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Georgia Tech freshman move-in day, from parents’ perspective

Georgia Tech freshman defensive end Jared Ivey gives his mother Tracey a hug as she got ready to leave after setting up his dorm room July 5, 2020. (Photo courtesy Tracey Ivey)
Georgia Tech freshman defensive end Jared Ivey gives his mother Tracey a hug as she got ready to leave after setting up his dorm room July 5, 2020. (Photo courtesy Tracey Ivey)

At about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dusty Ross and her husband, Greg, said their good-byes and left Georgia Tech for dinner at the Varsity. They were leaving behind their eldest son, Tech freshman walk-on John Ross, and Tech freshman running back Jahmyr Gibbs, a family friend who has lived with the Rosses for the past three years and is considered family.

Dusty and Greg had just finished an afternoon of moving them into their dormitory to begin voluntary workouts, a prelude to required summer training and then preseason practice.

Dropping children off at college is an emotion-fraught moment at any time for a parent. Doing so in the midst of a global pandemic would seem only to heighten any anxieties. Yet, Dusty Ross said that she returned home to Dalton with nary a restless moment.

“To leave our kids the first time is hard, and you throw in all that’s going on in the world, that amplifies it, and I slept very well last night,” Ross told the AJC on Monday. “I have no worries. I feel like they’re in good hands.”

The Rosses were joined by two other parents in sharing their comfort with their sons’ circumstances with the AJC after they had moved them into Tech on Sunday.

“Tyson’s my baby, and (family members) all thought I was going to be teary-eyed,” said Natalie Meiguez, mother of linebacker Tyson Meiguez. “But you know what? I was OK. As a matter of fact, I told my husband after I got home, I said, ‘You know what? I’m really kind of at peace.’”

As parents described the day, the freshmen first took a COVID-19 test at Good Samaritan Health Center. With a negative result, they could drive to Bobby Dodd Stadium, where coach Geoff Collins and strength coach Lewis Caralla were waiting for them with a distanced greeting and a meal for them to grab before going over to their dormitory to move in.

There, they found the coaching staff and multiple players, including the “big brothers” who’ve been assigned to the freshmen, ready to transport their belongings up to their rooms.

“Players, coaches, they took everything right to his room, so all we had to do was set up,” said Tracey Ivey, mother of defensive end Jared Ivey. “It was a well-oiled machine.”

Natalie Meiguez called the move-in “seamless.” She took note of the condition of the room when her family helped Tyson set up.

“I’ve been to college, my daughter’s in college – I know how dorms typically look,” she said, “and I try to go in and do a little cleaning before but, surprisingly, it was actually clean. It was very clean.”

Parents took comfort in measures that the team and athletic department have taken to try to limit exposure to COVID-19. One was the staggered arrival of team members – first, returning Yellow Jackets players living in metro Atlanta, then returning team members residing farther away and lastly, freshmen. As of Thursday, out of about 160 Tech athletes who had arrived on campus for workouts, three had tested positive for COVID-19 – all before they began workouts – as had three staff.

“It was just a smart idea that they brought everybody back in stages so they could have a controlled situation,” Ivey said.

Georgia Tech freshmen football players Jahmyr Gibbs (right) and John Ross in their dorm room on the day they moved in July 5, 2020. (Photo courtesy Dusty Ross)
Georgia Tech freshmen football players Jahmyr Gibbs (right) and John Ross in their dorm room on the day they moved in July 5, 2020. (Photo courtesy Dusty Ross)

Another step was asking athletes to limit interaction in the two weeks before they got to campus.

On Sunday, all players and coaches were masked, parents said. Collins has stressed to players the importance of wearing masks whenever out in public and, for those staying in the dorms, to remain on campus.

“Coach Collins said, ‘You’re not coming to Atlanta to hang in the city of Atlanta,’” Meiguez said. “’You’re coming to Georgia Tech to work out so that we can play football.’ Oh, yeah, he’s very serious.”

Said Ivey, “Coach is very clear on, once you’re on campus, you stay on campus. Which is totally OK with us as parents.”

Speaking Monday with 680 the Fan, Collins said the team’s operations staff “does a great job organizing everything so that parents would feel really safe. The parents saw the plan, how we would execute it, the level of care we have for our guys.”

While there are no guarantees to avoid infection, Ivey observed Collins’ commitment to limiting exposure.

“He’s not going to take any chances, and he doesn’t want to take any chances with the kids or their families,” she said.

Beyond safety measures, the parents said they had appreciated the communication efforts from the coaching staff. Just after leaving Tech for the Varsity, Dusty Ross got a call from running backs coach Tashard Choice, who had led the recruitment of Gibbs. Collins had also called Gibbs the night before he moved in.

“(Choice) was like, You OK, Moms, Pops?” Ross said. “That’s what he calls us. We’re like, we’re fine. We did good. The boys were good.”

There’s little telling as to whether Tech’s efforts to keep team members virus-free will lead to an actual season. But, they at least have offered their parents peace of mind. On Sunday afternoon, Tracey Ivey gave the baby of her family a tight hug and then left him on campus. Figuratively speaking, she didn’t feel the need to look back.

“I am comfortable, and my heart and my spirit are at ease,” she said. “I think he’s in the right place with the right people.”