Hospital visit highlight of day in New Orleans
By Jimmy Robertson
December 31, 2004

NEW ORLEANS - The Virginia Tech football team went through another practice in preparation for its Jan. 3rd Sugar Bowl game against Auburn, but a hospital visit by Tech's 19 seniors served as the highlight of the day.

Late Friday afternoon, those 19 seniors and head coach Frank Beamer hopped on a bus and went to the West Jefferson Medical Center across the Mississippi River in Jefferson Parish. Once there, they loaded onto elevators and rode to the fourth floor, which serves as the hospital's pediatric unit.

Tech's players handed out small footballs and "Team United" bracelets to children who were in the hospital for a variety of illnesses. They also signed autographs on Sugar Bowl banners and pennants, while chatting with the children. The visit at the hospital lasted 45 minutes, and every player came away feeling satisfied.

"This was great," said punter Vinnie Burns, who grew up in New Orleans. "We did something that was really so small and yet it goes such a long way. And for me, this means more because I'm from New Orleans and I understand how people down here sometimes struggle. It just makes you feel good to make people happy and we're fortunate enough as athletes that we have the ability to put smiles on people's faces."

On the football front, the press conference of the day centered around Tech's offense as offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and five players - Jon Dunn, Jeff King, Cedric Humes, Eddie Royal and Bryan Randall - got to play "Meet the Press." Like Bud Foster the day before, Stinespring got to answer an array of questions, mostly concerning Auburn's defense. He also received questions about tight end Jeff King and about the development of Tech's freshman receivers, a group that has made numerous big plays for the Hokies the entire season.

"We sold out early on and made the decision that we were going to play those guys and live through the growing pains," Stinespring said. "We felt they had the ability to make plays, and as the season went along, they did. To be honest, I don't know if we'd be here right now if it weren't for how those guys developed."

At practice, the best news of the day came when Chris Ellis took to the field. Ellis wore the blue jersey, which signifies limited contact, but the redshirt freshman defensive end from Hampton, Va., showed little effects of the sprained MCL that he suffered in practice the previous day. He should be fine by game time.

After practice, the players were free to do as they pleased for the rest of the evening, with curfew set at 1 a.m. Friday night is the last night for the players to go out and enjoy themselves. Beamer set an 11 p.m. curfew for the two nights before the game.

Crescent City clips

  • Speaking of curfew, Beamer changed the Hokies' curfew for Thursday night, moving it back an hour from 1 a.m. to midnight as punishment for a little disturbance on one of the floors at the team hotel. Apparently, the players got a little too noisy and some guests complained to hotel management. Beamer decided to punish the entire team to make a point.

    "I'm not sure what happened," Randall said. "There was some type of disturbance. So we probably deserved it."

    Beamer, though, moved the curfew back to 1 a.m. for New Year's Eve.

    "A lot of our players have family who are in town," he said. "So I wanted them to have some time to be with their family's and to enjoy that."

  • Tech's players got a dose of reality Thursday night when a man was murdered on Bourbon Street. Apparently a bouncer at a local bar accidentally choked the man, who was intoxicated, while tossing him out of the place and it killed him. The police rushed to the scene, immediately closed the place and roped off the scene.

    "That was a serious situation," Beamer said. "We've talk a lot about that with our players, even before we got down here. Things can happen that quickly. That's where you have to be responsible to yourself and your teammates and your school and not put yourself in that situation. We've been good about that and hopefully we'll continue to be good."

  • On a lighter note, Tech defensive end Jason Lallis has found a career once his playing days end. Using the camera, Lallis has been filming his teammates and their antics while in the Crescent City, and his hilarious commentary has been a hit on the website and among his teammates. He also took time to interview media members before practice, giving them a taste of their own medicine.

    "Before you know it, you'll have to give him a press pass," one onlooker said.

  • Tech's players are enjoying this bowl trip for another reason - all the goodies they got from the Sugar Bowl. Every bowl provides gifts to the players as a reward for a great season, but this year, the Hokies racked up.

    Tech's players received a portable DVD player, a grill to use for cooking out, a nice Sugar Bowl watch, three pairs of sweatsuits, a pair of shoes, and a Nike bag.