Saturday was Frank Beamer’s last home game as coach of the Hokies. It’s probably time (and may even be a little past time), but it’s never easy to see someone leave who has been a part of your life for 20 years.
It really has been 20 years.
I’ve written about Tech a lot. I wrote about it after the tragedy that struck on April 16th, 2007, and included a bit of how I ended up at Tech. 8 years later, I think I’ve actually pieced together how I ended up there.
It really does start twenty years ago, with a college trip that I went out with my friend and his dad, as we were juniors in high school. He took us on a trip down the east coast visiting a bunch of schools. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure we ventured through Blacksburg and toured the campus, and like most of the schools we visited, I probably signed up for something.
A few weeks later I got a video and an application. Five years later, I graduated from Tech.
How does this relate to Frank Beamer?
Well, I’ve always been a huge sports fan. That year was VT’s coming out. Virginia Tech, who’d never really beaten anyone, was playing Texas in the Sugar Bowl. This was my first real exposure to Tech. I remember watching the game in my friend’s kitchen, wearing my newly minted Tech hat. Frank Beamer’s Hokies playing solid defense and special teams, and doing enough on offense to win. They were less talented, less highly recruited, but they outgutted and outplayed Texas and put themselves on the map.
I then attended VT from 1996–2000, watching the Hokies break records, go undefeated, beat ranked teams, make College Gameday into a thing, and go to the National Championship game. The Hokies always had an identity. They were gritty, hard nosed players. They were walk ons. They got dirty.
They were Frank Beamer.
The Hokies were Beamer and Beamer was the Hokies. Frank Beamer, to many people, is the Hokies. He’s who they think of when they think of Virginia Tech. Every Tech game I’ve seen, in my life, has been coached by Frank Beamer. Football has been a huge connection back to Tech, and Frank Beamer has always been part of that.
Members of my extended in-law family live in Blacksburg and talk glowingly about Beamer. Not as a coach. As a person. As someone who frequents the businesses around Blacksburg, and someone who is part of the community. Not in a fake way. During the offseason, he’s just a guy who lives in Blacksburg.
I’m not sure there’s a lot of 70 year olds who can make it in the current college football landscape. Frank Beamer kept the Hokies relevant and on the map for almost 25 years. Judging by the comments of his current and former players, he’s had an impact on the players going through his system for just as long.
And he’s been the single bit of connective tissue between me and Virginia Tech for the last 20 years.