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Where are They Now? Catching up with Greg Nosal Virginia Tech Lineman 2007-2011

By Rich Luttenberger | June 26
Cover Nosal lead blocking VT Jeff Lack Icon Sports Wire
Photo Credit: Jeff Lack/Icon Sports Wire

If you are a true Hokie fan, then you have likely heard the legend of the guy who severed the tip of his pinky while blocking for Tyrod Taylor - yet stayed in the game.  That player is Greg Nosal, Virginia Tech lineman from 2007 to 2011.

However, like so many single stories in the media, there is so much more to the individual involved in the incident.  Nosal did indeed sever that pinky and keep playing (which will be addressed later), but he was also one of several decorated guards who anchored an offensive line that opened holes for some of the greatest backs in Hokie history during one of the most successful stretches of Virginia Tech football.

After his playing days, he joined the coaching ranks and went from graduate assistant to offensive coordinator, all at FBS schools, in just ten years.  He is yet another Frank Beamer product who continues to carry on the legacy of Hokie Pride while carving out his own niche in the football world.

1 coach nosal bowling green athletics
Photo credit: Bowling Green Athletics

Growing up in a Military Family

Greg Nosal was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. However, being in a military family meant that Virginia was not going to be his permanent home.  His father was a pilot who made a career in the Navy and retired as an Admiral.  “I was a military brat,” Nosal recalled, “so I was all up and down the east coast.” From Virginia Beach, to Jacksonville, Florida, to Washington, D.C., the family moved every two years or so.

This transient lifestyle with a military father presented unique challenges, but Nosal and his siblings adjusted well and took the moves in stride.  His mother held the household together while his father was on assignment.  Nosal and his two siblings were active athletes who “went everywhere under the sun playing sports,” and that was just their routine.

He considered himself fortunate to have spent four years at one high school, though.  Nosal went to Floyd Kellam High School in Virginia Beach, where he was a standout on the gridiron and on the basketball court.  He graduated in 2007.

It was during these years that he decided to go to Virginia Tech.  Although Nosal had numerous offers, his heart was set on Blacksburg and he accepted the Hokies’ scholarship.  “I fell in love with Virginia Tech at that time and that’s just where I wanted to be.”

“Having the ability and the opportunity to go and play for a legend like Frank Beamer, it was too hard to say no to that.”

— Greg Nosal

The Evolution of a Guard

Nosal was a tight end in high school, and he was recruited at that position.  However, the Tech coaches had him pegged as an interior lineman, and he knew that was where he would end up.  “I didn’t want to admit that,” he said of knowing the change would happen.  “I still had tight end dreams.  I still thought I could stretch the seams and catch passes.” 

And for one year, his redshirt year as a true freshman, he kept that dream alive, practicing as a tight end despite knowing that he lacked the speed of the others at his position.

Then the inevitable happened.  The coaches came to him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. “When they approached me after my redshirt season, they said, ‘Hey, you have a chance to get on the field as an offensive lineman’.”

“And that’s all I wanted to do was play,” he said. “So I jumped at it.  And I got to eat whatever I wanted.”  Nosal beefed up, moved to tackle, and was a backup for his redshirt-freshman year in 2008.

The following spring (2009), there was a spot open at guard because of injury.  Again, just wanting to be on the field, Nosal made the move and slid inside.  “I rotated almost every other series with Sergio Render and Jaymes Brookes that year,” he remembered.

Render graduated, which set him up to be a starter in 2010, and for two years, Nosal was a stalwart at left guard.

2 2011 media guide virginia tech athletics
Photo credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

Becoming a Productive Lineman

Like so many offensive linemen before him, Nosal experienced a baptism by fire early in his career.  Every day at practice, he had to block some of the best defensive linemen in the conference. 

He remembered the enormity of the task.  “My redshirt freshman year, it was trying to block Chris Ellis, Jason Worilds, Carlton Powell, and John Graves,” he recalled, “They definitely beat me up.”

3 Nosal and Graves from Nosal
Former Hokie teammates John Graves (left) and Greg Nosal reunited recently as coaches (Photo provided by Greg Nosal)

He took his lumps early, learning quickly that life was much different here than it was in high school.  “You really gotta put your big boy pants on to survive at this level,” he mused.

