If you’ve ever stepped foot on campus on a Saturday between the months of August and November, you’re familiar with the football game-day traditions the Tech community holds dear. There’s the tailgating, the Ramblin’ Reck rumbling onto the field before the game, the cries of “To Hell with Georgia!”But like all traditions, these are in constant flux. Georgia Tech’s obsession with innovation extends even to these, its most sacred rituals—every new generation of Yellow Jackets puts a new spin on the old standbys. In honor of the 2012-13 season kickoff, the Alumni Magazine explores how new and old traditions live side-by-side, on and off the field. And don’t forget the ultimate Tech tradition, Homecoming, back again Oct. 25-27. (Click here to register and for more information.)
The Georgia Tech Goldfellas, a wily bunch of superfans in wigs and yellow body paint, first appeared at the 1998 homecoming game against the University of Virginia. These days, their ringleader is a character named Ghetto Buzz, who came on the scene around 2001. Ghetto Buzz filled us in on his and the Fellas’ game-day rituals.
When Tech has a home game, the Goldfellas’ day begins at 7:30 a.m. After several hours of tailgating, about two hours before kickoff, the painting begins. We all paint ourselves. The first coat is a nice yellow lather applied all over the upper half of the body, making sure that none of our skin is showing. Next, our designated “stripers” stripe the arms of each Goldfella with four black stripes.
After everyone is striped, it’s time for the most important part of the painting process: the faces. Each Goldfella has a unique face-paint design. Whenever a member graduates, we retire his face; right now we’re working on a book of all the different faces, to make it easier to keep track.
Once that’s done, each Goldfella grabs a wig and six pom-poms: two for their front side, two for their backside and one for each hand. The final component to the painting process is the letter on each Goldfella’s chest. When we all stand in a row, it spells out a word or phrase, different for every game. This is generally based on seniority—the guys that have been “painting up” longest usually get the first letters. Once the letter is painted on, glitter is sprinkled onto the wet paint and the march to the stadium begins.
We march from our tailgate location to the corner of Boddy Dodd Way and Techwood Drive. On the way, all the Goldfellas sing Georgia Tech fight songs and I lead various other Yellow Jackets cheers. When we arrive, I lead the pack in a quick chant followed by a run up Techwood towards the North Avenue gate on the south side of the stadium. Once inside the stadium, Goldfellas all stand up in the front row throughout the game. We stay until the last second on the clock has expired, all the while cheering on the Jackets as they march up and down the field. We have a few chants we use every game: Tech’s two fight songs, “Don’t Send my Boy to MIT,” “Clemson is a Redneck School,” and of course the “What’s the good word?” chant.
It is completely free to join the Goldfellas and it’s open to all Yellow Jackets fanatics. Be sure to look out for us during the games—we’re hard to miss.
On Sept. 8, the 80-year-old Ramblin’ Reck will begin its 51st season leading the Yellow Jackets onto Grant Field. Here’s how Stephen Weber, the 2011-12 season driver and a fourth year business administration major, gets the Reck ready for a big game.
It all starts with a Friday afternoon Reck washing. While the club waxes and scrubs, I go through my routine of checking the oil levels, adding some radiator fluid and adding my own finishing touches.
Game-day mornings usually have a 7 a.m. wake-up call. I throw on my Reck Club polo and GT straw hat, make a trip to Waffle House #1885 with the rest of the Ramblin’ Reck Club and then the joy riding begins. We travel from tailgate to tailgate, blaring the horn and getting everyone fired up for the game. We visit Jacket Alley and make the drive down Freshman Hill. Once the Reck is parked under the stands, it seems like forever until it’s time to cross my fingers, kick the starter and have 50,000 fans watch the car get to second gear and break the banner with the Yellow Jackets headed to victory behind me.
From the smiles the Reck puts on people’s faces, to the folks I get to interact with, to the chance to introduce the engineering prowess of Tech to the world, it is a huge honor to drive the one and only.
