Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins speaks at his weekly news conference at Bobby Dodd Stadium November 12, 2019. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Tech coach Geoff Collins remembers Bryce Gowdy: ‘Heartbreaking’

On the evening of Dec. 29, Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins and signees Miles Brooks and Bryce Gowdy were communicating with each other via a group chat, trading text messages about their excitement for the future, Collins said Friday. Brooks and Gowdy were both to enroll at Tech in a matter of days.

For Gowdy, a star wide receiver from Deerfield Beach, Fla., it was never to be. Within hours of that exchange, Gowdy had taken his life by stepping in front of a freight train, according to authorities.

“I don’t know if there’s been a day that’s gone by that I’ve not pulled up that conversation,” Collins said, speaking with media in his team’s staff room. “It was heartbreaking. Because the future that he had earned by working hard and being such a great young man, it hurts.”

In his first public comments regarding Gowdy’s death, Collins remembered the Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High star with warmth and spoke regarding the circumstances of his passing.

“He walked into the room and just was instantly likeable,” Collins said. “Obviously, a tremendous athlete and then, you look at his transcript and he was a great student, and then you just get to be around him – he had a drive to do better and to accomplish things.”

Being in communication with Gowdy, his mother and high school coach, Collins said that Tech coaches “knew a lot of what was going on” with the family’s financial hardship. However, Tech had not received any diagnosis of mental-health issues, according to a school spokesman.

Had Gowdy enrolled at Tech, he would have had resources available to him. All incoming athletes are pre-screened for mental-health issues. Counseling also is available to Tech athletes. In fact, the athletic department recently hired its own full-time sports psychologist.

“I think we’ve already been trying to be on the forefront of the mental-health piece for all of our student-athletes and then in times like this, it even more shows the need for it,” Collins said.

Financially, Gowdy would have received a cost-of-attendance stipend ($1,600 per semester) and possibly been eligible to receive a Pell Grant.

The coaching staff is expected to attend Gowdy’s funeral, which is scheduled to take place Saturday in Deerfield Beach. Collins said that the team has also sought to make contributions to help Gowdy’s family. The plan first has to be steered through NCAA rules.

“I was hoping to be able to speak to that (Friday),” Collins said. “We’re still working through, making sure that we do everything the right way institutionally, personally, to make sure we’re able to help and contribute in some way, shape or form to honor Bryce as well.”

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