By Doug Gorman
Former Lovejoy High School running back Tashard Choice will finish his college football career closer to home.
After originally signing to play college football with the Oklahoma Sooners, Choice has transferred to Georgia Tech and is enrolled in school for the winter semester.
"He is at Tech and he is very excited," said Lovejoy football coach Al Hughes.
At Oklahoma, Choice was redshirted during the 2003 season, and then saw limited playing time this year when true freshman Adrian Peterson burst on the scene, finishing the season as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Choice came out of spring practice as the Sooners' starting running back, but a hamstring injury sidelined him and allowed Peterson to move ahead of him on the team's depth chart in the fall.
Despite playing behind Peterson, Choice put up some impressive numbers of his own, rushing for 100 yards on 22 carriers. His best game came against Texas Tech as he gained 71 yards on 22 carries.
The Lovejoy graduate also took care of business in the classroom, earning a spot on the Big 12 All-Academic Team.
Transferring to Georgia Tech gives the Yellow Jackets a second chance at the former Lovejoy standout, who was named the Daily's Southern Crescent Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2002.
For a time, Tech heavily recruited the Lovejoy running back before he elected to sign with the Sooners.
"He wanted to go to Tech right out of high school, but things just didn't work out," said Hughes. "They ended up recruiting another running back, so he elected to go to Oklahoma. It's nice to see things have worked out this time."
During his senior season at Lovejoy, Choice showed his ability to both run and catch the football, rushing for 1,200 yards. He also was one of the Wildcats' top receivers, finishing with 600 yards in receiving.
Choice led the team with 17 touchdowns, 15 coming on the ground.
"He was a great running back for us," said Hughes. "In our offense, we spread the football out so much, he was just one player among many to touch the football. In a more traditional offense, he would have probably put up even bigger numbers."
Lovejoy finished the season with a 9-3 record, losing in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs to Westside-Macon.
Hughes remembers Choice for his leadership on and off the field.
"He was one of those guys everybody looked up to for guidance," said Hughes. "He was always there for our younger players."
Choice is the third Clayton County resident to join the Georgia Tech football team in recent years. Former Jonesboro standouts Darrell Robertson and Jamal Lewis just completed their freshman seasons with the Yellow Jackets.
Both Jonesboro graduates played key roles on the Yellow Jackets' special teams this past season as Tech finished 7-5 and went to its eighth straight bowl game.
Tech fans will have to wait a year to watch Choice run the football at Bobby Dodd Stadium. According to NCAA rules, Choice can practice with the team, but can not play during the 2005 season.
He will have two years of eligibility remaining when he takes the field in 2006, but could emerge as a starter in the Tech backfield as current starting running back P.J. Daniels graduates after the 2005 season.