The Scribes Weigh In: Favorite Athlete Edition
First impressions are often the most impactful forms of messaging committed to memory.
As it pertains to sports, individual players have the power to attract hoards of onlookers from their dynamism and athleticism alone. Athletes become role models, icons, and even superheroes to those at home.
Part of Virginia Tech's prestige as a university stems from their attractiveness to fans, driven by the stellar competitors that have graced the Blacksburg soil over the years.
The abundance of memorable men and women to suit up in Hokie colors is not limited to one discipline, either. In basketball, Dell Curry and "Bimbo" Coles headline a group that has recently resurged under former coach Buzz Williams and current Head Coach Mike Young.
Olympic medalist Kristi Castlin and NCAA Champions Queen Harrison and Marcel Lomnicky helped pave the way for what has become a dominant track and field program.
World series winner Franklin Stubbs and All-Star Joe Saunders have shown that Hokies can excel at baseball's highest stage.
While the list of dominant Virginia Tech alum could go on forever, there is one group of men in particular that jumps off the page: you could call them the warriors of Worsham Field.
Michael Vick, Bruce Smith, DeAngelo Hall, Kevin Jones, Kam Chancellor, Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds, Kyle and Kendall Fuller... there are just too many Hokie greats to name.
This week, a few of the scribes collaborated to remember their first VT athlete that they deemed to be their favorite, the first to make them fall in love with the game of football and become a lifelong member of Hokie nation. Here's what they had to say:
Yes, I chose Frank Beamer. Coach Beamer played for the Virginia Tech Football Program from 1966-1968. And although I never got to see Coach Beamer play in person, what he would go on to do for the program here at Virginia Tech coukd be matched by no other. Growing up, I was taught that Coach Beamer was an exemplary person to be whether that be on the field or off the field. As I grew older, I respected Coach Beamer more so for what he has and is doing for the Blacksburg community, as well as his great coaching tenure. Even after his time here at Virginia Tech, you hear so many stories of how Coach Beamer is just the most uplifting and genuine personality you may ever meet. I got to experience this first hand at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest game during the 2019 season. I remember how Coach Beamer, without hesitation, was genuinely excited to hear what I had to say in regards to how much he stood for to me growing up and didn't even mind taking a quick picture with me (which is now my profile picture for this very site). I don't think any avid Hokie fan has anything negative to say about Frank Beamer other than he couldn't coach forever for us.
As an elder millennial, I can recall my first concrete football memories forming just as the Hokies began their decades long bowl game streak —though no one could have imagined that's what we were witnessing at the time. The quarterback in those halcyon days was Maurice DeShazo, a dynamic athlete who was criminally underrated nationally and at first by the Hokie faithful. A quick search landed me on this 1994 Washington Post article in which DeShazo —with an obvious chip on his shoulder— remembers being booed off the field in Blacksburg during a rough outing early in his career and later finding his tires slashed. And people think the fans are thankless now? Yikes. Honorable mention here goes to basketball guard Damon Watlington, who scored over 1,200 points and helped lead Tech to the 1995 NIT title and back to the NCAA Tournament during the nice mid-nineties hoops run under Bill Foster.
Victor "Macho" Harris
I was born into a Hokie family and started attending games when I was 7 months old in 1997, so to say I was indoctrinated into Hokie fandom would be a gross understatement. I remember being very young and seeing Bryan Randall, Deangelo Hall, and all those early 2000's guys play and knowing that they were really good, but truth be told I was too young to understand anything other than "Go Hokies". Right aroun 2005-06 is when I started to actually follow the sport as a kid. I of coursed loved Marcus Vick, but I just loved him cause he was the QB and his brother was Michael. I would say the first player that I organically fell in love for was none other than Victor "Macho" Harris. Harris is from Richmond just like me, and I thought that was really cool. He also had a sweet nickname. But for Harris, I think he was the first football player outside of the basic QB or running back that I was like "oh man, he's really fun to watch." Any time he touched the ball it was show time. He hit guys so hard on every single play. When I think of Lunch Pail Defense, I think Macho Harris. Harris also made one of the most iconic plays in Tech history, when he intercepted East Carolina QB Brett Clay at the 17 yard-line and tip toed his way for the touchdown down the East Stands sidelines and into the student section. That play was the first Hokies touchdown since the tragedies on April 16th, 2007. Not only that, but maybe the only guy on the field faster than Harri, ECU RB Chris Johnson, had just scored to put the Pirates up 7-3. The way Macho Harris played football, the way he related to coach Beamer, all of it personified the "This is Home" montra of Hokie Nation.
Blacksburg on Game Day (let me explain)
My first Virginia Tech memory is going into FedEx field to watch the Hokies take on the two-time defending National Champions in the USC Trojans (my dad's alma mater) in 2004. At that time, I wasn't a Tech fan. My family had no connections to Virginia Tech or Blacksburg. I was there to see Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. I wasn't even aware who was on Tech's roster, especially as an 11 year old. However, that all changed when my sister enrolled at Virginia Tech the following year. My first experience jumping to Enter Sandman was when my sister physically made me a Hokie Passport and had it laminated so I could get into the student section with her. This was back when Tech was a national power, so every game sold out and students needed a valid Hokie P to get into the lucrative yet chaotic scene that is North End zone. So here I was, a kid in middle school, jumping up and down with a bunch of semi-coherent college kids on a Saturday afternoon. Doesn't get much better than that. The pageantry and tradition on football Saturdays, along with the wonderful Blacksburg tailgate hospitality really drew me in and made me fall in love with the school and the athletics.
One of my favorite things about football as a kid was the speed and power that the game was played with. I loved being able to feel electricity from the play of the athletes on the field, whether it was a silky spin move or a thunderous hit from a defender: Xavier Adibi was everything that drew me to football. An end-to-end linebacker with speed and size, Adibi seemed to be able to cover the entire field, destroying blockers in his way and bringing down ball carriers everywhere he turned. One of my favorite memories was watching Virginia Tech shut out UVA with Adibi leading the charge, forcing a fumble that changed the momentum of the game. Adibi always seemed to be the guy to make the important play for the team and will forever be an incarnation of the "lunch pail mentality" that has defined the program for decades.
All of the men highlighted above made their mark during their time in Blacksburg and will be remembered not only for their physical gifts and determination to succeed, but the act of drawing in new faces to the game of football and Virginia Tech fandom.
Now, the Sons want to hear from you: tweet @SonsofSatVT with your nomination for your "first favorite player" and a description as to what they mean to you and the Blacksburg community. Everybody has "their guy" and all opinions are welcome.
Let's build some Hokie spirit before next season kicks off!