ATLANTA - Georgia Tech's senior running back Gordon Clinkscale will sit down for Thanksgiving dinner today and go to town on some candied yams.
"And I mean 'candy,"' his aunt Joanne Clinkscale, the author of the feast, said. "He'll eat them with or without marshmallows, but he likes them gooey and sweet. Lots of sugar and butter. As long as they're caramelized."
In his season of redemption, the yams aren't the only thing that's just right for Clinkscale. After three seasons of injuries, watching from the sidelines and frustration, Clinkscale has become the Yellow Jackets' feature back.
He entered the season with 15 carries and 46 yards - all from his freshman season. Projected to be Georgia Tech's third-down back this year, Clinkscale has been the leading rusher in each of the past five games.
"What's going on now is real sweet," Clinkscale said. "I'm living out my dreams this season, ones that I expected to be living out for the past four years."
Clinkscale has stayed healthy this season, something that he hadn't be able to do since his junior year in high school. He broke his foot as a senior at Dunwoody High, but had showed enough as a junior - 2,033 yards, 24 touchdowns - to get a scholarship. And injuries continued to plague him at Georgia Tech.
"Nothing real serious," Clinkscale said. "The third or fourth practice of summer camp, I'd pull a hamstring and I'm out for a week or two. I'd go from the No. 2 tailback to the No. 4 or 5 tailback."
Clinkscale has been an inspiration to those around him.
First-year coach Chan Gailey often gushes about him. It was Gailey who became convinced that the 5-foot-10, 192-pound Clinkscale - armed with elusiveness, an ability to catch the ball and solid blocking skills - would be best used as a third-down back, a carry-over from Gailey's days in professional football.
"In our society, if it doesn't feel good, leave this and go to something else," Gailey said. "If it's not just wonderful, don't fight through it, quit and go some place else. He is a prime example of don't quit, keep fighting through."
Clinkscale's big break came against Maryland. He rushed for a then career-high 87 yards on five carries, including a 51-yarder on the game's second play. Later in the game, the Yellow Jackets discovered the spread offense, a style for which Clinkscale's abilities are best suited.
"He has my full and utmost respect," senior wide receiver Kerry Watkins said. "He's been through a lot of ups and downs. He struggled with injuries, people playing in front of him. He's stuck it out and understood his role. and waited for his opportunity. It came and he's stepped up to the plate and fulfilled it well."