It was there that the foundation was built for his later success.  Every day he had to battle it out with guys from a nationally ranked defense.  “Those were the times when Coach (Bud) Foster’s defenses were so loaded,” Nosal pointed out.  The Tech D finished in the top ten in two of Nosal’s four years on the line, 14th and 26th in the other two.  They were third nationally when Nosal was a redshirt still playing tight end.

This pushed Nosal to be the best he could be, and that resulted in three years of significant playing time, two as a starter, one as the team’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, and one as an All-ACC Honorable Mention.

“We had a pretty special group during my time there.  I got pretty lucky to be a part of something so special.”

— Greg Nosal

A Winning Culture

Virginia Tech was loaded with talent the same time that Greg Nosal was a Hokie lineman.  He protected Tyrod Taylor and Logan Thomas, Tech’s top two career passing leaders who both put up great stats during Nosal’s years. He blocked for Darren Evans, Ryan Williams, and David Wilson, runners who fall in the top six of Tech’s all-time single season rushing leaders (Wilson and Williams are numbers one and two).

From 2007 to 2011 (Nosal’s years in Blacksburg), Tech went 53-16, winning ten games or more each of those five years.  The Hokies reached the ACC title game four times and won three of them.  They earned trips to three Orange Bowls, a Sugar Bowl, and a Peach Bowl.  It was an amazing stretch of greatness.

However, despite the star power and success, Nosal emphasized the importance of the culture that Beamer created. “The team was never bigger than the individual,” he said.  There was an exceptional pride that all players had in being a Hokie, and that is what resulted in great chemistry and camaraderie, and ultimately, winning. 

“Everyone bought into what Coach Beamer was building, and we had a pretty successful run with it.”

— Greg Nosal

The Pinky Incident

The legendary pinky incident occurred in a non-conference home game against Central Michigan during Nosal’s redshirt-junior year in 2010.  Late in the second quarter, with the Hokies up 24-7 but not particularly executing well, the team ran their two-minute offense to try to get more points before halftime.

On first down, Tech called a pass play that required the Hokie linemen to cut block the defensive linemen.  “I take a set and try to cut, and I completely whiff,” Nosal admitted.  This caused quarterback Tyrod Taylor to take off running.

Nosal got up and tried to crackback on the guy he missed, and that is when he got his hand caught in his opponent’s facemask.  Returning to the huddle, he started squeezing his hand because of the pain, and that was when he noticed blood running down from his finger.

He shook it off and played through the pain, repeatedly squeezing his hand in the huddle after each play and thinking he would deal with it after the drive.  When the Hokies were forced to punt, he came off the field and examined the injury, which is when he made the gruesome discovery of a missing fingertip.

“I take my glove off and my bone is sticking out.”

— Greg Nosal on his infamous injury

With wide-eyed teammates gawking at his injury, Nosal called for trainer Mike Goforth.  “Hey, can you tape this up for me?” he asked of the finger with white bone and yellow fatty tissue completely exposed.

Goforth grabbed Nosal by the arm, trying to hide the injury from view and keep him from passing out, and he rushed the lineman into the training room.  Looking for the severed fingertip, Goforth asked where the injury occurred and sent someone out to the 35-yard line to search for it on the field.

When Nosal told the trainers that he was wearing a glove and showed the bloody mess to them, not knowing the tip was still in there, “They sure enough dumped out the glove and my pinky kind of plopped out of it.”

He was given two options: the team doctor could reattach the tip and he would be done for the day, or they could put the tip on ice, give him some painkillers to keep playing, and reattach it after the game.

Thinking team-first, he chose the latter.  “This is gonna be a close one, so we need to go,” he told them.  They put the fingertip on a bag of ice, gave him a shot of pain-killer, taped up his pinky, and he went to rejoin his team for halftime. 

“Did you see Nosal’s finger?”

— Greg Nosal’s teammates after he returned from a gruesome injury

“When I walk into the locker room, everyone is staring at me,” he remembered.  “They were whispering under their breath," asking each other if they saw the open wound.

But the response of his line coach, Curt Newsome, was what caught the injured Hokie off guard.  “Did you miss your cut on 50 protection?” Newsome asked Nosal, completely serious.

