Originally created 08/20/04

Walk-on linebacker carries a heavy load



Next week will provide North Augusta's David Sanborn with the very first taste of his college major, polymer and fiber engineering.

Did you just cringe? Maybe furrow your eyebrow?

Do you feel like if you devoted your entire week's schedule to polymer and fiber engineering studies, you might be able to pull out a solid 'C' average?

Now throw in football - hours upon hours of practice, film study and meetings.

Ready to toss in that towel yet?

Sanborn's not planning on it.

The redshirt freshman, a walk-on linebacker for Georgia Tech, is one of many Yellow Jackets who look a difficult major square in the mouth and tackle it.

Quarterback Patrick Carter is majoring in biology. Defensive tackle Marcus Harris is in industrial engineering. Defensive tackle Josh Tittle is studying electrical engineering.

Most schools have a sundry of players with undecided majors. At Georgia Tech, there's several "undecided engineering" majors.

Management's about as "easy" as it gets, and that's not exactly basket weaving.

"It's definitely hard. You can't just go or goof around all the time," Sanborn said. "Most guys that got through high school pretty easily get here and find that it's so much more work. You can't just walk through college."

The advice Jim Stevens, Georgia Tech's director of academic services, hands out every year seems obvious, but still difficult to follow.

"I tell kids to go to class, listen when they're there and make sure to go to all of our study halls," Stevens said.

That counsel goes for everyone, but especially for football players.

As opposed to membership in a fraternity or some other social group, "football for them could almost be compared to a very heavy part-time job," Stevens said.

He said a typical week, Monday through Thursday, starts with breakfast about 8 a.m. and ends with study halls at about 9-9:30 p.m.

Stevens remembers those days. He played at Georgia Tech in the early 1970s.

"The toughest part is juggling your hours," he said. "The when and the where of it all is hard to master."

The fact that so many players do master it impresses first-year Georgia Tech linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary.

"Just the academics alone are taxing enough here, but then you add in the football," said Jean-Mary, who was a grad assistant at South Carolina and on the strength staff at Louisville before joining the Yellow Jackets.

Jean-Mary admitted he wonders how walk-ons are able to make such a commitment, given they receive less recognition and a significant financial burden.

"Those guys are just out there for the love of the game," Jean-Mary said. "You know inside you that those are the guys who are going to be successful in life, because they're working so hard to keep on top of things and to try and earn a place on the team."

On the field, though, a walk-on's plight isn't that different than an incoming freshman's, he said, in that both are trying to prove themselves and earn a spot on the field.

Walk-ons do, however, have more of a deck stacked against them - especially toward the end of their Georgia Tech years, when the classes become more and more difficult.

Sanborn's not too worried about that, either. He says he plans to stick out his football career.

And, as any walk-on will tell you, the scholarship papers are just around the corner.

"He's a great kid," Jean-Mary said of Sanborn. "It's almost a waiting game to see. He has some ability, and he's going to get every opportunity to show it."

Maybe not just in the classroom.

Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3219 or travis.haney@augustachronicle.com.

LOCAL CONNECTION

A synopsis of what can be expected of Yellow Jackets from the area this season:

LB David Sanborn, North Augusta, redshirt freshman: Sanborn will try to gain a scholarship for his final two seasons at Georgia Tech. The polymer and fiber engineering major has a daunting task of juggling a challenging major and football.