August 31, 2016
Two former Tech quarterbacks make surprise visit to practice
Michael Vick and Bryan Randall addressed the players and toured the facilities

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – When most former football players return to the Virginia Tech campus for a visit, they tour the facilities, talk with the current players and coaches, and then get excited about a potential visit to The Farmhouse.

Knowing that, one can empathize with Michael Vick’s dismay over finding out that The Farmhouse had closed.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “Where are we going to eat?”

The former Tech quarterback only had to find another eating establishment on this trip, as The Farmhouse is set to re-open soon. Even he would admit that waiting was the on blemish on this return trip to campus.

Vick and another former quarterback, Bryan Randall, made virtually a last-minute decision and drove from the Tidewater area to attend the Hokies’ practice on Wednesday. They arrived shortly after practice started and observed most of practice, shaking hands with coaches and players, soaking in the Hokies’ one-year-old indoor practice facility, and taking “selfies” with practically everyone in the building.

“It’s a weird feeling because when I come back, it’s almost like I’m coming back and preparing to play again,” Randall said. “When I see the guys out here and you get the smell of the field house and see them practicing and sweating and being coached up … it’s almost like I never left. I can almost envision myself again being out here and going through the same thing that they’re going through. It’s a crazy feeling, but it’s a great one.”

The two of them received a tour of the facilities. They even darted away for a few minutes to meet with Tech men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams and walk around the Hahn Hurst Practice Facility.

Vick, who guided the Hokies to a perfect 11-0 regular-season record in 1999 and an appearance in the 2000 national championship game, said the idea to come back was his. He joked that Randall wanted to book a tee time at Ford’s Colony Country Club, a nice golf course in his native Williamsburg where he works, but Vick wanted to come back and check on “my boys.”

It’s hard for Vick to believe that his last game occurred more than 15 years ago. Time flies by, but the memories of what he and his teammates accomplished during that era never fade – for them and for Tech fans.

“It’s always great to come back and see the new facilities and to see the young guys,” Vick said. “I see them out here thriving and surviving and putting in the hard work to be the best that they can be and keeping the tradition of the program going.

“I miss it. It was so long ago, but it always brings back memories when you walk around and you see the things that you made a contribution to help build. Myself and Bryan and so many others who played here, we always keep an eye on Tech and what’s going on and always want to support the program in any way that we can. We’re just thankful that we can continue to be a part of it.”

Following practice, Tech head coach Justin Fuente had both Vick and Randall speak to the team. Randall, in particular and the extrovert of the two, gave an impassioned speech to the squad, telling the squad that they would be a part of a special fraternity for the rest of their lives and that what their legacy would be is totally up to them.

“I do miss it,” Randall said, echoing Vick. “It’s crazy because the time goes by so fast. You see so many players come through here, and when you come back, you see how things have changed. You see the new faces and now we have the new faces on the coaching staff. But that feeling of being here and playing … it’s still in me. I don’t think it’s something that will ever go away. Those memories are something that are in me for life.”

In addition to working at Ford’s Colony – Randall always has been a terrific golfer – he also continues to play football, calling it a “year-by-year thing.” The 2004 ACC Player of the Year received an opportunity to play for a team in the China Arena Football League and decided to take advantage of it. He leaves soon for Beijing and then will play games in six different cities over the course of six weeks.

As for Vick, he continues to work out in hopes of getting another shot with an NFL squad. He spent the 2015 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers and played in five games, starting three, when Ben Roethlisberger sustained a knee injury.

“I’m still waiting on a call,” Vick said. “I’d like to play at least one more year, more if possible. I’m just looking forward to playing football. I still feel like I have a lot of football left in me and I’m excited about the opportunities that may come in the future. If I get it, I’m going to take advantage of it.”

If he doesn’t get a call, he plans on being in Blacksburg much more frequently. He even plans on being in Bristol for Tech’s game against Tennessee.

Rest assured, wherever the Hokies are playing, he and Randall – and so many other former Tech players – are always welcome.

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