Kickoff arrives Thursday for Georgia State

The young man who may literally kick off Georgia State's first football season – he's not quite as young as he used to be.

Kicker Iain Vance is on his third college, having first walked on at Georgia Tech and then Alabama. Though he has yet to take the field in a college game, he's in his final year of eligibility and at 22, is four years older than some of his teammates. It has been five years since he last played in a game, when he nailed a last-second field goal to lift Duluth High over Chattahoochee.

There's a 50 percent chance that his duties will include kicking off to start the game Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.

"I'll want to remember everything," Vance said. "I'll look around and realize what's going on around me. I'll just take it all in."

For Vance, his teammates, coaches and their school, the wait is finally over. Two years after committing to fielding a football team and 97 years after the school's founding, Georgia State will play football. The Panthers will play Shorter, the first date on its inaugural 11-game schedule that concludes with a Nov. 18 matchup against defending national champion Alabama.

Linebacker Mark Hogan has been eyeing the day since he became the team's first player in Jan. 2009.

"When I first got here, it said ‘800′ days on the [countdown] clock in the locker room," said Hogan, exaggerating slightly.

Hogan, whose father Mark Sr. played for coach Bill Curry at Georgia Tech, was the team's only player for several months. He worked out alone with strength coach Ken Coggins and has been with the team through 104 practices, beginning last fall.

"Football is not exactly an exciting sport to practice every day," said Hogan, whose last game was Thanksgiving Day 2007 for Lincoln-Sudbury High in Massachusetts. "You really look forward to the games. That's what you prepare for."

Safety Michael Hall had left football behind after he helped Dublin High to a state championship in the fall of 2006. He came to Georgia State to become a doctor. Even when the school decided in 2008 to start a team, he wasn't interested. But the hiring of Curry piqued his interest -- Hall grew up an Alabama fan, where Curry coached in the late '80s -- and Hall found himself trying out last fall. Hall, who will play special teams, calls himself blessed.

"Simply because this is somewhere I didn't see myself ever being again," said Hall, who cried during his first fall without football. "It's more than a privilege to play the game of football."

No one has waited longer than Curry, who last roamed a sideline in 1996, at the end of a seven-year run at Kentucky. His last game, a lopsided loss to a Peyton Manning-led Tennessee team, concluded 17 years as a head coach at Tech, Alabama and Kentucky. He returned home to Atlanta and would go on to work for 11 years as an analyst for ESPN.

"I figured it was just all over," Curry said of his coaching career. "To get a reprieve and get to do this all over again, it's thrilling."