Dream comes true for Tech’s Jacksonville crew

Defensive back Lawrence Austin #20 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets celebrates his interception with defensive back Lamont Simmons #6 in the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Lane Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Georgia Tech defeated Virginia Tech 30-20. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)

To Georgia Tech cornerback Lamont Simmons, EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., is hallowed turf. Simmons grew up in Jacksonville and pretty much all of his family lives there.

For the Yellow Jackets, the trip to the TaxSlayer Bowl is a reward for an eight-win season and an opportunity to defeat a third SEC opponent. For Simmons and other Tech players from Jacksonville, it’s those things and a little bit more.

“It’s a great opportunity to play in that stadium,” Simmons said. “A lot of guys don’t get that opportunity, especially being from Jacksonville. It’s an awesome opportunity, plus my family’s going to be there.”

Cornerback Step Durham, also from Jacksonville, holds EverBank Field in similar reverence.

“It was a dream as a kid (to play there),” he said. “Now it’s coming to fruition. I’m very excited for it.”

EverBank Field was opened in 1995, built on the site of the old Gator Bowl stadium, which opened in 1928 and held its first Gator Bowl game in 1946. The NFL’s Jaguars play there, a Super Bowl was held there and the stadium hosts the annual Georgia-Florida game.

Simmons and Durham are two of four Jackets who are from Jacksonville, which has been recruited by A-backs coach Lamar Owens. Linebacker Victor Alexander and defensive end Antonio Simmons are the two others.

Other Jackets grew up not far from the city in northern Florida or South Georgia. A-back J.J. Green is from Kingsland just north of the Georgia-Florida border, about 35 miles north of Jacksonville. B-back Marcus Allen’s hometown of Hilliard, Fla., is just southwest of Kingsland. Linebacker P.J. Davis is from Cairo, about 180 miles to the northwest of Jacksonville.

“I’ll have a lot of people there,” Davis said. “I have a lot of family buying tickets and stuff and I’ve been asking around for tickets, so I’ve got a great support system so I really appreciate that.”

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