Amid the highs and lows of upset victories and bitter losses to Georgia Tech’s archrival, Reggie Ball’s life was forever changed, but not as much as it was transformed by a young boy who saw Ball through the eyes of hero worship.
Ball was a sophomore when Tech played at Clemson on Sept. 11, 2004. Trailing 17-14 late in the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets faced a tall task against the No. 20 Tigers. Tech earlier cut into a 10-point lead with a long touchdown drive capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ball to Levon Thomas.
The score gave Tech its first points since Ball’s 37-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Calvin Johnson early in the game. That was the first touchdown for Johnson in his career, and he’d have more to come on that wondrous night.
Facing a second-and-11 from near midfield with the clock ticking close to three minutes, defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta dialed up a blitz, hoping to get the ball back to the offense. Instead, Kyle Browning found a massive hole through the middle and went 54 yards for a daggering touchdown. As the Clemson faithful celebrated, ABC broadcaster Brent Musburger pronounced Tech’s fate: “That has probably put this one away for the Clemson Tigers.”
But young Carter Martin wouldn’t give up on Tech … not with Ball at quarterback.