There is a certain amount of sadness to this player sketch and prospect analysis. Andrew Motuapuaka is a young man whose total impact on the Virginia Tech Hokie football team far exceeds his stellar career stats. It’s easy enough to look at Hokie Sports to see the numbers buried in his five years, four on the field, in the program. He wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, and though it doesn’t seem quite fair, it’s understandable. You see, the NFL is a numbers game, and 5’ 11” is a number combination that the NFL just doesn’t see having a real chance at occupying the world under the zone. Hokie Nation knows better. Andrew left everything on the field, every game that he played, and that considerable number amounted to 50 in four seasons. He started 42 of those games. In fact, he only missed one game in his entire Virginia Tech career. That’s nothing short of amazing considering the physicality of his position at Mike Linebacker, and his personal physical style of play.
From the fall of 2014 until the last snap of the 2018 Camping World Bowl, Andrew demonstrated exactly what it means to be a Hokie. He was a leader on the field, and from all accounts off the field as well, even as an underclassman. He might be specially remembered as one of the key players that Coach Fuente seemed to lean on to help lead during the difficult transition period of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. His contribution was special.
Motuapuaka was something of a turnover magician. Along with his 333 tackles, Andrew scooped up 6 fumbles for three touchdowns, and snagged 5 interceptions, one for a TD. That all goes with 11.5 sacks, and 32.5 tackles for loss amounting to 114 yards! That’s more than an entire football field of losses for opponents. His honors include but aren’t limited to:
2017 Third-Team All-ACC
2016 Second Team All-ACC (Coaches)
2016 Third Team All-ACC (ACSMA)
That sort of heart and skill might or might not translate into any sort of major NFL attention; however. Oh the things that could have been but for 4 more inches of leg. Andrew is unlikely to get any real draft attention, even in the higher rounds. There is a remote possibility for a 7th round compensatory pick, but Andrew’s best chance is an invitation to try out as an Undrafted Free-Agent. He participated in the Pro Day activities, and maybe some team might be interested in a special teams player or a chance at a practice squad to see if Andrew could fit in somewhere.
Those of us will never forget the Lane Stadium Announcer telling the stadium crowd, exuberantly, how to pronounce Andrew’s last name.... ANDREW mo-TOO-uh-poo-WAH-kuh!!!!!
No matter what happens to Eric Gallo, he’s fixed. It’s really going to be difficult to look at the offensive line and not see the #64/Gallo anchoring the middle, and calling the line audibles. He’s been a fixture there for three straight seasons. The reason why I say that regardless of the outcome of the NFL Draft/Free Agent process, Eric Gallo is sporting a Finance Degree (one of the Pamplin Business School’s most difficult majors - ask Jawhar, Eric’s classmate) with a serious GPA, but he’s also coming off one of his best seasons as an Offensive Lineman with a 2017 All ACC Honorable Mention.
There are not a ton of statistics published for offensive linemen. I guarantee you that there are reams and reams of them kept in the play logs and charts for the line coaches and offensive coordinator. Eric was always physical, competent, and intelligent in his play. There are tons of technique grading scales that could apply, and Joshua could probably disect those with aplomb, but we aren’t here to do a ton of weighing and balancing the details of a four year true Freshman to Senior career for Eric. We’re here to take a peak at, and highlight, a Hokie from the interior of an often maligned and challenged offensive line that has been through two coaching changes, and two completely different offensive styles.
It’s pretty special when you rocket up to #1 in the depth chart in your true Sophomore year, and then manage to start every game but one (and play significantly in them all) for three solid seasons.
Will the pros give Eric Gallo a look? I don’t know if he’ll approach Mr. Irrelevant at the end of everything late on Saturday. With NFL teams reaching deep into practice squads and free agent tryout lists late in seasons as their O-Lines are depleted it’s a distinct possibility that something of a UDFA tryout could come Eric’s way. If it doesn’t I hear that the money is really good for Finance majors coming out of Virginia Tech. Either way we know Eric Gallo is all Hokie, and we are proud of him!
There is an interesting statistic to present to you that says more about Joey Slye’s impact on the Virginia Tech Hokies Football team than his kicking stats, which were something to discuss. Joey must have harbored a secret ambition to be a linebacker. In his statistics chart, you can plainly see TACKLES; SOLO/ASSIST. The total number is six, which is impressive enough, but what stands out more, is the SOLO line. That’s 5, and included a late season pasting of some poor returner that was an open field solo masterpiece of form tackling. Coaches really don’t like seeing their kickers sprint headlong down the field to stick their shoulders into a returner’s gut, but that might have been a difficult conversation with Joey. He was durable even though he seemed to relish mixing it up.
Not many football fans pay much attention, but Joey’s High School football tenure was stellar, yes, but he actually played on a Virginia State Championship Soccer team. Soccer is a big sport in Virginia, and to letter in two sports is pretty special. All of that fitness seems to have paid off because in his four years he missed only two games in his Senior season due to an injury.
That grinder’s attitude also netted Joey an impressive tally of points by Field Goal and Points After Touchdown. If you remove the 50+ yard attempts (which are always a bit of a problem) Joey Slye’s percentage inside of 40 yards was 79.1%. That’s not as great as the coaches would like to see, but much higher than the hovering around 70% that the span to 50 yards pushes. The pros might itch about that a bit because Joey had issues from the right hash outside of the 30, and they were issues of slices by mere inches. What he never lacked was power. After his Freshman year debut, and a change in philosophy from the league level on down, there was no doubt about Joey Slye’s leg strength. As we often said, #JoeyHatesFootballs. His touchback and return numbers were phenomenal. Of 257 kickoffs, 182 ended up touchbacks. That’s serious foot, folks.
Joey’s honors include:
2016 First Team All-ACC (Coaches)
2016 Third Team All-ACC (ACSMA)
2016 Lou Groza Award Semifinalist
2015 Lou Groza Award Semifinalist
With that kind of leg, a pro team might be interested in trying Joey out to see if, with some quality kicking coaching, he could solve the slicing problem. The hash marks are closer together in the pros, and more attempts are made from the middle of the field. It’s going to be interesting to see if a team will give him a shot. I don’t even know if he’s put his name in the hat. We’ll see. I know that with Joey Slye is going to go after what ever he does with fearless abandon. He’s a smiling “up” presence on campus, and was a Special Teams leader his entire career at Virginia Tech. We are going to miss him because he’s ALL HOKIE!!!