My wife, Lindsey, and I are recent graduates of the Institute (both industrial engineering, class of 2011), and we were married soon after getting out. Our game-day traditions come from different backgrounds. Lindsey is a seventh-generation Atlantan. Her father is Tim Gunter, NE 79, a defensive back for the Yellow Jackets in 1972-74. Also in her family are one or two players from Bobby Dodd’s legendary 1951 and 1952 teams. Lindsey’s family raised her as a Tech fan from the start. She remembers wearing engineer’s caps to games throughout her early childhood and learning never to wear anything red or orange to the campus. I, on the other hand, attended my first Tech game in a pressed white shirt and gold tie as a fraternity pledge. Despite my unfamiliarity with the Jackets before that day, I was hooked instantly and haven’t missed a home game since then. Lindsey graciously gave up her family seat at field level to accompany me as my date in the Greek block. We would rise early and dress up, eat and tailgate with my fraternity, visit with Lindsey’s family, get into the stadium early and make it a point to remain standing, yelling and singing the entire game. Our wedding gift to one another was a season ticket. We still dress up and encourage the fans in the upper north deck to follow the lead of the students below to stay loud and rowdy. We love Saturdays at Grant Field, and we hope to continue the family tradition of cheering on the Yellow Jackets no matter what. Jason Kuykendall, ID 11, Marietta, Ga.
We tailgate with members of the Cobb/Marietta Alumni Network and other friends behind the Mason building. We get out there pretty early for the Saturday games and as early as we can for the Thursday night games. Most of the time we will have Ted Partridge, IE 03, cooking beef or pork in his smoker and Adam Swinehart, a former Tech student and huge Yellow Jackets fan, will sometimes grace us with his Brunswick stew, which is the best I have ever had. (He won’t share his family recipe so don’t even ask.) While we are enjoying each other’s food and company we always have some music coming out of the custom Igloo cooler speaker boxes with Ted acting as DJ. The one constant from week to week is plenty of talk about the impending game and plenty of cold beer. Occasionally we will even break out the margarita machine. This year we are expanding our traditions by incorporating my ex-military “deuce and a half” vehicle, affectionately known as the “Rumblin’ Wreck,” into our tailgate. The truck has a train horn, four public-address speakers (we’ll use them to play the fight song) and room for 16 of our closest friends. Hopefully the truck will draw attention to our Alumni Network and encourage people to participate in our tailgates. We also hope to add a pressure cooker and a fryer to our lineup this year so that we can have boiled peanuts and buffalo wings. Ben Davis, IE 04, President, Cobb/Marietta Alumni Network
In its natty gold and white uniforms, the Georgia Tech Marching band keeps the crowd pumped up before, during and after every single game. But how does the band get itself ready? We asked Emily Fitzharris, a third-year double major in polymer fiber engineering and applied languages and intercultural studies, who will be the trumpet section leader this fall.
About two and a half hours before kick off, the spirit bands meet at Calloway Plaza to play the team into the stadium. After this, I go around with the spirit bands and we play different songs all over campus for people tailgating. Then we head to the Campanille, where we do another warm-up with the entire band followed by a small performance to get the crowd excited.
After we finish “Ramblin’ Wreck,” the band runs up to the library. The trumpet section goes to the basement, waiting until we hear the tubas start to play “Budweiser.” Then we scream and run up the stairs and out the front doors of the library to join the rest of the band. We march down Freshman Hill, playing the fight songs again. At the bottom of the hill, the band sets up on the stairs and holds another concert for the fans.
Next, we sprint into the tunnel, where sections have their own traditions. The trumpet section has something called a “Doh Speech” in which “The Dohmeister” gives a pep talk about how Paul Johnson is going to lead the mighty Yellow Jackets to a victory over the opposing team. The Dohmeister has a small tub of Play Doh that he shapes into the mascot of the other team. When the speech is over, he throws the Play Doh mascot on the ground and stomps on it. (The Play Doh mascot is then placed back in the jar and a RAT holds onto it for the rest of the game. It’s good luck to rub the Play Doh, so if the team isn’t playing well, it’s the RAT’s job to rub it.)
