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Home for the Holidays: Shaw, Claytor thriving a short drive from home
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Gainesville grad Nick Claytor (75) makes a block during Georgia Tech’s win over Miami earlier this year at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. - photo by For The Times

Jaybo Shaw was left doing a little scrambling during his Christmas vacation. No, the Georgia Tech freshman quarterback wasn’t trying to stay on his toes to avoid the rush of a defender. The Flowery Branch High graduate was trying to work his magic to secure enough tickets for family members to today’s Chick-fil-A bowl against LSU at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Playing so close to home, Shaw wasn’t the only player for the Yellow Jackets with people clamoring to get tickets to the game. However his remedy to the problem was pretty much common sense: Swoop up tickets from players that weren’t going to use their allotted amount.

“I got about 11 or 12 tickets for the game,” Shaw said. “It’s awesome getting to play right here at home so we don’t have to travel anywhere.”

For Shaw, being able to finish out the season only two miles from campus and only 45 minutes from home is the perfect way to end the season. Preseason expectations had Georgia Tech struggling in its first season under first-year coach Paul Johnson and his option-based offense.

So much for predictions.

The Yellow Jackets picked up conference wins against top-tier ACC programs, including Boston College, Florida State, Clemson and Miami, and snapped a seven-year losing streak to Georgia to help punch their ticket for the premier New Year’s Eve bowl game.

“It’s been a dream season,” Shaw added.

Shaw isn’t the only local product looking to help the Yellow Jackets try and finish with 10 wins for the first time since finishing as co-ACC champions in 1998. Nick Claytor, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman and 2007 Gainesville High graduate, is making his fifth start at tackle this season since senior Andrew Gardner went down with a season-ending torn labrum.

Georgia Tech’s going up against the Tigers (7-5), who are appearing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl) for the third time this decade. The No. 14-ranked Yellow Jackets can add another great accomplishment this season if they can knock off the defending national champs. Claytor only has to point back to preseason predictions from magazines like Sports Illustrated that picked Georgia Tech to finish with a 3-9 record.

“I know we’ve surprised a lot of people this season with how we’ve done,” Claytor said. “We’re all very focused for this game against LSU.”

Shaw and Claytor both had five days before Christmas to get away from football and spend time with family.

Georgia Tech’s backup quarterback, who started a pair of games this season and played in seven games total, was able to get home to South Hall for a few days with family and friends. He said it was the first time he really got to sit with his brother, Flowery Branch’s quarterback Connor, and his father Lee, Flowery Branch’s coach, to talk about the Falcons’ game in the state finals just three weeks ago at the Georgia Dome against Cairo.

Shaw managed to get away from campus to see his former teammates from Flowery Branch play in that state title game. He also managed to make it to a couple of the Falcons’ regular season games, including homecoming against Johnson, and the North Hall game at Falcons Field.

Spending time with the family is a little easier for Shaw than most college football players. He tries to make it home on Sunday night’s to get some home cooking from his mother.

On the other hand, Claytor spent five days during Christmas back in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio to see members of his family, including his cousins that are “growing like crazy.”

His first trip back to Gainesville will be right after the Chic-fil-A Bowl to hang out with former Red Elephant teammates C.J. Wood, who now plays at Marshall University, and Trey Kemp.

Shaw made the most of his opportunities in a backup role this season. When starter Josh Nesbitt went down with an injury against Mississippi State, he was able to play more than three quarters of that game, then started against Duke and Gardner-Webb. This season, Shaw is 15-for-24 passing for 321 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He’s also rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Claytor (6-foot-5, 304 pounds) is listed as the starter at left tackle. He’s a big part of Georgia Tech’s offensive line that has cleared the way for 3,388 rushing yards (282.3 yards per game) and 4,528 total yards of offense this season (377.3 yards per game). Claytor is going to be a staple on the Yellow Jackets’ offensive line for the next three seasons.

Georgia Tech is going to be doubling its Hall County presence for next year’s team. Flowery Branch’s Daniel Drummond, The Times 2008 All-Area Player of the Year, and defensive end Izaan Cross, Class AAA’s Defensive Player of the Year are both committed to the Yellow Jackets. Shaw says that the pair from Flowery Branch committed to Georgia Tech because of the promise they see in the program’s future.

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