June 9, 2006

Sisson was Mr. Clutch for Georgia Tech title team


Did you ever wonder what became of your favorite college football stars from yesteryear? Did you think about how often they're reminded of their crowning achievements?

Wonder no more.

Rivals.com is spending the summer tracking down some of the college players who delivered the most memorable moments of the last generation. This week we're concentrating on players who were part of college football's greatest Cinderella stories.

These surprising seasons all occurred decades ago, yet the events may as well have taken place yesterday. The moments are still that fresh in the minds of each player.

They are often asked about the seasons that made them famous. And they're only too happy to share their memories.

Scott Sisson, Georgia Tech kicker
Name: Scott Sisson
Age: 34
Residence: Canton, Ga.
Claim to fame: Kicked winning field goals in back-to-back weeks to catapult Georgia Tech to a share of the 1990 national championship with Colorado. Kicked a 37-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to give the Yellow Jackets a 41-38 victory over top-ranked Virginia in what is generally regarded as one of the best games in Atlantic Coast Conference history. Made two field goals in the final five minutes of a 6-3 victory over Virginia Tech the following week. Kicked six game-winning field goals in his Georgia Tech career and earned first-team All-America honors in 1992.

How often he's reminded about the 1990 season: "All the time. I work in the mortgage industry in Atlanta, and I live in Canton, Ga., about 40 minutes north of Atlanta. I'm kind of removed here, and I'm still running into people all the time about 30 miles away from Atlanta who recognize my last name, or something rings a bell with them. It's absolutely hysterical. The assistant coach of my son's baseball team came up to me one day and said, 'You know, I was in Virginia (in 1990), so I remember you. We all remember you.' It's kind of funny because it's about 15 years now. I think 1990 was the last time we actually won (at Virginia), so every single year we play on that field, I know it's likely I'm going to get a barrage of calls. I think that will probably cease as soon as we beat them there. Just this year, I did a big, long, live radio interview they played right before the game. It just amazes me how big (the kick over Virginia) was. I never really realized it at the time."

Memories of coming to Georgia Tech and winning the national title: "I can remember coming to Tech for an official visit. They were playing South Carolina. They won that game, and it was huge. But it was one of the few they won the entire season. I had the one scholarship offer from Georgia Tech. That's the only school that offered me.

"I put out letters to Florida State and all the big schools around the Southeast and got the same letter back. It was a huge recruiting effort. I put out a videotape and sent it to all the Division I schools. They all said the same thing. 'We're not interested. No thanks.' Wake Forest even went to the extent of saying, 'After viewing your videotape, we feel we're not in the position to offer you a scholarship,' or something along those lines. It wasn't even, 'No thank you.' It was (more like), 'We saw your stuff and you're not worthy.' I really didn't have a good junior year. I was a soccer player. I wanted to play soccer in college. I was planning to go to Birmingham Southern or Furman and try to get a partial scholarship kicking or playing soccer, or even just walking on to play soccer because that was my first love. Florida State had all their kicking woes around the time I was at Georgia Tech. I saw (Florida State coach) Bobby Bowden at an ACC banquet one time. The only reason I was at the ACC banquet was my propensity to hit the big kick. I wasn't a very high percentage kicker at Tech (60-for-88), but I just made the big ones. He made a comment like, 'Where were you when I was recruiting (kickers),' or something like that.

"I probably got into four or five games my senior year (in high school) as a wide receiver and wasn't getting any interest. My (high school) head coach said, 'Look, I think you're 9-for-9 or 10-for-10 on field goals. You're not going to play receiver in college, but you have a shot (as a kicker) if you keep this up.' He pulled me as a receiver. It's probably the best thing that could have happened.

"I focused on kicking the rest of the season. I went to Georgia Tech with a good buddy of mine (Jess Simpson) who ended up going to Auburn. He's now a head coach for Buford High School here and doing a fantastic job. I was guiding him around. They said (to Simpson), 'Who's your friend?' He said, 'Actually he's on the front page of our sports section today.' I'd had a game-winner. After that, I got an invitation to come back. I had no idea they were in position to offer a scholarship, and I certainly wasn't expecting any kind of feedback whatsoever. My mind-set going in was, 'I'm there with my buddy, but I'm going to go play soccer somewhere.' I was shocked when they called kind of dumbfounded.

"We had a lot of young guys on our team (in 1990). (Safety) Ken Swilling made some sort of prediction that we'd go undefeated that season, but what did I know? I was just trying to get it through the uprights. I remember going to North Carolina and thinking that the game was just horrible. We were kind of on a roll. I went into North Carolina thinking, 'As bad as this game's going, there goes the Cinderella season.' I'd even missed a field goal early in the game and was thinking, 'We've got a chance not to lose this game as bad as it's been.' We hit a field goal to tie it and left with a tie. I thought as bad as this was, we still didn't lose. There may be something to this.

