Noel sounds confident he can lead the Hokies in 2001
The Roth Report
March 15, 2001
By Bill Roth

Two months ago, Grant Noel was an anonymous third-string, backup college quarterback.

Now, he's the answer to one of the most often asked questions around the country: Who's the next quarterback at Virginia Tech?

Replacing Michael Vick isn't the most enviable of positions for any quarterback, but Noel, Tech's 6-foot-2, 225 pound redshirt-junior from Ridgley, W.Va., will get that chance starting on March 24 when the Hokies open spring practice in Blacksburg.

Noel has worked hard on his passing game so that Tech will not be one-dimensional when he is the quarterback.
Recently, I visited with Noel during a break between classes to get his thoughts on his new role at Tech and the 2001 Hokies.

BR: Your life is about to change in a big way, isn't it?
GN: I'm excited and I'm glad I'm going to get this chance. I'm not glad he's (Vick) gone, but this opportunity is what I've been waiting for. It's what I came here to do.

BR: What's unusual from my perspective is that, unlike some of the other guys who have played quarterback here, you've been following the Hokies closely since you were a kid.
GN: I grew up a Tech fan and I was always coming here to see games.

BR: You remember your first game?
GN: It was that Virginia game in 1990 when Shawn Moore didn't play for UVa. I remember people tearing goalposts down after the game. We sat on the east side of Lane Stadium, way up high in the left corner with some UVa fans who left midway through the game. But I stayed for the whole game. (NOTE: Tech won 38-13.)

BR: A Tech fan from way up in northern West Virginia. That's unusual too.
GN: My granddaddy worked at the railroad and he and his friends always came down here for games and I just started coming too.

BR: From Ridgley, West Virginia?
GN: It's a tiny little town up on the Maryland line. You can throw a rock across the river and hit Cumberland, Md.

BR: You say you followed Tech closely. Can you name the other quarterbacks we've had here in the past 10 years?
GN: Furrer, Koel, Maurice, Druck, Al , Mike, Dave and Nick.

BR: Pretty good.
GN: I came to camp here three times while I was in high school. My first camp was when Nick Sorensen was a senior in high school, so I've been around this program for six years. I've known the guys who have played here and Coach Bustle since before the 10th grade.

BR: And now you're going to get the chance to be Tech's starting quarterback. Can you handle it?
GN: I know I can. Nobody was the quarterback Michael (Vick) was, but I know I'm capable, more so now than in the fall. My arm is stronger, I put weight on and I'm ready mentally. I lie in bed thinking about pass routes and where everyone is. I've been here for a while, so I know what we're doing in our offense.

BR: You lie in bed thinking about Tech's offense?
GN: Yup. I wake up and I am thinking about pass rushes and protections.

BR: Your not as fast as Vick and your arm isn't as strong as Michael's. How can you make up for that?
GN: I'm a little older than Michael (Noel will turn 21 in June), and I'm going to be more cautious of blitzes coming. I understand what we've got to do. I've been around Coach Bustle for six years. I think I know what he wants. Plus we've got great people around me on offense.

BR: Some folks expect the Hokies just to hand the ball to Lee Suggs on every play.
GN: Lee is going to be one of the top backs in the country and Jarrett Ferguson is too at fullback. But we've got great playmakers out there at wide receiver, like Emmett Johnson and André Davis, plus some other receivers who are really going to surprise some people this fall. Plus, we signed three new running backs who are all good. I came in with Keith Burnell and I'm hoping he can get more playing time this fall too.

BR: Lots of experience except at quarterback, right?
GN: Yeah. Everyone else can do his job, I know that. It's just a matter of me doing my job too, and I know I can do it.

BR: That's a lot of pressure since Tech might have been a top-three team with Michael Vick at quarterback. That's a lot of pressure on you, no?
GN: With all the people around me, I don't have to make great plays every play. There is so much talent on this team, so many talented players around me, that I don't have to try to do what Michael did here.

BR: Well, how would you rate your arm?
GN: My arm is strong, but it's my feet that are my biggest problem. I've been working with Coach Gentry all winter and I think it will make a big difference this spring.

BR: Some Tech fans expect one of the true freshmen to come in here this fall and really give you a run for your money and maybe take the starting job. What do you think about Bryan Randall or Will Hunt?
GN: It's a lot different playing here than playing in high school. I don't want our coaches to have to take a redshirt off an 18-year-old freshman because a 21-year-old redshirt junior isn't ready to play. If I do what I know I can do, then our coaches won't have to take a redshirt off Randall or Hunt. I should be ready to play. I'm glad they're (the freshman QB's) coming here and I'm glad we signed them because we need more than two quarterbacks.

BR: OK, fair enough. How about some personal stuff? I know you're a big music fan. What are the top CD's you have in your collection?
GN: Hmmm. (pauses). Kenny Chesney's Greatest Hits would be one. Def Leppard's The Vault, AC/DC Live. Alabama's Greatest Hits.

BR: You think Michael (Vick) has any of those CD's in his collection?
GN: Naw (laughs). Definitely not.

BR: But then again, you don't own any gold chains either.
GN: No (laughs again), I don't have a big gold cross.

BR: You guys are a lot different, aren't you?
GN: We are a lot different but our parents brought us up pretty good. Both of our folks put a lot of emphasis on morals and manners, and I bet if you asked Coach Bustle, he'd tell you the same thing.

BR: Well, you guys both like to fish.
GN: Oh, I love to fish. Especially in the New River. Me, Jake (Houseright), Chad (Beasley), David Pugh, Shawn Witten and (Jim) Ferugio go down there.

BR: What do you get?
GN: Smallmouth bass. That's about it.

BR: You seem much more like a typical guy to whom Tech fans can relate. Almost as if you're a fan who is going to actually be the quarterback for the team. Are you going to be one of those people in the parking lot tailgating before games after you graduate?
GN: Oh yeah. I can see that. I'd love to be doin' that in the rich lot across from the stadium when I'm 45 years old. That would be fun.

BR: You can't tailgate with that motorcycle of yours.
GN: No, I'm gonna sell it soon. Have to.

BR: What kind is it?
GN: It's a '96 green and purple Kawasaki ZX7. It's a lot of fun and I love it a lot, but I've got to get rid of it. I just don't want people depending on me and then I put the thing on the ground, so I'm going to sell it.

BR: At Coach Bustle's request?
GN: No, actually Coach Bustle rode it last spring when we had a big fish fry at his house. He said he had one when he was younger too. I just don't think I should ride it anymore, and I just got it last May. But I'll sell it this spring.

BR: Tell me about Falco.
GN: Oh (laughs again). That's from Miami. We were at the hotel and we got a movie the night before the game called The Replacements. Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman are the stars and Reeves plays a quarterback named Falco. Now, everyone on our team calls me Falco. It's a nickname I didn't pick, but it stuck with the guys.

BR: Grant, what's going to be the hardest part about replacing Michael Vick? The interviews, the pressure, the expectations of the fans?
GN: Actually, the hardest part will probably be going through spring ball, making all those throws with just two quarterbacks. The other stuff, I'm ready for. I've been around here for six years and I'm excited to get this chance to see what I can do and to prove that I'm ready to play. I should be ready to play and that's what I hope to show this spring.


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