Former Hokies Return to the Program
By Anne Hague
Originally published Oct. 25, 2007 in the BC game programBlacksburg is home to a university rich in community and football tradition. Virginia Tech football alumni have an even stronger sense of pride and loyalty toward their alma mater after years spent representing the time-honored maroon and orange on the field. In particular, eight former football Hokies have recently returned to Tech to give back to a program that has provided them with so much. Cornell Brown, considered the first high-profile recruit of the Beamer Era, has returned to finish graduate school and is helping coach the defense. After seven years spent playing for the Baltimore Ravens, Brown feels as if Blacksburg is a natural fit in his venture toward one day achieving head coach status. For him, learning to coach from the people who taught him has been a great help. And despite missing his playing days, Brown still enjoys the professional side of the game. "It's a start," Brown said. "It's new ground for me to start out in the coaching field. It was a natural fit for me to be able to come back and get involved with helping the program. But, it's different now, too. It's a lot more business now as there's a professional side to it. "But, it's still fun and it's the place that I know and it's comfortable. Having the opportunity to learn the coaching side of the game from the coaches that taught me the playing side has been the biggest benefit for me." After his May graduation, Brown has high hopes of staying on staff for next year, though he understands different coaching opportunities may present themselves elsewhere. James Miller, a 2004 Tech graduate, always knew he wanted to come back to coach at Tech. As a three-year starting offensive guard for the Hokies, Miller began to adapt to Tech as his home away from home. He returned to campus in the spring of 2006 to complete his graduate degree in health promotions. Since then, Miller has been learning as much as he can from the coaching staff in preparation for future coaching opportunities in the collegiate ranks. "I just wanted to get back to coaching," Miller said. "I was actually working at a Division II school and Coach [Billy] Hite called me and offered me a graduate assistant position. I thought it was a great opportunity to come back and work with Coach Beamer and the rest of the staff again; to learn as much as I could as a coach, rather than as a player." Set to graduate at the end of this semester, Miller is grateful for his time spent at Tech and feels as though it has been truly beneficial in the beginning stages of his coaching career. Defensive backfield coach Torrian Gray, joins Brown and Miller on the coaching field. As a former standout himself, Gray has used his successes to make an impact on Tech's defense, leading a unit that ranked as the nation's No. 1 pass defense and the No. 2 team in pass efficiency defense last year. Anthony Midget, a 2000 draft pick for the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, and Zac Lowe, one of last year's offensive guard graduates, also help out as graduate assistants in the football video office. Jarrett Ferguson, a 2001 graduate, returned to Tech in 2003 as an assistant strength and conditioning coach and to complete his master's degree. As a former fullback, Ferguson excelled in the weight room as only the second player to attain the new Elite level of performance status. Tired of different jobs, Ferguson jumped at the chance to work as a full-time strength trainer, in order to show his respect and loyalty to his coaches, while regaining the close bonds that teammates share. "I was tired of bouncing around," said Ferguson. "I had spent time working at a couple other places before coach [Mike] Gentry asked me to come train full-time. I knew I had to take it, as Virginia Tech is pretty much home. I enjoy working here with all the coaches. This is family for us and nothing has changed just because we're coaching now." Fellow strength training coach Keith Short graduated in 2000 and returned one year later as a graduate assistant. The former center then left to spend three years working at the University of South Florida before returning to Tech full time. "This is home," Short said, "This is where I started, this is where I've always wanted to be. I really enjoy working with coach Gentry and coach Beamer because they have always been good to me." Short now strength trains with the same coach that coached him in his playing days. Short sees Gentry as a mentor and likes to apply his strength training in the same ways it was taught to him. "Coming back to Tech confirmed that I was doing the right type of training at USF because we're back here still doing the same stuff that has proven to work," he said. Short would one day like to become a head strength coach, but for now is completely satisfied working for Gentry and Beamer for as long as he can. Mason Baggett, a graduate from last season's squad, helps Ferguson and Short as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach. For these eight former players, returning home to Tech has given them an opportunity to express their loyalty to the program and coaches that have given them so much. Whether these alumni are settling in for the long term or just starting out their careers, it is clear that they will always be proud to call Virginia Tech home.