Urban Meyer, the Florida football coach, is taking a leave of absence after being worn down by the stress of running a major college football program. Frank Beamer, the Virginia Tech football coach, can relate.
One day in 1989, his third season in Blacksburg, Va., Beamer felt some discomfort in his chest and the next morning was undergoing an angioplasty procedure to relieve pressure on an artery that was found to be 90 percent blocked. Beamer was 43. Meyer is 45.
This season, after narrow losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, Beamer, 63, was on a walk in Greenville, N.C., before a game with East Carolina and turned to Dr. John Ballein, the associate director of athletics for football operations, and said, “John, I just don’t feel like walking.”
“I didn’t feel good. I was nervous,” Beamer said Sunday afternoon as his team prepared for practice in the Falcons indoor facility in Flowery Branch in preparation for Thursday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl against Tennessee. “I went back [to the hotel] and laid down for a while.”
It was a build-up of stress, Beamer said. It comes with the job.
“I was just stressed out. That’s the way the game is,” Beamer said. “Wewere doing well and we go down to Georgia Tech and lose a close ball game. We play North Carolina and lose a close ball game. And in a matter of two weeks, you thought the sky had fallen.”
The door is open
Beamer coached Michael Vick at Virginia Tech and the Hokies’ coach said the program still has a relationship with its former star. Vick, Beamer said, can come back any time.
“He and John Ballein talk quite a bit. We’ve all written him,” Beamer said. “Michael just made some bad decisions, he’s a good person. The vote last week by his teammates in Philadelphia to give him an award shows that.
“When he was at Tech, for a guy who was as good a player as he was, a star, everyone liked him. That’s how I will remember Michael. I told him to get himself back on his feet and go tell his story.”
Virginia Tech is going for its 10th win Thursday night, which would give it 10 wins for six straight seasons. The Hokies played for the national title just one season: 1999 when Vick was the quarterback.
Trouble on the corner
Cris Hill, the redshirt sophomore cornerback, is competing to replace starter Stephan Virgil (academically ineligible) for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Hill had a rough start to practice Sunday, biting on a receiver’s short route fake and then getting beaten deep for a touchdown when the receiver ran past him.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s reaction was telling. He dropped his head.
The other candidate to start at the boundary corner, Jayron Hosley, sat out the second half of practice Sunday because he was ill. Hosley, a true freshman, said he had a headache and just didn’t feel well.
“I’m going to finish practice the rest of the week,” Hosley said. “Even if I’m still a little woozy, I’m playing. Me and Cris Hill are going to share time at the boundary corner.”
Hosley is also the Hokies' punt return specialist. He replaced running back Ryan Williams the first game of the season against Alabama in the Georgia Dome after Williams fumbled a punt. Hosley said he is comfortable in the Georgia Dome's pillow roof as the backdrop.
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