Columnist Chris Colston Tells All About The Buffet Buddies
Off The Bench
To each other, they're simply "The Buffet Buddies." The two have worked together for 16 consecutive seasons and have developed quite a rapport after sharing so many meals through the years. And while Roth can definitely hold his own at any table, Burnop's eating exploits are especially legendary.

"Burnop thinks the Gaza Strip is a steak," Roth says.

In a 1994 road trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., to play Southern Mississippi, the two had dinner at a place called "Catfish Hatties" that featured a seafood buffet.

"PTP," Burnop said to Roth as they strolled through the door.

"Huh?" Roth said.

"Prepare," Burnop said, "to POUND!"

The Buffet Buddies each plowed through about 8-10 plates - each.

Then it was time for dessert, and the restaurant had a soft-serve ice cream machine. "Why mess with a bowl?" Burnop said. "Let's just put our mouths under the tap."

He was joking, but Roth wasn't sure at first.

As they took their mounds of ice cream back to their table, a smattering of awed Hokie fans gave the two a standing ovation.

A few years earlier, the Hokies were in Norman, Okla., to take on the Sooners. After the 27-17 Hokies loss, Roth and Burnop fielded questions on the popular postgame show, The Point After. Their modus operandi on the road was to finish the show, then follow the team bus to the airport, thus taking advantage of the police escort. This time the show ran long, and they missed the busses.

They hustled down to the rental car and threw the radio gear in the trunk. Roth, driving, did his best to make up for lost time, zipping in and out of traffic like a Manhattan cabbie. They dropped off the rental and hustled through the airport terminal, lugging the heavy radio equipment, only to arrive in time to see the Hokies' plane rolling down the tarmac. Their personal luggage was on the plane.

Naturally, one thing entered their minds - let's get something to eat!

No doubt they returned to a steakhouse called Cattleman's. The night before, they had settled into a nice booth. The place was done up in classic Old West motif, with saddles and boots and oil paintings of horses and cows on the walls. On the wall above Burnop's shoulder was a rendering of a large steer.

The waiter arrived and asked, "What will you have?"

Burnop pointed to the painting. "I'll have HIM," he said, "medium!"

One Friday afternoon before a game with Navy in Annapolis, Md., Roth and Burnop checked into the Marriott at around 2 p.m. It was a little late for lunch and the two were, of course, starving. The restaurant was nearly empty. At the end of the buffet table was a serving pan filled with flank steak. The carver must have taken a break because nobody was there. Burnop grabbed a pair of tongs and heaped half the meat onto his plate. Roth took the tongs and helped himself to what remained.

When the carver returned from the kitchen, he saw the empty pan and looked around the room, empty save for Roth and Burnop.

"You should have seen his face," Burnop said. "He couldn't figure out what had just happened to all that meat."

But the buffet the two will never forget came at the 1996 Orange Bowl. Bowl officials rented the Miami SeaQuarium for the official parties of Tech and Nebraska. The Buffet Buddies found a spread that included filet mignon, pork ribs, lobster and stone crab claws.

"You've got to be (kidding) me," Burnop said. "They're going to turn us loose in HERE?"

Although this was, ostensibly, a social event, the two didn't talk to anybody else for the next two hours. "We camped," Burnop said. "We were in our own little world and didn't say a word to anybody. How could we? Our mouths were full."

As long as they keep talking on game days, no Hokie fans are likely to complain.