This season there is a bit of a change coming for the countdown to kickoff. The last several years, on the weekend before school starts and the Freshmen move-in, the athletic department and the football team have held a “Fan Appreciation Day” where interested Hokie Nation fans get to gather for some games, a few picnics, some food in various favorite Blacksburg establishments, and for the grand event a couple of hours standing in line to get the football players to sign various posters, mini-helmets, and autograph footballs.
Gobbler Country will be there to cover it, of course, but I have to admit that there is still the Hokie Fan enough in me to grit my teeth to stand in line and grab a few scribbles on a newly purchased mini-helmet or a squad poster.
My 2015 helmet is covered with Offensive Linemen, Defensive Linemen, Defensive Backs, and Receivers.
The 2016 Helmet has Defensive Linemen, Defensive Backs, Running Backs, and Receivers. My wife’s 2016 Helmet has Coach Fuente and Coach Foster.
I think that I have a couple of posters with other folks signing as well. I am still not sure of where to hang them, but they aren’t headed for any recycling bins any time before my funeral. The future Man-Cave, Pool Room in the Basement is going to be begging for some appropriate wall decorations to go along with some of my pictures from the games over the years that I have yet to print out.
What really makes Fan Appreciation Day special, though, is to see the main audience for the effort running around getting signatures, showing their friends, bragging about seeing this player or that – no I am not talking about silver haired members of the Hokie Club – I am talking about the kids.
What’s really special is to see how nearly every football player is focused on those kids. They joke with them, smile, do the selfie thing with the kids with phones. The players talk to them, if the kids talk about playing sports, I’ve heard more than a few encouraging words and atta-boys or atta-girls from Hokie football players. All of it done with smiles in the kids direction. It’s really a nice touch, and encouraging to see.
August 20th will be special for many reasons, but for the kids on the field in the Beamer Barn, visiting with players, it’s going to be a life memory. We’ll be there, camera in hand, for the first “View from the Sideline” feature of the 2017 Season.