Head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies spent some time on The David Glenn Show this week discussing his admiration of Frank Beamer, his interaction with Metallica, experience with College GameDay in Blacksburg, his thoughts on Larry Fedora, as well as Bronco Mendenhall and UVA.
Click below to hear his answer or view the full transcript below.
David Glenn: I know you have a great relationship with Coach Beamer. Any plans on his 70th birthday? I saw your kind tweet about him earlier today. Are you just going to stick to some well wishes as you prepare for the Tar Heels?
Justin Fuente: Yeah, I know coach knows we’ve got work to do, so I’m not exactly sure what he’s going to do. I’m sure he’s going to enjoy himself. I think by all accounts he’s enjoying his college football playoff committee responsibilities, and enjoying his grandkids, and having some fun in retirement, but I’m not sure exactly his specific plans.
David Glenn: You have the number 25 jersey tradition going in his honor for a second straight year. Remind folks how that works, and just take us into that room, coach. Sometimes you dramatically reveal who gets to wear the number 25 in honor of Coach Beamer, that being his number. How has that worked? How much drama do you build? Because I’ve seen some big smiles on your guy’s faces when they get to put that uniform on.
Justin Fuente: Well, it’s been a lot of fun. We sat down about a year and a half ago and tried to think of a way to pay tribute to coach and all his great accomplishments. We really wanted to do something more than just paint the 25 yard line or something like that. We kind of just brainstormed a little bit and came up with essentially the special teams player of the week would get a chance to wear 25, because of obviously Frank’s contribution to special teams and his acumen in that area. Really built a fantastic brand and identity with Virginia Tech football. We meet with the staff and talk about it, then we reveal it in our team meeting on Thursday. We have about a seven or eight minute team meeting on Thursday before we go to position meetings and practice. It’s really fun.
The thing that I’m most excited about is the kids’ response. I mean, I wanted to pay tribute to coach. I thought our fans, the whole Hokie Nation would enjoy it, but I really wanted it to be special for the kids. It has been that way. Last year the guys that wore 25 made numerous big plays in games. It’s added a little bit of magic to it. But there’s big smiles on faces. We’ve mixed it up. We’ve given it to big defensive linemen, and little bitty corners and wide receivers and all kinds of people.
David Glenn: Now that Coach Beamer is, as you said, on that College Football Playoff committee, given that you guys are 5-1 and ranked no. 14 in the nation, do you have to avoid each other come late November and December? How does that work?
Justin Fuente: Well, we haven’t had to cross that bridge quite just yet. I know he’s obviously got some restrictions in terms of dealing with Virginia Tech and Georgia. We’re striving to get to the point where that’s an issue. We’ve still got plenty of work to do to get to there though.
David Glenn: Over the weekend, the heavy metal band Metallica actually tweeted at you from it’s official account a video from Lane Stadium with it’s ‘Enter Sandman’ famous song as the soundtrack. What can you tell us about this relationship? I’ve experienced it and loved it myself. You’ve told us the energy that you feel as the coach. Do we know if Metallica is at the point where this relationship is so deep that they’re rooting for the Hokies every Saturday?
Justin Fuente: Well, I certainly hope so. I don’t know how big a collegiate sports fans they are. I find it kind of ironic, just through my youth growing up was kind of when Metallica was kind of at their peak I guess you could say. It was a pretty big deal. To kind of in some way be associated with them is pretty cool. It’s nice that obviously they know that we make a big deal about our entrance, and part of it is because of it actual song that they wrote and performed. It’s kind of nice tie in there.
David Glenn: You had a great College GameDay experience in Blacksburg when you hosted Clemson. I know you didn’t have the scoreboard where you wanted it in the end, but what can you tell us about the way your community reacted to that special occasion? What did you hope your guys took away from the loss to the Tigers?