"Then you have the game at Virginia that was just magical. Then we come back and play Virginia Tech and didn't have a strong game at all. It was just a game of field goals. The offense was sputtering. We couldn't get it past midfield. It was cold and windy. My first field goal was something like 40 yards. I came out there maybe a little too confident and hit the ball very well, but the wind just took it. It started out down the middle and took a right turn. (Georgia Tech coach) Bobby Ross just about bit my head off when I got back to the sideline after the kick. He just screamed, 'Kick the ball. You're thinking too much. You're guiding it. Just kick the ball.' I think we had two more field goals. It was so windy that I had no confidence where it was going, but I did exactly what he said. I put my head down and just killed it. Fortunately I squeaked them in there into the wind with a cross breeze. I have pictures in my basement from that game. It was so cold I was wearing gloves. You couldn't feel your foot when you kicked it. It was completely numb.

"There were two kicks (in the Virginia game) that I remember. The first one (a 32-yarder with seven minutes left) is the one I felt more pressure on. In the very last one, the score was tied. As a kicker, you're always looking at the worst-case scenario. I was thinking if I miss this, you're still tied with the No. 1 team in the nation. I remember they called a timeout, and it seemed like forever was going by. I remember thinking this is the first big game of my career. The second I kicked it, I started running toward the sideline. There was no question about it, no leaning or looking at it or anything. I hit the ball, turned and started running.

"The irony about that game is I had a horrible warm-up. I think I was just excited going into the game. I was hooking everything to the left. I remember that specifically. I was aiming down the middle, but I was so aggressive, probably due to the nerves. I finally started aiming at the right upright because I was missing everything to the left. I didn't try to adjust. I just aimed at the right post. And when I finished my warm-ups, guess what, everything starts going down the middle. I closed the warm-up doing something unconventional, but it's working. Now I'm sitting the entire game and everything's fine with extra points, but I have an opportunity late in the game. Do you aim down the middle or at the right post? I just went with my instincts and aimed at the right post. And I did it the second time as well. That's pretty much how I finished my college career after that game. I started aiming at the right post and being really aggressive.''

Georgia Tech was ranked second in the nation when it defeated Nebraska 45-21 in the Citrus Bowl on the afternoon of New Year's Day. After watching top-ranked Colorado edge Notre Dame 10-9 in the Orange Bowl that night, the Yellow Jackets had to wait and see if the pollsters would give them a share of the national title.

"I remember everybody being back at the Peabody Hotel," Sisson said. "I think we had one entire floor of the hotel at least. Every time Notre Dame would make a big play, the whole floor would rumble. I think every room on that floor was Georgia Tech players, friends and family. The long runback (Notre Dame's Raghib 'Rocket' Ismail's punt return gave Notre Dame an apparent lead late in the fourth quarter before it was nullified by a clipping penalty), it seemed like the whole building was coming down. The doors were shut, and you could hear the screaming up and down the halls. When they called it back, there was dead silence all of a sudden.

"I got a phone call at 7 a.m. the next morning. A radio station had called me. It was pitch black in the room, and there's this bright, cheery DJ who said he's got a member of the Colorado football squad on the phone as well, and it's live radio. He wants me to discuss the game and who I feel the real national champion is. I don't remember much about that conversation other than trying to be diplomatic. I got to go first, and I was talking about how we had a great season, both teams were deserving and this and that. This (Colorado player) gets on the line and just starts saying there's no way Georgia Tech (deserves it). It's all Colorado. I'm just thinking, 'Dude, let me go back to sleep. I don't need this.'

"On one hand, you always hear people say, if we could just be anywhere close, how happy we'd be. Then you get there, and you want the whole thing. Two years (earlier), we'd won three games. So for me to even be here playing Nebraska is just a dream come true. On the other hand, I was thinking, 'We didn't lose a game (Colorado went 10-1-1). What else can we do?' I knew we didn't lose a game, so it's disappointing that you have to share this (title) because it's not going to happen again. Look at Tech's history. I think it's every 30 years that Tech has won a national championship (1917, 1928, 1952 and 1990), and that's a pretty decent average. It makes you realize how special it is.''

Pro career: The New England Patriots selected Sisson in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft. He stayed with the Patriots one season before getting released in training camp the following year. He spent two years away from football before playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 1996.

What he's doing now: "I'm a manager of application development for a mortgage firm in Atlanta HomeBanc Mortgage. When I started with HomeBanc a couple of years ago, they were fledgling, but they recently went public and have 1,600 employees. I basically manage a group that designs software for the company.

"When I was playing with the Vikings, I started actually getting interested in Web development. I had a buddy who was working with (Hewlett Packard). In the offseason, I had a lot of time to kill and I started working with him on a concept that involved Web-based e-mail. The guys we were competing against turned out to be Hotmail, but that's what we were working on for about a year-and-a-half. I was sitting and learning how to develop Web sites with the people who were putting this together. We'd formed a small company and were kind of making plans when it came out in the news that Microsoft had made plans to purchase Hotmail. And it's game over.

"Now that you have this experience, what do you do? I started developing Web sites and what not. It just took off. I love it.''

For more on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, check out JacketsOnLine.com.



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