Recapping 2017 ACC Football Kickoff

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech head football coach Justin Fuente and players Cam Phillips and Andrew Motuapuaka spent this past Friday at the 2017 ACC Football Kickoff event, a two-day affair held at Charlotte’s Westin hotel in which media members from around the country pepper league players and coaches with questions about the upcoming season.

Fuente, Phillips and Motuapuaka received an array of questions, and the topics included Phillips’ outfit, Virginia Tech’s passionate fans, Bud Foster, renewing the West Virginia rivalry, the lunch pail and much, much more – a lot of which can be found here, along with a photo gallery from the event:

Below is a brief recap of comments from the Hokies’ appearance at the 2017 ACC Football Kickoff:


Phillips, the Hokies’ top returning receiver and one of the offense’s best threats, attracted much of the day’s attention with a rather unique outfit. Less than a couple of minutes into his session on the podium in front of hundreds of media members, he received a question about it.

“Okay, the jacket is actually a velvet double-breasted jacket,” Phillips said. “The color is bronze, actually. It looks brown to me, so I say it's brown, but the correct term is bronze, and the glasses actually flip up. But from ‘A Different World,’ Dwayne Wayne, I think he made those glasses pretty popular.

“I just like to have fun with stuff like this. I think it's a way to show my personality, show fans, other players how kind of a laid-back and fun, cool guy I am. I'm having a great time at this event.”

The outfit attracted national attention. Even Sports Illustrated chimed in with a separate story that spotlighted the outfit, which you can read here.

Of course, nothing compares to last year’s garish outfit worn by Clemson’s Ben Boulware:


Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher received a question about Fuente during his meeting with the media Thursday afternoon, and Fisher offered nothing but praise for Fuente and the staff, as they guided the Hokies to a Coastal Division crown in their first season following Frank Beamer’s retirement.

“I think he did a tremendous job,” Fisher said of Fuente. “What Frank did at Virginia Tech, I mean, was unbelievable. I think it was eight or nine 10-win seasons right there before the end and, what, he took them to a national championship and all the title games and the Big East and the ACC. And I think Frank is going to be a Hall of Fame — I think Frank definitely is a Hall of Fame coach.

“And for him [Fuente] to walk in there in those shoes and go 10-4 in that first year and play for an ACC title and do the things he did, that's kind of — that's actually what we were, I think we were 10-4 the first year and played for an ACC title also.

“But I think Justin is a great young coach. He did it at Memphis. I think he has great play-calling abilities, great dynamics in what he's done, and I think it was one of the great jobs in college football last year.”


Fuente preferred to talk about the upcoming season, as opposed to looking back at last year. However, he revealed that the Hokies’ 42-35 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game still gnaws at him. Tech had a chance to tie the game – and possibly win it with a two-point conversion – but failed to convert on fourth-and-6 at the Clemson 23 with 1:11 remaining.

“It bothers me because we had a chance to do it,” Fuente said. “We battled. Our guys believed. They fought. I tell you what, I knew we were going to win, and I was wrong. We didn’t, and that hurts. When you really believe in something and try to do everything you can to make it happen, and it doesn’t happen, that hurts. That game hurt.”


Fuente called defensive coordinator Bud Foster the best in America while on the podium at the Westin, and then he revealed even more when a reporter inquired what Foster meant to both him and the program.

“Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is he's a true professional,” Fuente said of Foster. “Comes to work every single day with a quest of teaching and mentoring young men, and ultimately putting the best defensive product out there on the field. It's great to have that resource. It's great to have someone on staff that understands things that have happened at Virginia Tech in the past. And I just really enjoyed it.

“You know, there's a lot of people I'm sure that have talked about this transition and how is it going to work and all that sort of stuff, and it doesn't work unless people are professional. It doesn't work unless they conduct themselves in a professional manner. A large reason for how smooth this has been has been Bud and his professionalism and his excitement and love for Virginia Tech, and I've just really enjoyed the past year and a half.”


Virginia Tech’s defensive player brings the lunch pail to this event every year, and this year was no exception as Motuapuaka kept a close handle on it. As usual, the lunch pail – which symbolizes the defense’s work ethic, toughness and approach to each practice and game – received its fair share of attention.


Virginia Tech opens the 2017 against West Virginia on Sept. 3 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. The two border neighbors haven’t played in 12 years – the longest such absence since the two teams didn’t face off between 1917 and 1952. Current players and some coaches have no idea about the bitterness of the rivalry, and Fuente admitted that he needed to educate his players.

The Roanoke Times’ Aaron McFarling took a look at the opener here:


West Virginia suffered an injury that should work in Tech’s favor. For more, take a look:


A reporter asked Fuente about playing in Lane Stadium during his first season as the Hokies’ head coach, and Fuente gave a tremendous response

“Our fans don't just fill the seats,” he said. “I've been places and been either on the road or as a home team where fans come to be entertained. Our fans come to participate — to participate, to actively help us try and win a football game, and it's just a fantastic example of school pride, of camaraderie, of tradition, something I'm awfully proud to be a part of … It's really something special to be a part of.”

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