EXIT LIGHT! ENTER HOKIES!
Virginia Tech football is home to the best pre-game ritual in the history of sports.
“There’s nothing better than running out of the tunnel hearing ‘Enter Sandman’ being blasted.”
Every home game in Blacksburg, Virginia starts with fans piling into the stadium an hour before the opening kick. Friends are laughing, visitors are taking pictures, and alumni are reminiscing. About five minutes before kickoff, a gentle murmur consumes the masses while the pregame hype videos are broadcasted on the scoreboards at each end of the stadium. Then, a slow, rhythmic, alternating stomp and clap are produced by the congregation. This is the expression of excited energy being released by the home fans. The football team becomes visible to the well-trained eye as they begin their couple-hundred-yard march from their facility towards the tunnel, where they will wait to dawn the turf. As they approach, a silence falls over the field. Cheerleaders on either sideline take turns holding up “LET’S GO” and “HOKIES” signs, embracing the respondent roars of the 66,233-person capacity stadium. The horde of fans continues to scream louder and louder as each side attempts to reach a higher decibel level than the other until mercifully, the crowd is indulged.
The gentle chords of James Hetfield’s guitar strum as the onlookers erupt with excitement and begin to jump up and down, causing the entire stadium to quake. The captain of the team can be seen yelling at his teammates, imploring them to win one tonight for the Hokie faithful. The head coach of the maroon and orange takes one last deep breath while the opposition shivers in their socks until finally… it’s time.
This beloved tradition is one that the students, coaches and players at Virginia Tech have learned to look forward to since August 27th, 2000: the day that the Hokies were reborn.
To celebrate the installment of a new scoreboard behind the North End Zone, the Virginia Tech administration decided to implement a new pre-game introduction. After deliberating over “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses and “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project, they ultimately settled on Metallica’s genre-defining hit that has become entrenched in Hokie culture.
“The feeling I have running through Lane is indescribable” declares senior offensive lineman Austin Cannon. “It’s like no other entrance in the country! Every time I hear it, I get goosebumps.”
According to the International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology “Listening to music while exercising improves work performance and decreases the perceived exertion and fatigue.” This is why grabbing your headphones is a necessity for trips to the gym, or the musical effects of movies make the hairs on your neck stand up, or listening to Enter Sandman at Lane Stadium will make you bang your head off of your shoulders.
For members of the football team, though, the buildup to sprinting out onto their beloved home field begins long before Metallica’s cue. Back in the locker room, some players are receiving treatment from the team physiotherapists, others are getting instruction from position coaches while the rest are getting their minds locked in on the upcoming battle.
Athletes are some of the most superstitious people, making their pre-game rituals all the more important. Lucky socks, preparatory meals and musical selection are all common tokens in the sporting world. If a player has a bad performance in a game, the last song that they heard will likely be out of the rotation before next weekend. In the case of the 2020-21 Virginia Tech football team, the “lucky songs” cover a wide array of genres.
Whereas star tight end James Mitchell gets himself juiced up by listening to either “Tomorrow ‘Til Infinity” by Young Thug and Gunna or “God Strong” by Montana of 300, receiver Kaleb Smith listens to “I Smile” by Kirk Franklin to “calm all of the nerves and anxiousness right before the game.”
Austin Cannon blasts “The Game” by Motorhead while Kyle Lowe gets ready to the tune of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash. One common theme amongst all of these men: they will be at full preparedness when they feel the tremors of over 60,000 fans welcoming them into the stadium.
“Running into Lane with a full house is unreal…it’s a different type of energy” asserts junior defensive lineman Jaylen Griffin.
Only six games in the history of college football have registered on a seismograph, a device used to measure the magnitude of earthquakes: indicative of Griffin’s statement, four of these anomalies have come right in the heart of Blacksburg. Marks were recorded against the visiting Miami Hurricanes in 2011 and 2016, when the Ohio State Buckeyes came to town in 2015, and most recently against Clemson in 2017.
The true spirit of the Hokie cannot be understood by one who has not lived it. For fans, it represents so much more than a mere allegiance to a university.
“Jumping to ‘Enter Sandman’ is something that you can only comprehend once you have experienced it” claims Virginia Tech Class of 2022 President Danielle Panico. “It’s all about Hokie Nation getting rowdy and hyping up the team that we love so much!”
So, what exactly is this energy that Virginia Tech’s student body loves so much?
Perhaps it is best expressed by the Hokie Stone, both the figurative and literal light before the end of the tunnel that members of the football team traditionally tap before storming the field. Inscribed on either side of this stone are a couple of short phrases.
The left: “For those who have passed, for those to come”
The right: “Reach for excellence.”
These commandments represent the linkage between members of the Hokie community and the understanding that everyone will put their personal touch on one ginormous culture. That is why when you see someone rocking deep maroon or blazing orange and you ask them “What is a Hokie?” they will answer with only two words: