Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
With an opening provided by the NCAA, Synjyn Days and others have stepped through a new window to testify about Georgia Tech and help the Yellow Jackets recruit.
Days practically came out of his skin with the opportunity to meet with Tech football prospects on a recent recruiting weekend, thanks to the governing body of college athletics relaxing restrictions to allow former student-athletes to meet recruits on campus.
A few days later, Georgia Tech signed 18 new football players to National Letters of Intent during college football's early signing period, which is also the result of a new NCAA rule regarding football recruiting.
Three years after graduating, Days is a financial advisor with National Finances Service Group in Sandy Springs. He joined the firm after spending a few months following his graduation from Tech with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.
"Knowing how much [Georgia Tech] meant to me, and opened so many doors with networks . . . just being able to pass that on to the younger generation, kind of paying it forward," Days said about his message to potential future Jackets. "I'm not trying to sell it. I'm just telling the truth."
"[We] set up a panel with our former players who are now in the workplace and basically what they [did] was a Q&A with the recruits and parents, to kind of tell them what Georgia Tech had done for them, and how it helped them in the job market, and connections and networks and the whole process of being here and what it was about," said head coach Paul Johnson.
Before the NCAA's rule change, Georgia Tech football had arranged similar panels for recruits and their parents with current student-athletes.
Now, former players can share details on how their degrees from Georgia Tech have helped them separate from others.
Byerly, chiefly a backup quarterback from 2012-15, is working for Angel Oak Capital, an investment management firm in Buckhead. He was happy to return to The Flats, where he's caught a couple football games each of the past two seasons.
"I think it's a great idea. At any school, I think it's very useful because it gives the recruits a chance to understand what it's like," he said. "The coaches do a great job of what they're spinning, but I could tell from the look on parents' faces [they were impressed] about the statistics about what Georgia Tech can really offer."
Days, who grew up in Marietta and played at Hillgrove High School, treasures his time between 2010-14 at Tech, where he graduated with a degree in science, technology and culture after playing quarterback, A-back and B-back.
Tech coaches are among those who appreciate the value of a degree -- some of Days' clients are his former coaches.
"I think it speaks volume to be able to sit down with the coaches and they talk to me as a professional . . . they've seen me since I was 15," he said. "That speaks wonders to how the coaching staff is . . . My parents told me find something you enjoy and help people. I can't sit at a desk 9 to 5; ADD will kick in."
Days is a regular at Georgia Tech football games, and it's not a long trip; he lives in Sandy Springs near his office. The call to help left him with an easy decision.
"I go to all the home games," he said. "I'm trying to help out the next generation, whether it's the Yellow Jackets or anyone else. My parents taught me to find something you love, and help people . . . Georgia Tech, the brand and name speaks for itself. I think it's awesome that coaches asked me to come back."
Johnson thinks the ability for recruits to meet with men who've been through the Tech process is invaluable.
"You try to sell the positives that you have, and one of the biggest things that we have here is the education. You can network with the school, the success of the graduates," he said. "As opposed to trying to sell a 100,000-seat stadium, and 90,000 fans and those types of things.
"Previously, we'd have a panel with players who were here now, and we still do that in the spring and at times when the recruits come in. The coaches leave the room and we'll let them talk to our kids, and they'll ask them what they want . . . with you not standing there."
Former Tech wide receiver Kevin Cone, now assistant director of football operations, reached out to Byerly. The Alpharetta native's degree in business administration (with a concentration in finance) has served him well, and he didn't hesitate to help out as if he's still a member of the team.
"We can do so much more in the world of recruiting," Byerly said. "We still haven't tapped into the talent that we deserve. There are so many successful alumni and I think those anecdotes can really resonate with recruits and their parents."