August 21, 2012

Pyke feels at home

Freshman offensive guard Greg Pyke admits to getting his share of funny looks when he tells teammates he used to play lacrosse.

But growing up in Baltimore, that's basically all Pyke knew.

"I would say it's probably like hockey without the ice and skates or anything. You have the sticks and you're trying to get a ball in a goal. You've got defensemen, attackers and a goalie," Pyke said. "I know people here haven't really heard of it, but that's a religion up there. It's THE sport. Here, you say lacrosse and people are like, what is that?"

For the Pyke family, however, lacrosse is serious business.

Older sister Lauren and big brother Andrew both played collegiately, at James Madison and North Carolina, respectively.

Meanwhile, Greg Pyke took up the sport as a youngster, although he never was able to play in his local recreational league because he was too big for his weight class.

That changed once Pyke reached middle school, where he began playing and continued to do so throughout his high school career at The Boys' Latin School.

In fact, it wasn't until he reached high school that Pyke decided to give football a try.

"I pretty much picked up contact football my freshman year," Pyke explained. "I always wanted to play football. I always liked contact and I liked hitting people."

Unfortunately, lacrosse didn't quite afford the opportunity.

Although lacrosse players are required to wear helmets and there are minimal pads, Pyke laughed that there's only so much contact a 300-pounder with a stick is able to have.

"I was probably about five times bigger, especially at my position," laughed Pyke, one of the attackers on his high school team. "You're mostly talking about small, little quick guys running around the goal. I'm built more like goalie-defensive guy, so that's not really heard of where I'm from."

Still, until it became apparent around his sophomore year that football was going to be his future, Pyke said he considered giving lacrosse the old college try.

That is, until offers for football started to roll in.

"My sophomore year I didn't know if I was going to play football or lacrosse, but I started getting more offers for football and taking those visits," he said. "I could have played, but I wanted to play football because I like running around hitting people."

How Pyke wound up in Athens is a story in itself.

"My dad and I were actually driving back from a camp at Alabama, and on the way back he told me that he had signed up for a camp at Georgia," Pyke recalled. "I was really mad at him at the time because I wanted to go home. It had been a long trip. We drove all the way to Alabama and were driving back, but I was still saying 'No way, I don't want to go.'"

In this case, however, father knew best.

"We showed up, I was still mad at my dad for making me go, but I thought since I was here I might as well do well and go hard," Pyke said. "All I had were shorts, a pair of cleats and a helmet, but I did pretty well in the drills. Coach (Will) Friend noticed me and at the end of the camp offered a scholarship."

There haven't been any regrets.

"I love it down here," Pyke said. "Coming from Maryland to here, football is so crazy, so fast-paced. I'm still trying to pick up our defense - which is very good - and pick up on how fast the game is."

Pyke, who is trying to break into the rotation at guard, said he received a good taste of how passionate Georgia fans are during last weekend's Picture Day.

He can't wait to see what Sanford Stadium's like for the Sept. 1 kickoff against Buffalo.

"We were out there signing stuff - I've never done anything like that in my life," he said. "That was crazy, all the people lining up just to get signatures on posters. It was crazy to me, but people like doing that kind of stuff. They love their football. That's one of the reasons I wanted to come here."