Today is May 27, 2019, which means we are 96 days away from when the Virginia Tech Hokies open the 2019 season at Boston College. Today, we look at the number 96 and former Hokie great, John Engelberger.
Engelberger, a 6’4”, 260-pound defensive end from Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Va., arrived in Blacksburg in 1995 as a skinny 209-pound walk-on tight end. After redshirting his freshman season, Engelberger became an integral part of the defense during his redshirt freshman season in 1996, recording 64 tackles, 33 of them solo and six sacks.
As a sophomore in 1997, Engelberger finished 70 tackles and six more sacks. He awarded with a spot on the All-Big East second team. His junior season in 1998, Engelberger 66 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Once again, he was named to the All-Big East second team. In Tech’s national championship season of 1999, it was Corey Moore who received most of the accolades—and rightfully so, he was terrific—but the quiet Engelberger was just as ferocious, finishing with 53 tackles and seven sacks. After that season, he finally got the national recognition he deserved his entire career, being named to the first-team All-Big East and also was chosen as a second-team All-American.
After his senior season, Engelberger was voted as the Paul Torgersen Award winner, which was given to the player who shows a commitment to hard work and effort every time he steps on the field.
In preparation for the 2000 NFL Draft, Engelberger had outstanding workouts. He posted a terrific 4.65 time in the 40-yard dash and a 6.95 second time in the three-cone grill, that, combined with his outstanding college production, helped make him the 35th overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers.
Engelberger spent five seasons with the 49ers before spending his final four seasons with the Denver Broncos. He finished his nine-year NFL career with 20.5 sacks. With NFL defenses using more sub-packages now, focusing on athletic edge rushers, it would be interesting to see how good Engelberger could be today.
Engelberger is the type of player who helped build the foundation of the Virginia Tech program we know today. He was lightly recruited and a walk-on, yet ended up becoming a Virginia Tech Hall-of-Famer in 2013. Engelberger was a blue-collar guy who led by example and is now recognized as one of the best defensive players in school history.
We haven’t heard much about Engelberger over the years and that’s probably just the way he likes it. Engelberger gave us plenty of terrific memories during his time in Blacksburg that many in Hokie Nation still talk about today.