Courtesy Dave Knachel / Virginia Tech
Frank Beamer on the field
Virginia Tech head football coach Frank Beamer is retiring at the end of the 2015 season. Our Digital Publications Editor and VT alum wishes him a fond farewell.
When a co-worker asked me if I would write a piece about the retirement of my alma mater’s legendary head football coach Frank Beamer, my first thought was, “gosh, where would I even start?”
I’ve never met Frank personally. I’m not, nor have I ever been, a football player at any level. In fact, prior to my freshman year of college in 2001 I had only been to two Tech football games in my entire life.
While Beamer was leading his team to a berth in the 1999 National Championship game, I was that saxophone player in the Cave Spring High School marching band who would say “come for the halftime show, stay for the game!” A football field to me was measured in the number of high steps it would take to get from one yard line to another – not how fast the running back could turn the corner, or how long the QB could hold onto the ball before being dropped for a sack.
That changed quickly when I got to Tech, and it started with a simple gesture that I can see in hindsight epitomizes everything Frank has always been about during his 29 seasons as the “Head Hokie.”
Frank’s childhood history and how it helped form his days as a player and coach are well documented (for more see our wonderful story by Roland Lazenby at TheRoanoker.com/Beamer), but one detail that not everyone knows is that Frank played the trombone in the fifth grade.
That must have been something that stuck with him, because when I was just a freshman Frank did something not many college coaches would do. He took the time to pay The Marching Virginians a visit during band camp and thank us for “being a big part of the game day experience.”
Think about that. There I was, just trying to learn a new piece of music, and in walks the face of the university to say thank you to the band. As he spoke to us about his memories of playing an instrument and how important he believed the bands were to the competitive atmosphere inside Lane Stadium, it was obvious this was a sincere gesture of appreciation.
Looking back on it now that doesn’t surprise me, because that’s just who Frank is. But as a freshman who was only beginning to find my place in the exciting new environment of campus life that was a moment I would never forget.
There’s also the time my mother ran into Frank in the aisle at Kroger when I was a rising junior and he stopped to take the time to chat with her. I was back at my first apartment getting settled in, which meant I missed the chance to meet Frank for myself – a fact my mother still likes to remind me of to this day. But there it was again, a perfect example of this humble man going out of his way to give a few moments of his time to a complete stranger.
Or how about the signed football that my wife – a producer with WDBJ7 – was able to get Frank to autograph for me as an anniversary gift simply by asking one of her coworkers to do her a favor during a spring scrimmage?
Of course there are all the obvious memories on the field as well, like the 2003 Thursday night blowout win over #2 Miami, or the 2004 wins over rivals WVA and UVA that led to an eventual ACC title and trip to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. And who can forget the 2009 game that my dad and I watched together as Tyrod Taylor lead the Hokies to a stunning last-minute comeback over Nebraska? (I can still hear Bill Roth’s radio call, “Tyrod did it Mikey!”)
I also remember the heartbreaking defeats. Like the 2007 night loss in the waning seconds to #2 Boston College in the pouring rain, or the 2011 Sugar Bowl defeat to Michigan in overtime (I still say Danny Coale caught that ball!) Add to those the emotional defeat at the hands of UNC in Frank’s final home game.
When you’re a hokie you appreciate all of those moments, the good and bad. I think that’s because if Frank taught Hokie Nation anything, it’s that life doesn’t always give us the outcomes we hope for. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes we fall short. But in the end, whether you win or lose, it’s always how you respond to the adversity that matters most. What better lesson can a legend like Beamer leave us with than that?
So here we are, saying farewell. Frank never won that elusive national title, and when the dust settled at the end of his final home game, it was a loss that went into the record books.
But none of that changes the fact that Frank was carried off that field a winner that day. None of that changes the fact that he retires with the respect and gratitude of all his fans, players and peers. And that’s how I’ll always choose to remember Frank – a winner on the field yes, but an even bigger one off it. Even though really we’re the winners. Because coaching treasures like Frank don’t come around often, and for 29 seasons we were fortunate enough to call him our own.
Thanks Frank. Game day will never be the same without you. –Jeffrey K. Wood
Jeff Wood, Digital Publications Editor for The Roanoker, is a 2005 Virginia Tech graduate and former member of the Marching Virginians.