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September 24, 2009While last week's battle with in-state rival East Carolina was personal for many members of the UNC football team, there are plenty of Tar Heels from the Atlanta area that feel the same way about this week's matchup with Georgia Tech.
In all, the Tar Heels have a total of five players on the current roster---Shane Mularkey, Quentin Plair, Da'Norris Searcy, T.J. Yates, and Ebele Okakpu---who grew up and/or attended high school in the Atlanta area, which adds another dynamic to Saturday's ACC Coastal Division battle between the Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets.
"Any time that if you're on a team and you're from a particular state, you're certainly going to have high school friends, you're going to have family in the stands, and I think that probably adds a little bit of a spice to it," said UNC head coach Butch Davis.
"Coming home for a lot of the guys like myself, Da'Norris and Shane Mularkey and Ebele and everything, it's going to be a good homecoming," said Yates.
"I'm from Georgia, so to beat the hometown team, it would be great for me," said Searcy. It will be very big for us."
The game is particularly meaningful to Searcy from the standpoint that he grew up playing with and against several players on the Georgia Tech roster, and he personally knows many of them.
"I know half the roster," said Searcy of Georgia Tech. "Yeah, because half of them I grew up with, playing little league. We didn't go to the same high school, but we saw each other's highlights on the FOX channels down there."
"We used to call each other every night before the game," Searcy added. "I saw them play when all of us were in high school, so to go out there and to get a win on them, it would be fun. I'd have a lot of fun with it,"
Although Searcy had his opportunity to attend Georgia Tech and be a Yellow Jacket himself, he made the personal decision to leave the Peach State and attend college away from home---a decision that he's naturally pleased with three years later.
"They (Georgia Tech) offered me, but I wanted to leave the state of Georgia," he said. "I've been there all of my life, so I just wanted to leave. You can always go back home, but it's nice to get away."
Although this particular rivalry doesn't have the intensity of the rivalries with East Carolina and N.C. State because of the proximity of the schools and the fact they're in the same state, the conference clash with Georgia Tech is an especially big deal to these select few Tar Heels that call the state of Georgia home.
It's also very important for every UNC player from the standpoint that it's the first obstacle in their path to a berth in December's ACC Championship Game.
"Certainly it's not as dramatic as the rivalry in-state because of the sheer numbers, but for those guys (from around Atlanta), this is a pretty important game," said Davis.
"It's not as much of a rivalry as ECU was, but a lot of people have family in Atlanta," said Yates. "There's going to be a lot of Carolina Blue there (in Bobby Dodd Stadium) hopefully."