Selfless Corey Gordon Aspires to High Standards
By Scott Ellis
Originally published Sept. 29, 2007 in the UNC game program

Famed football head coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority."

For fifth-year senior Corey Gordon, these words are the creed that he lives his life by on a daily basis. Consistently ranked as a Super Iron Hokie in the strength and conditioning program and officially recognized by the coaching staff for putting the team first during spring practice, he has dedicated himself to the Virginia Tech Hokie football team and tried every which way to contribute as best he can.

Contributing during past seasons on special teams and as a defensive backup, the 6-2, 225-pound Gainesville, Fla., native came into the 2007 season penciled in at the top of the depth chart at the whip linebacker position. The recent loss of a dear friend (who was nicknamed Johnny Red by everyone who knew him) to cancer added special emphasis when Gordon dedicated his play the entire season to his former high school teammate.

On Aug. 6, however, Gordon collided with offensive lineman Nick Marshman in practice, injuring his neck.

"When the injury happened, my hands and legs got messed up," Gordon said. "I was just saying to myself, 'I hope I get up and walk off.' I really wasn't thinking too much beyond that at that point ... I just wanted to get up."

After coming back healthy later in the week, Gordon was unable to regain the top spot, but he never lost focus on why he joined the Hokies - not to achieve personal success, but rather for the glory of the team. He did not want to disrespect the life of Johnny Red by focusing on his own desires. Quickly accepting the coaching staff's decision, Gordon told coach Frank Beamer that he wanted to be a part of as many special teams units as possible.

Gordon continued to contribute in whatever role was asked of him, and the thoughts of the neck injury completely vanished. All of that returned in the blink of an eye on Sunday, Sept. 9, when the Buffalo Bills' Kevin Everett sustained a life-threatening spinal cord injury after ducking his head while tackling a Denver Bronco during the second-half kickoff.

Prior to the season, there were concerns expressed by some in the football world about the NCAA pushing the football back five yards on kickoffs to the 30-yard line. While Everett's injury reminded Gordon of the harsh realities of playing football, Gordon says he will not allow those concerns to phase him and prevent him from persevering and making the sacrifices needed to help his teammates win.

"Before every game, I pray to God that He look over me," Gordon said. "I hope not to be in a position where my neck or anything could be part of a serious injury. However, the fear of getting hurt on the field, you don't let that be a thought in your head. With the ball being pushed back and being able to return more kicks, it's just another opportunity to make more plays. I just want to get out there on the field any way I can."

Besides being a special teams contributor, Gordon has also helped the team by being a leader on and off the field, especially to the underclassmen.

"The biggest thing about being a leader is trying to get people up to the level at which our coaches want things to be," Gordon said. "Talking to the younger players and just trying to keep their minds going in the direction, trying to set up things the way the coaches want by telling them to be on time for meetings, attend class, lift hard in the weight room - just little things that younger players might see and pick up on. That's the only way I would say to be a leader. We just try to do the right thing and do what the coaches say, and hopefully the players will pick up on it and just ride with it."

As his final slate of ACC games begins today, Gordon is excited to be part of a group of seniors that he has been especially close with while in Blacksburg.

"When you come in with your class, your class is your class, and you form a bond with those guys better than you would with upperclassmen. By us being together for so long, it's just like a brotherhood. We look out for each other and stay on each other. We are best of friends."

With his family and friends there to support him, Gordon is ready to take the field and make the Hokie fans cheer.

"My ultimate goal is to get on the field and make some plays, and just give my parents the joy of seeing their son on the field," Gordon said. "I just want us to go through the season and have a good one. However it plays out, that's fine as long as we give our best effort every game.

"One of the most important things I've learned here is you have to hold yourself accountable for everything," Gordon added. "People can't really judge you based on what they hear, but you can show them your dedication and your personal character. Based on this program, our coaches hold us to high standards, and that's how you should live life."

Lombardi would be smiling right now.