Full-time student and full-time athlete Joseph Macrina is a fifth-year undergraduate student in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) and a tight end for the Georgia Tech football team. Known as “Chewy” to his friends and his teammates – a nickname that carried over from his high school football days – Macrina has devoted himself to the team through thick and thin.
Being an ISyE student means a demanding academic load and being a Division 1 football player also requires wholehearted dedication. While balancing these two commitments is challenging, Macrina remains passionate about the game.
“I love waking up every day, even if it is really early in the morning, and playing the game I love alongside my teammates who feel the exact same way,” he said. “We have each other’s backs no matter what, and we play our hearts out, and that camaraderie is the reason I continue playing.”
The football team – and by extension, Macrina – has experienced a number of significant changes in the past few years. In late 2018, Paul Johnson, then head coach of the football team, announced his retirement. Geoff Collins was named as Johnson’s replacement, and his arrival on The Flats brought a brand-new culture to the team.
“When Coach Collins came in, he restructured the entire organization from top to bottom,” Macrina explained.
The shift in coaching was not the only transition he faced. Covid-19 and the accompanying social distancing guidelines have completely flipped the way student-athletes practice, compete, and even interact socially. To compensate for some of these lost experiences, the team has organized mealtimes where small groups of players eat together, as well as coordinating a friendly dodgeball match.
Macrina said, “Even though things looked very different, we were all grateful that we still got to play football.”
Being on the Georgia Tech football team is not all challenges. Macrina described his favorite memory of beating the Dawgs in Athens in 2016.
“As I was walking through the tunnel back to the locker room, heated Georgia fans were heckling me, but I didn’t even care because I was so excited that we won,” he recalled.
Another moment that sticks with him is the “ProTech the Institute” offseason workout. Divided into groups by the position they play, the football players complete a round-robin of exercises around Bobby Dodd. When the groups are finished, they discuss their goals for the upcoming season and relive what happened in the previous one. It all ends with a speech from Coach Collins on the top of Bobby Dodd Stadium, looking out onto the Atlanta skyline.
“It’s a great moment,” Macrina said. “It gives us another opportunity to come together as a team, looking out over the city, and know that we’re doing this for one another and for Georgia Tech.”
Although industrial engineering is not a common major for Georgia Tech football players, Macrina chose it because of his love of math – and because he wants to go into consulting after graduating.
“I don’t necessarily use my ISyE education in football, but I am constantly thinking about it,” he explained. “I am always considering the logistics of our practices and of game-day operations and how they could be optimized – such as how our meals are ordered and delivered, how many buses are needed to transport the team, how our hotel rooms are determined when we travel to away games. It’s a little nerdy, but I can’t help it. “
When asked about his hopes for the upcoming 2021 football season, Macrina paused for a moment.
“2020 had so many variables – smaller practices because of Covid, a different conference schedule than we’re used to, fewer fans in the stands,” he noted. “But in spite of that, I can tell that we are finally clicking as a team. We have more passion and energy, more excitement about attending practice, working out, doing off-season runs, because we hadn’t been able to do these things. Now we can, and the team is ready to get back onto Grant Field and compete.
Hopefully, we are heading into a breakthrough season, because we’ve been putting in the work every day.”
While juggling his classes and football is a demanding task, the choice to continue playing is always clear for Macrina: “When you have a love for both, it is easy.”
ISyE Communications Assistant Taylor Hunter interviewed Macrina and wrote the initial draft of this article.
H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering