Tech’s Saint-Amour reflects hopes of a new season

Georgia Tech defensive lineman Anree Saint-Amour is happy to talk football, as here during the team's media day. Better yet, he gets to start playing it again Saturday. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)



Georgia Tech defensive lineman Anree Saint-Amour is happy to talk football, as here during the team's media day. Better yet, he gets to start playing it again Saturday. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Another college football season begins. Hundreds of eager young chaps burst into view from behind the high walls of their closed practices and the curtains of paranoia hung by their coaches.

Each comes with a story and certain inflated hopes. Let us today consider just one. His name Anree Saint-Amour, Georgia Tech’s senior defensive end.

First, there’s the name. Check out both sides of the hyphen. A saint is the last thing you want on the defensive line, because that is the province of a ruffian. Then there’s the troublesome translation of Amour, French for “Love.” A far too gentle sentiment to be useful on autumn Saturdays, don’t you think?

Anree Saint-Amours are supposed to design fragrances or star on French daytime television. It’s a name you’d find on a $600 handbag, not a football depth chart. Yet this one comes into his final season at Tech anxious to grind quarterbacks into meal.

Saint-Amour sounds ready: “Time to put all that aggression, all that stuff we’ve been practicing since spring and winter workouts, into the regular season.”

Second, check out the chassis. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, and all of it with the body fat of a celery stick. Moving more over to tackle in the new (3-4) alignment of new defensive coordinator Nate Woody, he’ll face up more against those bigger brutes than a season ago playing end in Ted Roof’s 4-3. Life’s all about adjustment, he knows. And he can’t wait to set those big tackles spinning on their heels like an overmatched dance partner.

From the time Saint-Amour came to Tech as a prized recruit from North Gwinnett High, there were questions about his lack of sheer mass. He compensated by turning into a Marvel Comics character in the weight room. “It was a constant thing trying to get a few more pounds on me,” he said. “I feel like I can make up for it with my speed, always staying in the weight room and making sure everything I lack in weight I can make up for in power and speed,” he said.

As Tech opens the season against Alcorn State of the FCS, about the only real intrigue is the new look of Woody’s Yellow Jackets defense. That’s a stunning twist in itself. Defense is never a fascination on The Flats, more a grudging necessity after one of Paul Johnson’s option plays goes blooey. But now, there’s all this talk of renewed aggressive approach. As if the former regime perceived defense to be as passive an undertaking as organic farming.

To look at the new season through Saint-Amour’s eyes is to see the quest for something better that follows almost everyone into September. He may have been second among Yellow Jackets last season in sacks and tackles for loss, but both those numbers were unexceptional (2.5 and 5.5). Last season’s defense was unassertive, ranking 119th in FBS in tackles for a loss (4.27), 125th in takeaways (10) and T-114th in sacks per game (1.2). Such results caved in the Roof administration.

So along comes Woody, promising to take off the restrictor plate on defense and mash the throttle to the floor. What defender wouldn’t take to that vow?

“I feel like we’re all excited,” Saint-Amour said. “It’s an attacking defense, an aggressive defense. I think we’re all excited to see how many more plays we can make with this defense.

“I’m anxious to get off the ball. I’m anxious to shoot the gaps.” Ah, it’s football-speak season again.

Saint-Amour’s dad is a preacher. Both parents immigrated from Haiti. Football wasn’t any part of the family culture. “I don’t think my mom knew anything about football, she just wanted us to get into something,” he said. His older brother showed the way, playing the game that helps define the American South, playing his way to Georgia Southern. Little brother then took the game a little farther, drawing interest from such programs as Stanford and Ohio State, before deciding to settle at home.

He doesn’t seem to be regretting the decision. “Having my folks around me – any time things get rough I always have the people I love right next to me. A great support system, a great school,” he said.

“I know in high school you kind of have that hope of making it to the NFL and being a Hall of Famer. But seeing other guys go through it here, you learn that football isn’t the only other route.”

Priorities lined up? Check.

Quarterbacks and ballcarriers all lined up in the cross hairs, as well? We’ll see.

Here at the dawn of a new college football season let’s leave it to one Tech senior to sound reveille: “It’s the last year, the last ride. I’m looking to start the season off great. I’m looking for a championship.”

Saint-Amour need say no more. Toe, meet leather already.