Tech’s Connor Justus has an unusual plan for his signing bonus

Georgia Tech shortstop Connor Justus has been insistent about what he wants to do with his six-figure signing bonus. Justus’ parents have been adamantly opposed.

This tension level of the Justus’ conversations have likely measured differently than most money squabbles. Justus, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Los Angeles Angels, wants to pay back his student loans as a thank you to his parents. Mom and Dad, however, want no part of their son’s generosity.

“I would say we agree to disagree,” said Barry Justus, Connor’s father.

Justus, from Cartersville, said the idea came to him one day as the enormity of his payday became clearer. Justus, who said Monday that he was to fly out to Utah on Tuesday for a physical and to sign his contract, wants to take the burden off his parents’ shoulders.

“They really want me to just focus on myself, but I really want to take that on and help them out, because they’ve sacrificed for me in getting to this position and pursuing my dream as far as getting drafted,” said Justus, who was named third-team All-ACC this season. “I would love to help them out.”

Often, draftees will reward themselves – and others, depending on the size of the signing bonus – with a trophy such as a car. Assuming student-loan obligations is not a popular choice, although in Division I football and basketball, it’s really not an option. Most major-college college baseball players are on partial scholarships, while football and basketball players enjoy a full ride. Baseball coaches have 11.7 scholarships to divide among 35 players.

In a text message, Tech coach Danny Hall said he had never heard of a player using his signing bonus money as Justus hoped to do, “but I’m not surprised that Connor is doing this. Very respectful young man.”

Justus didn’t have the final figures Monday, as his advisor and the Angels worked out the details, but his bank account is about to get swamped. In last year’s draft, the player drafted in his spot – 156th overall – reportedly signed for $250,000, although the players drafted immediately before and after him signed for $335,400 and $315,000, respectively.

Justus elevated his draft candidacy by becoming a much tougher out as a junior. Focused on driving the ball between the gaps and getting on base, Justus hit .324 with a .422 on-base percentage, the latter a 93-point gain. Justus’ deft work at shortstop helped the Jackets lead the country in double plays for the second time in three seasons.

Neither Justus nor his parents were sure exactly how much they’ll owe. Total in-state student costs for this past school year at Tech were estimated at $25,780.

“Baseball scholarships are nice, but they obviously don’t cover 100 percent of cost by any means,” Barry Justus said.

Barry, a banker, and his wife Suzi, an elementary school teacher, have had a couple conversations with Connor about his idea. They have long told Connor and his older sister Morgan that as long as they stayed out of trouble, did well in school, were great kids (“which he’s been,” Barry said) and, in Connor’s case, did everything he could on the baseball field, they would start them off in life with no student-loan obligations.

Payback was never part of the deal as the Justuses made the 45-minute (without traffic) drive over the years for practices with the East Cobb travel team, crisscrossed the Southeast for tournaments and funded his pursuit of a professiional baseball career.

“When you have a child that’s in sports and that’s their dream, that’s their passion, you just do what you have to do to help them fulfill their dream,” Barry Justus said. “You don’t ever want anything back for that.”

The conversation may continue as Connor begins his professional career in Utah with the Orem Owls, the Angels’ rookie-league affiliate.

“We’re probably going to bump heads a little bit more, but that’s the way it goes,” Justus said. “I’ll talk them into it eventually.”

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