideout Kerry Watkins said. "He's throwing the football with a lot of authority and becoming the kind of leader you need your quarterback to be."
Suggs says his development, much like the rest of the team, can be attributed to becoming more familiar with first-year coach Chan Gailey and his staff.
"There's always going to be a period of adjustment when you have a new staff. I think Georgia may have gone through that a little bit last year," Suggs said. "Everybody's a lot more at ease with what we're trying to do and I think it's showing up on the field."
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