Justin Fuente: Well, it was a fantastic example of this community and Virginia Tech, just showing out for the country. I mean, the energy that was on the GameDay set was second to none. They remarked several times about the passion of our fans. I mean, our stadium was absolutely electric. We’ve got a little work to do to catch Clemson, and that’s our mission every single day. We weren’t good enough to beat them on that day, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to strive to get that done. But I just thought our community and our school accounted for itself really well on a national stage.
David Glenn: I know earlier this week coach you said you did not want to put words in the mouth of your star young wide receiver, Shawn Savoy, but he went home to D.C. after the sad death of his brother. He’s come back to Blacksburg. Can you give us an update on that situation? Or even just your general sense?
Justin Fuente: I would say Shawn’s doing as well as can be expected. He’s back here going to school and with his teammates. You know, just my conversations with him, this has obviously hit him hard, as you can imagine. He’s doing his best every single day to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep plowing forward. He knows in his heart that the secret to honoring his brother is continuing to live his life the right way and being a great example to others. Even though that’s hard at this point. I’ve just been really proud of the courage that he’s shown. It was fun to see him back with his teammates and interacting with those guys a little bit. I told him “Shawn, nobody expects you to walk around with a smile on your face, but I hope you have seen through this tragedy how many people genuinely love and care about you.” He nodded his head and said “yes.” It’s been a huge outpouring of support from his teammates. From the coaching staff and from everyone associated with Hokie Nation. He realizes that and is very appreciative of that. He’s just taking it one step at a time right now.
David Glenn: Coach, there’s not as much excitement on the outside about this match up because Carolina happens to be 1-6 and you guys are 5-1, and you’re expected by most to win at home. Can you tell us in the more general sense, beyond Saturday’s match up, given your proximity to one another, is UNC one of those schools that you bump into most often on the recruiting trail? Because it seems like it’s that way with you getting so many North Carolina-based guys and them getting a number of Virginia-based guys.
Justin Fuente: Oh I think so. The kind of unique part of this whole thing is there are so many schools within close proximity of each other. It’s a little bit unique. I know even in the middle of the country where I’m kind of from, in Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas, the schools are just a little more spread out. There’s a little bit bigger population center out here on the east coast. I think as a byproduct of that, we end up crossing paths maybe more often than other people in the same areas trying to recruit players.
David Glenn: Larry Fedora in 10 years as a head coach has never before had a losing regular season record. Obviously it looks that way for this year’s Tar Heels. I know you went 3-9 one year while you were at Memphis. What’s the best advice you’ve ever given or received about the best way to handle that football season with so much losing and so much disappointment the way Carolina’s dealing with right now?
Justin Fuente: First of all, I wouldn’t count them out yet. That’s the first thing, that when I watch them play, Larry’s got them playing hard. They’ve had some adversity. They’ll be ready to play this Saturday. They’ve got a tremendous amount of pride, and they have good players. It just kind of hasn’t fallen their way thus far, but you know, as somebody that’s been through some tough times coaching, you just got to stay true to yourself. Coach Fedora’s an accomplished coach. He’s doing a heck of a job. I watched him in this press conference staying positive with his guys but still coaching them hard and being demanding. They’re going to get this thing up and running. They’re a dangerous football team. I just hope it’s not this Saturday. I hope we can kind of weather the storm. But you know, just kind of like I talked about with Shawn. Just keeping putting one foot in front of the other and plowing forward and staying true to yourself is the best way to go about it.
David Glenn: Does tunnel vision prevent you from noticing that down the road in Charlottesville, there is an in-state rival that is also out to a 5-1 start?
Justin Fuente: Well, I’ve certainly noticed them. I saw them play … I can’t remember what week it was, but they beat the snot out of Boise State. I saw that game in the hotel room. It was obvious to tell … Or it was easy to tell at that moment that they were vastly improved. I mean we certainly aren’t worried about them until it’s game week of Virginia. But absolutely. I’ve seen them play once. We watch them in crossover film all the time. Obviously they played North Carolina last week. Bronco’s done a fantastic job with that squad and they’ll be as dangerous as anybody in this side of the league.