No Choice but to respect Georgia Tech's running game
Originally Published: September 13, 2007By Jorge Milian | Special to ESPN.com
Tashard Choice knows how to keep his blockers fat and happy.Every now and then, Georgia Tech's standout tailback surprises his five starting offensive linemen, tight end and fullback with a mouth-watering dish from his mom's kitchen.
Near the end of last season, Rosa Hamm whipped up a batch of chicken pot pies for her son's teammates. Rumor has it that some of the Yellow Jackets' offensive linemen who live together were stealing from each other's portions. "They're probably the best things I've ever tasted," Georgia Tech left guard Matt Rhodes said. "Hopefully, we can block well for him this year so it becomes a weekly tradition." Ms. Hamm might want to start heating up her oven. After a sensational 2006 season, during which he led the ACC in rushing with 1,473 yards, Choice has gotten off to an equally good start this season while leading Georgia Tech to a No. 15 national ranking and a 2-0 record heading into Saturday's primetime showdown with Boston College (2-0, 2-0 ACC) in Atlanta (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET). In about five quarters of action, Choice has rung up a conference-leading 153-yard rushing average while extending his school-record run of consecutive 100-yard games to nine. That might come as a surprise to the voters who failed to make Choice a first-team All-ACC selection last season, even though he had the third-most productive season by a running back in league history. (Virginia's Thomas Jones ran for an ACC-record 1,798 yards in 1999. North Carolina's Don McCauley had 1,720 yards in 1970.) Clemson's James Davis (149 votes) and Virginia Tech's Branden Ore (134) were picked as the ACC's first-team running backs last season. Choice, with 103 votes, wasn't even close -- though neither Davis nor Ore came within 300 yards of his rushing total. If you thought that slight didn't annoy the outspoken and fiercely competitive Choice, you would be wrong. "That was one of the biggest signs of disrespect that I could have received," said Choice, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior from Riverdale, Ga. "Not just for me, but for the linemen, the coaches, everybody. It's just total disrespect. Those guys [Davis and Ore] had a great season last year, but I don't think none of them had a better season than me." Part of the reason Choice may not have gotten his due was the presence of receiver Calvin Johnson, the ACC Player of the Year. With Johnson hogging the spotlight with his sensational ability and acrobatic catches, there was little room for anyone else. Choice said he heard people say "you can't do this without Calvin," which was part of the reason he decided to return for his senior season instead of opting to enter the NFL draft. "Last year, we had Calvin and a lot of attention went to him and to [quarterback] Reggie Ball," Choice said. "A lot of people overlooked me, but that was OK. This year, I'm the focal point of the offense. "It's different. A lot of attention is going to me, which brings a lot of responsibility. But I'm all for it."
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTashard Choice led the ACC in rushing in 2006.
That was one of the biggest signs of disrespect that I could have received. Not just for me, but for the linemen, the coaches, everybody. It's just total disrespect. Those guys [Davis and Ore] had a great season last year, but I don't think none of them had a better season than me.