Georgia Tech cornerback D.J. White realizes he doesn’t possess a full understanding of the impact and meaning of his game-clinching interception against Georgia last November. That’s quite O.K. with him.
“It’s hard to really soak it in right now, just because I’ve got one more year and I want to do well this year,” White said Monday at the ACC Kickoff. “But I think when I graduate from Tech and I get done here, I can really look back on it with a lot more fond memories.”
Even still, White relishes his indelible place in the annals of the Tech-Georgia rivalry. White intercepted Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason inside the Tech 10-yard line in overtime, securing the Yellow Jackets’ 30-24 victory over Georgia at Sanford Stadium. White has been approached at the airport, a restaurant and other places by well-wishers.
“I’ve had fans walk up to me and be like, Hey, man, sweet pick against Georgia,” White said. “That’s never happened to me since I’ve been at Tech.”
White, from McDonough and Union Grove High, grew up watching the Tech-Georgia game. He called it flattering to join the likes of Roddy Jones, Luke Manget and Gary Lee, among others, for their outsized roles in Tech wins over Georgia. After the game, Jones, who called the game for Tech’s radio broadcast, approached him in the locker room.
“I told him, ‘Soak it all in’ because he was now a Georgia Tech legend,” Jones said. “He probably doesn’t realize it now, or didn’t realize it at the time, but it means a lot to people, and having gone through it, I told him, ‘It’s big time.’ It’s big time for sure.”
Jones authored the signature play of Tech’s 2008 win – in coach Paul Johnson’s first season and the last win over the Bulldogs prior to last November – by running down the sideline for a 54-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. He was in Pinehurst as the new sideline reporter for the ACC Network.
“It’s still tough to really wrap my head around it, but it means a lot,” Jones said of his Bulldog-beating play. “It ended up being something that defined my career, and I’ll say in large part propelled me to the places I’ve been now. He’s a good guy who’ll have similar things happen to him, I’m sure.”
White, a senior, has the opportunity to build on the legacy. He’ll return for his third season as a starter, after a junior season in which he recorded 66 tackles and contributed a team-high four interceptions. He is a leader and one of eight returning starters of a defense that tied for 17th in the country in takeaways – many of them uncannily well-timed – but also was 111th out of 128 FBS teams in yards-per-play (6.32).
White said the defense hasn’t determined its goals yet, “but I know for us, we just want to get better as far as keeping guys out of the end zone and keeping the yardage totals down.”
It is a part of the defense’s desire to earn the sort of acclaim that its counterpart on offense has earned for its record-breaking performance under Johnson.
“As a defense, we can’t get comfortable with the fact that our offense is doing what they’re doing because when you get caught coasting, we don’t make the plays we’re supposed to make,” White said. “So part of our mindset is to go out there, like, O.K., let’s establish our own identity.”
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