In the tunnel, the tubas play the tuba polka and the entire band dances and sings along. This leads straight into my favorite game-day tradition, when the entire band sings “To Hell with Georgia.” This always gets me super excited for the game and makes me extremely proud to be a Yellow Jacket!
After we finish pregame on the field, we go into the stands and enjoy the game. Everyone cheers and sitting is not allowed. We play often during the game, and each year band director Chris Moore does arrangements of popular songs, like Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win,” and those always get the crowd pumped.
Just because you leave Atlanta after getting out doesn’t make you any less of a Tech fan—it just makes it a little harder to be among your own kind. What’s the best way to keep in touch with fellow alumni and keep tabs on the team? Follow the lead of these grads and connect with a local Alumni Network. Find one near you at gtalumni.org/networks.
In August 2011 I moved to Austin, Texas, to start my master’s in civil engineering at the University of Texas. And while I met lots of new people at orientation and in my classes, I still felt like something was missing.
During the four years I spent at Georgia Tech, I grew so much as a person. By surrounding myself with bright, passionate, clever, caring people, I learned what it meant to invest in others. I learned what it felt like to be an engaging, contributing member of a team, not only in the classroom, but in organizations as well.
Within a month of moving to Austin, I realized I needed to find my GT family again.
I had heard of the Alumni Association (I had been part of the Student Alumni Association my last year at Tech) and hoped there might be a few GT people in Austin. I found the Heart of Texas/Austin Facebook group and sent a message to the president: “I just graduated, I’m new to Austin, is there a way to get involved?”
I didn’t know what to expect, but the network president, JT Genter, Mgt 07, was enthusiastic from the get-go. He did more than fill me in on the network—he welcomed me to Austin. Soon I was planning a young alumni happy hour, serving as the young alumni ambassador and serving as a point of contact and support in a city I’d just moved to. It felt so right.
Last fall, I went to several football-watching parties and was so excited to purposefully wear Georgia Tech apparel again. Surrounded by others, old and young, proudly wearing their GT polos and tees, I felt at home. Of course, I did more talking than football-watching at the parties, mainly because I was so excited to get to meet others and hear about all the different paths people have pursued after Tech. We did the Budweiser song and sang the fight song proudly.
Some of my best friends are starting to come from the GT Network in Austin. Continuing to be part of the Georgia Tech family is something I will always seek out and cherish—no matter where I am in the world. Heather Hill, CE 11
When I graduated from Tech I accepted a job that required relocation to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I was thrilled about the opportunity, but I was on my own in a new city where I didn’t know a single person.
A few coworkers were active in their universities’ alumni networks, so I reached out to our Alumni Association in hopes of finding something similar. There wasn’t anything established in the area yet, so the GTAA encouraged me to help start a Fort Lauderdale network. We planned a dinner event to gauge interest and ended up having a huge turnout. Alumni came from all parts of the city and many said they tired of having to travel long distances to get to other alumni events.
The pace hasn’t slowed since. Over the past year we’ve grown to more than 50 members and have great turnouts to all events. I went from worrying if I had anyone to watch a football game with to trying to find locations that could accommodate us all for game-watching parties. My fellow Tech alumni in Fort Lauderdale quickly became a source for networking and support in addition to sports-watching companions. Tech didn’t just help prepare me for the real world—the Institute is now also supporting me in the transition to my new life.
Paint up Like the Goldfellas
Alumni and current students alike are invited to join up with the Goldfellas, who meet at the W21 parking area before every home game. Here’s some insider tips from Ghetto Buzz himself.
Arrive on time, two and a half hours before kickoff. You’ve got to allow time to paint up and let it dry before the walk to the stadium.
Achieve full coverage. Don’t forget the backsides of your arms, armpits, sides of your stomach, back of your ears and chest directly below your neck.
Come prepared. Have a few ideas for your Goldfellas face in case your top choice is taken. The face you choose is yours for your entire Goldfella career, so choose wisely!
Smoke Like Ted Partridge, IE 04
I’ve brought a grill to many tailgates, but the past few seasons I’ve relied more on my Orion smoker. It’s a charcoal convection smoker, which means it cooks faster than a conventional smoker. For the UGA game in 2009, I smoked six Boston butts over seven hours.
