He signed with Tech, expecting to lead a pro-style offense under coach Chan Gailey.
But Gailey was replaced in 2008 by Johnson, whose offense was predicated on rushing and option principles.
Rather than transfer, Nesbitt won the starting job in 2008, leading the team to a 9-4 record that included a 45-42 victory over Georgia in Athens, which Nesbitt said was one of his favorite memories, and No. 22 ranking in the final AP poll.
Nesbitt’s skill running the offense blossomed in 2009, helped by players such as Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer, Anthony Allen, Roddy Jones and Sean Bedford.
The team knocked off Clemson, North Carolina, Mississippi State and then Florida State 49-44 in the “lightning game” in Tallahassee. That game remains one of Nesbitt’s favorite memories because one of his cousins grew up a fan of the Seminoles, so they always watched FSU games. To play on the field, and to play well, was special to Nesbitt.
“No matter what was called, no matter what defense they gave us, we were clicking,” he said.
Still, the team needed a special play from Nesbitt to secure the win.
Tech was driving when Nesbitt rolled right and pitched right. But the pitch was slightly behind the A-back. The ball was picked up by a Florida State linebacker Nigel Carr, who tried to run toward the Tech end zone.
Furious at himself but still focused enough to notice the defender was carrying the ball loosely, Nesbitt ran over, took the ball from him as they were running and regained the ball for Tech.
Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt, right, runs for fourth quarter yardage as Florida State's Nigel Bradham, left, attempts to make the tackle during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009, in Tallahassee, Fla. Georgia Tech won 49-44. (AP Photo/Phil Coale)
Credit: Phil Coale
Credit: Phil Coale
The awareness, athletic ability, leadership and skill shown in those few seconds were an example of what Nesbitt brought to the team.
“I believe we were just meant to win that game,” he said.
There were a few more coming: 28-23 over No. 4 Virginia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the night the goalposts were carried off into the night, and then another victory over Clemson to secure the ACC championship. Though that title later was taken away by the NCAA because of, what where in hindsight minor violations, Nesbitt said, “We all know who won that game.”
The following season wasn’t as successful. Gone were Thomas and Dwyer to the NFL, as well as safety Morgan Burnett and defensive end Derrick Morgan. Nesbitt said he still talks to Thomas and Burnett, among a handful of former teammates, every day.
The lowlight for Nesbitt came in Blacksburg on a freezing Thursday night in November.
That’s when his college career was stopped by a broken arm, suffered while trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception.
“I had no business throwing the ball to Ant Allen in the flats,” he said. “I should have just ate it or thrown it away. As soon as I threw it, I knew it was a pick. Let me just get him down, and we will get back into the game. As soon as he hit my arm, everything went numb. If I had known that was going to happen I would have just laid him out and knocked him out of bounds.”
He held these records when his college career was over: the ACC's all-time leader in two rushing categories for quarterbacks: yards (2,806) and touchdowns (35). He ranked seventh on Tech's career rushing yards list. He was responsible for 55 touchdowns, fourth most in Tech history.
Nesbitt began preparing for the NFL as a safety. He signed with Buffalo until suffering a hamstring injury. He worked out for Carolina, but it had enough safeties.
That’s when Nesbitt decided that he needed a job and to finish his degree.
In the winter of 2013, he called Doug Allvine, assistant athletic director for innovation at Tech.
“Hey Doug, how’s it going?” Allvine remembers. “I need help getting a job.”
“Let’s back up, ‘who is this?’” Allvine answered.
“It was Josh.”
From that cold call came a lifeline, goals to go after.
Allvine had helped Reynolds Plantation with a speaker and presentation for alumni. He asked if they needed anyone.
Nesbitt soon went to work helping take care of the golf course in January 2013.
He was re-admitted into Tech and that summer started completing his last three semesters, making the 60-70 minute drive from Greensboro.
“At first, it was mind-boggling, getting back used to schoolwork,” Nesbitt said. “Then it was actually easier because I had nothing else to focus on but schoolwork. I had all the time I needed to get in there.”
Nesbitt said there were no other football players in his classes, but he was recognized by some of the students, which he described as nice.
As graduation neared, Allvine introduced Nesbitt to Al Trujillo, president of the Georgia Tech Foundation. A piece of advice Trujillo gave Nesbitt resonated: “Be your very confident self, and a very interesting opportunity will develop – I have no doubt.”
Trujillo coached Nesbitt on interviews and helped him network.
Soon, the Georgia Lottery offered a Nesbitt a job as a sales rep. With a baby on the way, he accepted.
Nesbitt said Trujillo remains his mentor.
Nesbitt now manages a territory that includes 130 stores. On a typical day, he will see 12-15 clients before heading to Greene County, his alma mater, to start coaching the quarterbacks.
Nesbitt’s approach to coaching is more about conversation and less about volume.
“Kids were kind of shocked,” he said. “Do you ever yell? I’ve been through the game of football. I understand when a kid comes off the field, you don’t need me yelling in your ear, giving you another problem to worry about.
“Life is good. Take it one day at a time and have fun with it.”
090417 -Atlanta- GA Tech football player Josh Nesbitt poses for his portrait on Friday, April 17, 2009 at Georgia Tech. Photo by JOHNNY CRAWFORD / Jcrawford@ajc.com
Credit: Johnny Crawford
Credit: Johnny Crawford