It did not really hit me until the start of the fourth quarter at Shreveport. This is the last 15 minutes of Frank Beamer coaching the Virginia Tech Hokies football team. This is it. This is the last time we will see Coach Beamer on the sideline. To say it was not something of an emotional experience would be a lie. We all have our VT stories, and I would like to share a part of mine.
My freshmen year at VPI was the fall of 2000. I remember looking at universities my senior year of high school and wanting to attend a school with a football tradition. I had long been an NFL fan, and was emotionally attached to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the first time I started paying attention to the NCAA was the Hokies’ national championship year. I did not really know much about college football, but I wanted to go to a football school. Penn State was my initial choice of college to attend, but in the end I chose Virginia Tech and I could not be happier with that decision.
Little did I know that the relationship that I started with Blacksburg would blossom into the love affair that I now maintain. Certainly I have been critical of the coaching staff this year, but that does not mean – in any way shape or form- that I do not have the utmost respect and admiration for Coach Beamer. He delivered on my desire to be part of a football tradition school more than I could have ever imagined.
I would like to share some of my fondest memories of Virginia Tech football.
The very first Virginia Tech football game that I was on campus for was one that I could not get tickets to - the infamous 2000 matchup against Georgia Tech when a lightning bolt smote Lee Corso’s rental car. The very first game I attended was the very next home game against the Akron Zips. I remember being amazed at the energy of the fans and the excitement of watching college football’s most electrical player, in person, Michael Vick. I also distinctly recall the 2000 matchup against the Pittsburgh Panthers in which Michael Vick was injured. Lane Stadium was so quiet that we students could have studied. The 2000 season was magical, and set the tone for my expectations and enjoyment of Virginia Tech Football.
Although somber, my first Virginia Tech home loss will also live as a vivid memory for my entire life. Yes, the Hokies had lost to No. 3 Miami the previous year, but the next loss was a heartbreaking home loss against Syracuse. That was the first loss I had ever faced at Lane Stadium (poor Grant Noel). It was a gray and damp afternoon, and I remember shuffling with the huddled masses back to my dorm room in Lee Hall, in near total silence.
2004 was a year bookended by travel to neutral sites. My father and I attended the controversial loss to USC at FedEx Field to start the season, and I also had the opportunity to attend my only Hokie bowl game. The 2004 squad was truly something special to behold. The Hokies had won their inaugural season in the ACC. Though we lost, the experience of traveling to New Orleans and cheering the Hokies on in the Sugar Bowl is an unforgettable affair.
I could go on and on about myriad other experiences I have had with VT. How a game became something that I bonded with friends and family alike. I could go on about how my affinity for VT and association with the university has generated friendships with alumni and rivals alike. But, none of it would have been a reality without the efforts of Frank Beamer. Coach Beamer has certainly affected the lives of his players, but he has also influenced the lives of young men and women he has never even met. He provided a facet of identity for decades of VT students and fans alike. I can, without a doubt, say that I would not have the friendships, nor be the person I am today, without the actions and accomplishments of Frank Beamer. So, thanks coach. Your brand of sportsmanship and class is something rarely found in athletics, as a whole, in the modern world. You will be missed, but most of all know that you are appreciated by thousands. Fair winds and following seas sir.