GT’s Zenon celebrates in style
Notebook: Clemson 14-0 under Swinney in orange and white
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When Felonius Osborne spoke to his stepson last week, he could tell something was bothering him.
"I haven't heard that type of voice or demeanor [in a long time]," Osborne said of Tony Zenon.
Zenon (pronounced Zen-in), a business management major with a concentration in accounting at Georgia Tech, is a redshirt sophomore who plays A-back and returns kicks.
On Monday night, he returned three kicks for 39 yards as the Yellow Jackets lost at Virginia Tech, 20-17, in overtime.
A week ago, Zenon was upset, Osborne said, because his 21st birthday was quickly approaching and he desperately wanted to celebrate the occasion with his mom, Tonia, stepdad, and two brothers, Juwuan and Tyler.
But he was at Georgia Tech and his family lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn., more than 200 miles northwest of Atlanta.
A reunion, he believed, was unlikely.
His girlfriend, Abby Baines, a student at Georgia State, however, started planning a surprise birthday party for Zenon in mid-August and used a birthday dinner at her family's home, which is 30 minutes north of Atlanta, as a cover story.
For two weeks, Baines kept the surprise intact. On the last night in August, she executed the plan flawlessly as Zenon walked into the house and was shocked to see a bunch of familiar faces - teammates, friends and family.
"He stopped breathing for a second," Baines said of his initial reaction.
Zenon took two steps backward. Little did he know that his family made the drive down and was hiding right behind him.
It was two days before Zenon's actual birthday, but it didn't matter. There were plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Seven years ago, Zenon and his family were forced to leave their home in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. Two dozen friends and family members hit the road, but some of his family, including his biological father, stayed in the city and waited out the storm at the Superdome.
Zenon spent more than 24 hours in a brown van, sleeping intermittently. A caravan of vehicles headed toward Texas, but was forced to change direction after police closed the interstate. Eventually, they came across Albany, Ga., a small town in the southern part of the state, and, at least for one day, a new place to call home.
"I'm just glad I didn't stay down there because I mean -- there's no telling where -- I probably wouldn't be [at Georgia Tech]," Zenon said. "It is crazy how certain things happen."
After two or three weeks, Zenon was able to get in touch with family members who stayed in New Orleans. Osborne went back to the city alone to see what remained of their property in Eastern New Orleans. Nothing worth salvaging, he would say, was left.
His parents left a teenage Zenon in charge of an important decision: stay in Albany, Ga., or go back home.
Although he missed the city life of New Orleans, Zenon decided to stay in Georgia. He would later star at Deerfield Academy, where he rushed for 2,264 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 9.8 yards per carry.
It forever changed the course of his life.
"When raising boys, I try to teach them that bumps and bruises are going to happen," Osborne said, "But you just have to keep on fighting."
Zenon did and now, on the last evening of August, he walked toward a birthday present that was waiting for him in the garage: it was a moped from his parents.
Baines said Zenon managed to hold it together in front of his friends and those who care about him most. He didn't cry, but it must have felt damn good.
News and Notes
NC State (0-1)
• Tennessee was not afraid to throw in the direction of Wolfpack corner, David Amerson, who set an ACC record with 13 interceptions last year. Vols receiver Cordarrelle Patterson beat Amerson to score the game's first touchdown. Later in the first quarter Zach Rogers sped past Amerson, who later said he thought he had help on the play, to cap a 72-yard touchdown.
• After the game, Amerson tweeted, "Today, I let my team and community down, by playing the worst game of my life…lord show me the way from here…"
• Also, some sad news from this game as Isaac Grubb, a 20-year-old Tennessee man, died after he fell from the upper level of the Georgia Dome.
North Carolina (1-0):
• Larry Fedora wins big in his coaching debut for the Tar Heels as they rocked Elon 62-0. It's not like UNC has a new coach every day. Although, they have had 33 coaches in 114 years, so history puts coach Fedora's coaching stint over/under at 3.5 years.
• The Tar Heels dominated the Phoenix in nearly every statistical category. On offense UNC gained 520 yards - 354 more than Elon's total of 170.
• The UNC defense forced four turnovers - two interceptions and two forced fumbles. The Tar Heels finished three points shy of tying a school record.
• Fedora's 4-2-5 defense proved it can be effective as the Tar Heels notched its first shutout in more than a decade. UNC blanked Duke, 38-0, in the last game in 1999.
Florida State: (1-0):
• My favorite line from this AP game story: "E.J. Manuel passed for 188 yards and a touchdown before retiring midway in the third quarter." Don't fret, FSU fans, Manuel will be back next week.
• This victory may fall into the Pyrrhic category as the Seminoles lost star DE Brandon Jenkins, a two-time All-ACC selection, due to a left foot injury. Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com first reported the news.
• A dozen true freshmen played key roles in the opener for the Terps.
• Quarterback Perry Hills, running back Albert Reid, safety Sean Davis, kicker Brad Craddock and punter Nathan Renfro started. Stefon Diggs handled kick and punt returns - the loudest cheers came whenever the freshman was in position to touch the ball. Diggs finished with eight touches and coach Edsall said he hopes to get him about 10 touches each game.
• The most valuable freshman for the Terps on Saturday was likely Nathan Renfro - who averaged 53 yards on four punts and pinned the Tribe at their own 2 yard line with 3:37 left.
Virginia Tech (1-0)
• Since 2005, the winner of Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech contest has won the Coastal Division.
• The deep ball Logan Thomas launched to Demitri Knowles for a 42-yard touchdown with 7:46 to go was perfectly placed. Phenomenal toss.
Georgia Tech (0-1):
• The Yellow Jackets took the field against Virginia Tech in new uniforms, in "an effort to reenergize its look, while staying connected to its past." The new honeycomb look made its debut on Monday night not surprisingly is now available in the RamblinWreck.com team shop.
• Paul Johnson is 1-4 against Frank Beamer and the Hokies.
• Georgia Tech opens the 2012 season against three consecutive ACC Coastal Division opponents.
• Clemson and Auburn both wore home uniforms on Saturday night. It is the first time both teams wore home uniforms in a Clemson game since the 2009 game against Coastal Carolina. Clemson was dressed in all orange and Coastal Carolina in all black for that Halloween day game in 2009.
• Clemson is now 14-0 under Dabo Swinney in Orange jerseys and white pants.
Boston College (0-1)
• At halftime Boston College recognized the late Lou Montgomery, the first African American to play football for the Eagles from 1938 through 1940. A talented running back, Montgomery was not allowed to play in several competitions in the South due to the color of his skin. The Brockton, Mass., native was posthumously inducted into the BC Hall of Fame in 1997.
• Saturday was Miami’s first win at Boston College since 2001.
• With his second-quarter TD run, Duke Johnson’s became the fi rst Miami true freshman to start and score in a season-opener since Jacory Harris raced 30-yards against Charleston Southern on Aug. 28, 2008.
Wake Forest (1-0)
• Wake Forest improves to 27-5 against Football Championship Subdivision teams
• Tanner Price's streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception ended at 181 when he was picked off by Nick Sigmon in the second quarter. Price's streak is the seventh-longest in ACC history and the longest for a Wake Forest player.
• Duke kicked off its 100th season of football with a 46-26 win against FIU
• Duke is now 460-483-31 in 99-plus seasons all-time
• With the win, Duke is now 57-40-3 in season-opening games
• Mike London becomes the first Virginia head coach since Rice Warren in 1921 to win his first three season openers (1913, 1920-21).
• Virginia has now reached the 400-yard plateau of total offense in 13 of the 26 games during the Mike London era.