When toe finally meets leather this upcoming Saturday on Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium, many people will be experiencing the heated rivalry between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Georgia Bulldogs. Whether that be fans in the stands making their first trip in person, or one of the many true freshman for Tech lacing it up for the first time in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
However, for head coach Geoff Collins and defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker, the 114th matchup between the Yellow Jackets and Bulldogs is just another chapter in their lives. "I'm a product of [state of] Georgia football," Collins said today in his weekly press conference."[I'm] born and raised to love this rivalry."
Born in Decatur and raised in Conyers, he has very early and vivid memories with the rivalry. He can recall sitting in the stands of Bobby Dodd watching the JV Georgia/Georgia Tech football games on Thanksgiving morning as a 13 year old kid. The game was as much of a tradition for his family as the Turkey Bowl at his grandma's house in Conyers was.
"I think I still have the trophy ... for the MVP"
Moments like this were only the beginning of Geoff Collins' exposure to the rivalry. From 1999 to 2001, he served under then head coach George O'Leary and was a part of the staff that experienced the last home victory for the Yellow Jackets almost 20 years ago. Collins credits O'Leary as a large part of who he is as a coach today, and calls himself "lucky" to coach under him.
"I learned how to be a coach by the relentless nature that he had every single day to get better and to improve," Collins remarked.
He would make one more stop at Georgia Tech before taking over the helm as head coach. In 2006 he was the director of player personnel under Chan Gailey, and oversaw a recruiting class that hauled in All-Americans Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett. Now having reached the pinnacle of coaching at The Institute, he isn't sure how it will feel when kickoff finally arrives, instead choosign to "remain focused" and not get caught in the moment.
For defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker, he has a slightly different perspective of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Unlike Geoff Collins, Thacker will find himself in a sea of black & red when his family will meet for Thanksgiving. His sister & brother-in-law are graduates of the University of Georgia, with his mother also attending graduate school in Athens.
"So that'll be fun," Thacker quipped in his weekly press conference. "[Even with] all the ribbings and smart comments, I'll enjoy time with my family."
As a kid growing up in Cartersville the rivalry was a source of many of his childhood memories. Even now, he still has as much joy for the rivalry as any diehard fan does. "I'm very excited to be on the sideline and be a part of it, he said. "I'll have to take a step back and pinch myself."
He also shares Collins' sentiment in that while it is a huge occasion for the university and the city of Atlanta, it is important to keep yourself grounded. He called himself "appreciative of the moment to be a part of something that's bigger than yourself."
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