Sometimes I’ll brine the Boston butts or turkeys the night before in a mixture of one gallon water, two quarts apple juice, half a cup of brown sugar and a handful of spices. In the morning, I dry them off and apply a pre-mixed dry rub.
The smoker is idiot-proof—you load it with food, wood chips and charcoal, light it, then check the meat temperature when you think it should be close to done.
Throw a Perfect Cornhole Game
It seems easy enough: You throw a beanbag into a hole cut into a plywood board propped up 30 feet away. But if you’ve ever played Cornhole, you know it can get tricky—especially after a morning spent tailgating. According to CornholeCornhole.com, it’s crucial to keep an eye on your beanbag’s arc, slide and overall form. For more tips like this, including “6 Cornhole Throws You Have to Try,” visit cornholecornhole.com.
Outsource Your Burger
If you want to start your game day off with a juicy hunk of beef and cold drink while avoiding the tailgating crowds, try one of these local Atlanta spots—all within a quick drive from campus: Bocado (bocadoatlanta.com), Yeah! Burger (yeahburger.com; go for the Howell Mill location), Flip Burger Boutique (flipburgerboutique.com; opt for the one on Howell Mill), The Vortex (thevortexbarandgrill.com; the Peachtree Street NE one’s closest). And, of course, there’s always this little place called The Varsity.
Every year at Homecoming, members of the classes celebrating their 25th, 40th and 50th anniversaries of getting out gather for reunions to catch up with old friends and reminisce about the years shared together on campus. We asked some alumni to reflect on what those reunions mean to them.
Planning our 25th reunion, I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with Georgia Tech. It’s been bringing back some fond memories. Tech gave me a foundation to be successful in my business. And I’m looking forward to seeing all of my classmates and rekindling those relationships. Steve Zembrzuski, EE 87, Alpharetta, Ga.
As my class nears its 40th reunion, my thoughts turn to all of the people who started at Tech with me. Living in Atlanta and being an active volunteer at Tech, I’m fortunate that I have the opportunity to see and work with many long-time friends. Our freshman football squad and SAE pledge class have both had well-attended reunions, so I have had the opportunity to build on those relationships. Just the few meetings of our reunion committee have also given me a chance to work with the mature version of other friends. I’m looking forward to Homecoming weekend. Meade Sutterfield, EE 72, Atlanta
For all of us, our 50th reunion should be a seminal event in our lives. I have never met a Tech graduate who was not thankful for going through the “Marine Corps of Academia.” It was very tough, but the experience certainly made a difference in our lives. I cannot believe it has been 50 years. It seems like not that long ago because the memories are still very strong and the friendships are all like family.
I have enjoyed making phone calls to some of my former classmates and fraternity brothers to encourage them to attend our reunion events. We all should be keenly aware that about 20 percent of our graduating class is no longer with us. For some of us, this could be our last reunion, our last chance to renew old acquaintances and get caught up on each others’ lives. And if you have not seen the Tech campus recently, you owe it to yourself to do so.
I want our reunion party on Friday night to be very memorable. Our party co-chairs, Jere Drummond, IE 62, and Bill Knight, IE 62, MS Mgt 68, have put in a lot of work to create a special event. It is rumored that Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley are going to join us!
Whether or not you can attend your reunion, consider giving something back to Tech for the blessings you have received from being associated with this institution. There are numerous ways to accomplish that. We are very close to setting an all-time class donation record. We have been challenged by the class of 1961 to beat their record. So let’s challenge each other to step up for Dean Griffin, Coach Dodd, Fred Lanoue, George P. Burdell, the Ramblin’ Wreck and Buzz. Parker H. “Pete” Petit, ME 62, MS EM 64, Roswell, Ga.
All details are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information and to see a full schedule, visit gthomecoming.gatech.edu.
Homecoming Keynote Presentation and John P. Imlay Jr. Distinguished Lecture
Abelard to Apple: The Fate of Georgia Tech and American Universities
Rich DeMillo, PhD ICS 72, Distinguished Professor of Computing at Georgia Tech, Director of the Center for 21st Century Universities
Oct. 25, 6-7 p.m.
Global Learning Center 236
Reception to follow
The Life and Times of George P. Burdell
Delivered by Marilyn Somers, director of Living History
Oct. 26, 12-1 p.m.
Global Learning Center 235
Campus Update with President G. P. “Bud” Peterson
Oct. 26, 1:30-2:30 p.m.,
Global Learning Center 236
50th Reunion Party, Class of 1962
Oct. 26, 6:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
Georgia Tech Hotel
40th Reunion Party, Class of 1972
Oct. 26, 7-10:30 p.m., Klaus Atrium
25th Reunion Party, Class of 1987
Oct. 26, 7:30-10:30 p.m.
The Barrelhouse at Tech Square
Ramblin’ Wreck Rally Tailgate
Oct. 27, 2.5 hours before kickoff
Tech Tower Lawn
Maybe the most crucial game-day traditions are the ones that get the Yellow Jackets themselves ready to get down on the gridiron. Louis Young, junior cornerback and a business management major, walked us through his typical pre-game ritual, from wake-up to kickoff.
For breakfast I eat a bowl of Fruit Loops cereal, scrambled eggs and a couple pieces of bacon. I try not to eat too much. Sometimes I just eat the bowl of cereal and a banana. Always Fruit Loops.
You can then chill a little bit. Some people stay busy looking over the playbook, but I just relax while listening to music and going over some of the stuff from practice. I listen to Yo Gotti, Rick Ross, Future, Gucci Mane, Jim Jones, Jadakiss, and I always listen to DMX before every game. Always, that’s a must.
I take a shower, just sit, get dressed and listen to my music. That is about 45 minutes before the team meal. We eat our meal and our team chaplain comes in and gives us the message of the day. He talks to us and gets us amped up.
After that, Coach talks to us and we get ready to get on the bus. I call my dad and he prays with me over the phone, and he always says, “You’ll see me after the win.”
The bus ride for a home game has a little bit of traffic, but with our police escort it’s pretty much a straight shot. Then you hit that turn at the corner of Yellow Jacket Alley. You see all the tailgating and everyone on campus screaming and cheering you on. The offense gets off first. Then defense, we get off. With all the fans it’s just an extra boost of energy before you go into the locker room. I can’t even hear the fans, really, because I have my headphones blasting. The band is out there, the cheerleaders, the dancers and the cameras. It’s just exciting.
In the locker room, I set my stuff down and walk to the training room. I hit the hot tub for a little bit and talk to Doctor Rhino [Randy Rhino, IM 76, the legendary Yellow Jackets defensive back who’s now the team chiropractor] for a minute. He will set my back and all my tight muscles in order.
Then I go see one of the trainers, Ish—she always tapes me. I always have to get taped by her. She tapes my ankles and then she tapes my wrists. She doesn’t do this for everybody; she twists the tape up at the end and then turns it around and gets a nice tight grip. After that I feel good.
Before you put your pads on you can go out onto the field. You can just walk around and get a feel for it. The other team is out there too. The fans are just starting to come into the stadium.
Then I go back to the locker room to get dressed. I line all of my stuff up before I do tape or anything. I put everything on and keep my music going. The special teams go out first. From there, skill positions and receivers walk out. Then the quarterbacks and linebackers and everyone go out. Then the linemen come out.
We have a little stretch on the field. Then each position lines up and does the same routine you would do in practice. There is all this extra excitement. Then we all come to the middle of the field and everyone gets hyped.
Then we go back in the locker room. By then the adrenaline is running and Coach comes in. He says, “Get up,” and talks to you to get you ready. After we break, I go off to the side to say a quick prayer right in my locker, and once I’m on the field I say another prayer.
Then it’s time to go, time to get ready. You come out into the tunnel and the Ramblin’ Reck is ready. You can hear the sound of the engine and see the smoke coming out. It’s game time after that.
Helmet photo by Josh Meister. Illustrations by Steve Wacksman. Black and white campus photos courtesy of Archives and Records Management.