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Choice thriving as Tech's workhorse

ATLANTA - The string of busy games for Tashard Choice might seem overwhelming: 32 carries for 145 yards against Clemson, 32 carries for 135 yards against Maryland and 37 carries for 204 yards against Miami.

The career-high 37 carries are the fourth-most in Georgia Tech history. The career-high 204 yards in the 17-14 win over Miami are No. 9 on the school records.

Impressive? Not so much to Tech receiver Greg Smith, who said he thinks Choice can do better.

'The guy is probably capable of carrying the ball 50 times,' Smith said, smiling.

Choice might not turn down the opportunity for 50 carries. The senior has said he will take as many carries as possible, and he has proved it the last three weeks.

Most impressive in the three-game run is the fact the combined 101 carries for 484 yards and two touchdowns have come since Choice

suffered a hamstring injury against Boston College on Sept. 15.

The injury limited him to 15 carries for 31 yards against Boston College, ending his school-record streak of nine straight 100-yard games. Choice then had only five carries for 19 yards the following week against Virginia.

Even with the two limited weeks, Choice leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 120.0 yards rushing per game, the 12th-best average in the nation. Choice and the

Yellow Jackets play Army on Saturday.

Some feared the hamstring injury might end Choice's season.

'I can't explain it,' Choice said. 'I can't say how I was able to run the ball. I just prayed about it.'

Perhaps the biggest scare for Choice came against Maryland, when he pulled up after feeling the hamstring tighten on a long run. Instead of scoring a touchdown, Choice headed for the sideline, obviously favoring the injury.

'I really got so frustrated, but then I turned around and kept working on it,' he said.

Soon, Choice was back in the game.

With one more week came dramatic improvement. Choice says he felt no pain when running last week against Miami.

'I did not feel it at all,' Choice said. 'It's still maybe a little tender to be on it, but I did not feel it at all. I was ecstatic.'

Now Choice hopes another pain-free game against Army will give him more confidence for a home game against Virginia Tech on Nov. 1.

'Hopefully, we can play this game, rest up next week and I will be about 100 percent going into Virginia Tech,' he said.

Tech coach Chan Gailey said he could have predicted at the start of the season Choice could post a string of games with 30 or more carries, but not after the hamstring injury.

'Eight weeks ago I could have, but not three or four weeks ago,' Gailey said. 'It's just amazing the turn of events in his season.'

Choice is trying to lead the ACC in rushing two straight seasons, last accomplished by Virginia's Thomas Jones in 1998-99.

Along the way, Choice has earned the respect from some of the league's top players.

'The toughest to tackle? I'm going to have to go with my man Tashard Choice,' said Miami defensive end Calais Campbell.

Added Virginia defensive end Chris Long: 'I personally believe Tashard Choice is the best running back in the league.'

Choice also has fans on the Tech defense.

'You get to smile a lot more, because when you know he is out there ripping and running, that's plays you don't have to be on the field allowing yourself to be worn down,' said Tech defensive tackle Darryl Richard.

'One thing we noticed last year, as the season goes on and the game goes on, he is one of those players who gets stronger. When you see a guy getting better week in and week out, you start to feel good about the outlook, especially those games at the end of the season.'

Added Richard: 'He is still kicking strong even with a hamstring injury. It shows that he can fight through adversity and keep going.'