Late in the second half, when Tech finally took control, Nosal came out of the game and went into the Merryman Center for his surgical procedure.  “They did a great job reattaching it.  They even saved the nail,” he said.  And with some weekly tape and painkillers, Nosal was able to play out the season.

The finger healed and looks fine today.  “You wouldn’t even notice it unless I put my hands up together,” he confessed.  And if he had to do it all over, he would absolutely make the same choice to return to the game, not knowing for sure if he would be able to save his fingertip.

Although Nosal downplayed the actual injury, he did acknowledge how unique it was.  “It will be a cool story for the rest of my life,” he said with a laugh.  Plus, it gave him his fifteen minutes of fame, with an ESPN feature on Gameday and an interview with Erin Andrews that followed. And there is even a Twitter account called “Greg Nosal’s Pinky!

“It’s a lot better story than it is actually an injury.”

— Greg Nosal

“The Block” in the Epic Miami Win

Greg Nosal played on some of the best teams ever for Virginia Tech.  He was part of Tech’s thrilling victory against Nebraska.  He played in the 17-point comeback win over Russell Wilson at North Carolina State.  His pinky incident will always be one of the best in Hokie lore.  Yet the single greatest moment for him might just be the block he threw to spring Logan Thomas in Tech’s comeback win over Miami in 2011.

In an exciting back-and-forth game with the Hurricanes, the Hokies had the ball with a four-point deficit and 61 seconds on the clock.  Facing fourth and a long one on the nineteen-yard line, Nosal remembered the play call: 

“We were in a power bash scheme where he (Thomas) has the option to either run the jet sweep with David Wilson or run the power, and I was pulling to block for the power,” he recalled.  Thomas faked the handoff to Wilson, and Nosal’s kickout of first team All-ACC linebacker Sean Spence sprung the quarterback for the winning score.  Lane Stadium erupted into a frenzy.

“That probably was one of the loudest nights of Lane Stadium that I had been a part of,” said Nosal, who admitted that he still gets chills when he watches that replay.  “That was one of the highlights of my career, that’s for sure.”

Becoming a Coach

Following the 2011 season, Greg Nosal was faced with a decision – to commit to the draft process or not.  He played in the Casino Del Sol All-Star game two weeks after the Sugar Bowl, but that is when he made his decision to pivot from playing to coaching.

Admitting that his body was already beat up and facing a career that would likely result in more injury, he retired from the game. “It was time for me to hang ‘em up,” Nosal said.  It was an easy decision, not just because of the potential toll on his body, but because of his long-term goals.  “I always knew I wanted to coach,” he revealed. 

Nosal took the next year off from football, enjoying the novelty of an open calendar with free time, and he started working on his master’s degree at Tech.  The following season (2013), he became a graduate assistant for the Hokies, and thus his coaching career began.

4 Nosal as GA provided by Nosal
Photo provided by Greg Nosal

However, after three years as a GA, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer retired, so Nosal had to look elsewhere.  He landed a job at Miami, where he spent three years on the staff, one as a GA and two as a quality control analyst.

History repeated itself, however, and when Mark Richt retired, Nosal was on the move again.  This time he ended up at East Carolina as an offensive analyst.

After a year at ECU, an old acquaintance came calling.  Scot Loeffler, who was Virginia Tech’s offensive coordinator while Nosal was a GA in Blacksburg, got the head job at Bowling Green State University.  Nosal remembers the promise made to him when he was a GA working under Loeffler:

“He said, ‘When I get a head coaching job, I’m going to hire you’,” Nosal recalled, remembering Loeffler as loyal and a man of his word. “So when he got the job (at BGSU), he called me up in 2020, and I said, ‘I’ll run there’.”  

Nosal started at Bowling Green as a running backs coach, then moved to tight ends the next season.  By his third year with the Falcons, he was elevated to co-offensive coordinator.  The following year, his duties expanded to include run-game coordinator.

His playing experiences have helped him as a coordinator.  As a former lineman, he sees an offense from a “whole-group” point of view.  As a player, success was more than just making his block.  In order for a play to be effective, Nosal needed to do his job, but he also relied on the guy next to him to do his job, as well as the others down the line.  “That kind of point of view teaches you to do it at the coaching level,” he reflected.

