First person: Ben Jacoby, Georgia State

Ben Jacoby thought his football career was history when he gave up his scholarship at Ball State and returned home to Lawrenceville. On Thursday, though, he’ll make history by starting at center in Georgia State’s inaugural football game.

By Ben Jacoby

For the AJC

Ball State is a heck of a college and football program, but after my second year I questioned whether football was something I wanted to pursue.

My dad, Doug, had played at Ball State with the coach who recruited me. When that coach took another job, that was huge for me. I was a 13-hour drive from my family and support. I decided I would come home, finish my degree in computer information systems at Georgia Gwinnett College and then start work.

The time I wasn’t playing football was interesting. For most of my life, every hour of every day had been scheduled. All of a sudden something was missing. I did stay in football shape because I love working out and running. I don’t know if ‘bored' was the word, but I second-guessed myself on not wanting to play football.

That was the summer of 2009. My dad had just heard about the GSU program. He didn’t say to go do it. It was just a suggestion.

Growing up, all I knew about Georgia State was they didn’t have football. They had a swimming pool that we used for our county meet in high school. The campus is about 40 minutes from my house.

I interviewed with coach [Bill] Curry in July 2009. He told me I was in the same shoes of other players who had decided not to play and severely regretted it.

That made me think really hard if I would regret it. I definitely would. So I put my helmet on again, and it’s like I never missed a beat.

Being part of history also attracted me. Just being the foundation of something that I can look back, years down the road, and say I was part of the group of men who built that.

The fact that Coach Curry had played center didn’t influence my decision, but it’s definitely a plus now -- just the insight he has on this position.

I have two years of eligibility left. I will be 22 in November. Age-wise, I am one of the older guys on our team. Some of them are right out of high school, so sometimes I’ve felt like their dad.

We’ve dealt with adversity with our practice facility, but it’s cool to see that we are a team that does not bat an eye or complain about our circumstances.

I hope one of our traditions will be the graduation of all the athletes. A degree is something you have forever, and you never know at any time when your last play is.

-- As told to Michelle Hiskey for the AJC