“Very rarely does an offensive play work without all eleven players working together”

— Greg Nosal

Enjoying Life as a Coach – and a Husband and Father

The life of a Division 1 college football coach can be grueling, but it also can be very rewarding.  Nosal is excited about his current team, and he likes their chances of having a good season.   There are a lot of returning players who have bought in and are showing much unity and camaraderie.  Plus, Nosal notices a chip on their shoulder.

Even without the high expectations of the coming year, Nosal enjoys the career path he has taken.  “I get to be in the offensive line room, which was probably the favorite time of my life,” he said of his job.  “And I get to stay young doing it.”

“The joys of just being able to go to work every day like that are awesome.” 

“I get to hang out with the guys.  I get to help them become better football players, better men, better husbands, better leaders in the community.  You can’t put a price tag on that.”

— Greg Nosal

It also helps that his wife Cheyenne is a former Division 1 athlete and understands the demands of his job.  As a diver at Ohio State, she was a Big Ten champion and an All-American. When her coach retired, she then transferred to Miami and earned All-American honors again.

After her diving career, which included numerous national and world competitions, she took a job in the Miami athletic department, so she knows firsthand the rigors of both being a collegiate athlete and working in college athletics.

The couple met when Nosal was on the coaching staff at Miami, and they dated long distance while he was at ECU.  When the offer came to work at Bowling Green, it seemed like the stars aligned, as Cheyenne’s family was from Toledo, just about twenty miles north of BGSU.

It was an easy decision to take the job at Bowling Green.  They moved to Ohio in 2020, got married on her family farm in July of 2022, and a year later they became proud parents to a baby boy.   “I’m excited to watch him grow up,” Nosal said, thinking of his own experiences in this great gridiron sport, “and have him be part of a football team.” 

“There’s nothing better than the camaraderie of a football team”

— Greg Nosal

Life Lessons from Football

There are so many lessons that have stuck with Greg Nosal from his time on the Virginia Tech football team.  He strives to maintain the daily consistency that was the very fabric of who Frank Beamer was as a coach and a person.

Little things like showing up on time, doing the right thing when no one is looking, and living without regrets are a few of those aspect of life under Beamer that still resonate with Nosal. 

Beamer established a program-wide culture that was largely based on typical blue-collar worker ideals.  “That is the kind of work ethic that you really need, whatever job that you decide to do,” Nosal said.

“It’s ok to not be a superstar,” he added.  “Just be consistent and work your butt off and good things will happen on a daily basis.”

The pinky incident might be the most memorable story of Nosal’s career, but it is a great metaphor for the life he has lived. There will be extraordinary moments, people, or events in life - like this pinky injury, like the stars he played with, like the legends he coached under - but the sum is always greater than the parts. Doing the little things and working hard day after day are integral aspects of success.

These are words to live by.  And that is what Greg Nosal has always done, and that is why he is the successful player, coach, husband, father, and man that he is.

And when you are feeling tired or have a slight headache or are unmotivated, or when you don't want to go to the gym or mow the lawn or work through lunch, think of the guy who had his fingertip ripped off and still played on!  Use that for motivation!

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Born in the Bronx but otherwise raised in northern New Jersey, my Hokie life began in the fall of 1989. I walked on to the baseball team and spent a year and a half as a redshirt catcher. After my stint with the baseball team ended, I finished my time at Tech on the ice hockey team, playing Hokie hockey as a club sport. Despite this pursuit of other sporting interests, my passion became Tech football, and I have been a die hard fan ever since.

When I’m not obsessing over Hokie sports, I enjoy running, traveling, and fostering dogs. And of course, spending time with my wife and three kids. My “real job” is as a high school English teacher, where I have worked for over a quarter of a century (and everyone in the building knows where Mr. Lutt went to school). My daughter is now a Hokie - as if I needed another reason to make the long drive to Blacksburg!

I started my sports writing journey with Gridiron Heroics, covering Virginia Tech football and some college sports news. But I’m excited to join the Sons of Saturday now and I look forward to adding content through my story-telling abilities.

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