Five questions with Lester Karlin

Editor’s note: Throughout fall camp we’ll periodically catch up with student-athletes, coaches and other Hokies for five questions.

Q: You’ve been involved with Virginia Tech Athletics for over 40 years. How did you get started working in the equipment room?

KARLIN: “Well, I did it in high school and that gave me a good feel for what doing equipment at the college level would be like. Then I began at Virginia Tech for head coach Charlie Coffey, when he was here from 1971 to 1973.”

Q: What’s the craziest request that you’ve gotten from a player or a coach during the middle of a game?

KARLIN: “Middle of the game? I never really got anything too crazy. Our coaches were very level-headed during the game – Charlie Coffey, Bill Dooley, Frank Beamer. Nothing really out of the ordinary during the game. But before the game, I had one request before the Virginia game one year when Coach Beamer was here and we were going to go to black shoes from Nike the following year. But, we were playing Virginia and all of the players, I didn’t know this, went to the hardware store and got some black spray paint a few days before the game. And then Saturday morning, they were out there spraying their shoes black and they got some black paint on their socks. I sort of went nuts but Coach Beamer said don’t worry about it and let’s just win this ball game.”

Q: What’s the worst weather game you can remember being a part of and what challenges did that pose either during the game or cleaning up afterwards?

KARLIN: “That would have been Southern Miss. We went down to Southern Miss to play, Brett Favre was their quarterback I do believe, and a hurricane was coming through. The hurricane came after the pregame warmup while we were in the locker room. So, we went out there and the field wasn’t covered. It rained for probably like 15 or 20 minutes, but it must have poured because the whole field was just mud. Dr. [Richard] Bullock was our team physician and he was walking and he walked out of his shoes. The mud kept his coaching shoes stuck in the mud. And I probably didn’t throw their pants away after the game, I might have made those practice pants, but when I washed them 10 or 15 times, they still weren’t white like I like them – and that was the big thing. I think our quarterback was Will Furrer and after every play he wanted a clean half-towel. I was like what the heck. He was pretty high maintenance during that game.”

Q: When Bruce Smith’s number was retired by the Buffalo Bills, you were his guest for that game last year. What are your favorite memories of Bruce and what was that experience like in Buffalo?

KARLIN: “The experience was fantastic, we had a little party before the game then we were up in the press box. I got to shake hands with Governor [Andrew M.] Cuomo, he was there. One of the guys who writes for the Virginian Pilot [Harry Minium], I went to high school with and when I was a manager, he was on the junior varsity team and he helped me back then. He was actually there with his wife. It was pretty neat.

“I remember one big thing about Bruce [Smith], it gets back to that question about a request. Coach [Pat] Watson was in charge of equipment when Coach [Bill] Dooley was here and he sent me to the old K-Mart on Main Street and I bought a whole bunch of pantyhose. We were playing Virginia under the lights, it might have been the first night game that we had, and it was a cold, Thanksgiving night. So we had to get a bunch of pantyhose, queen sizes for the big guys, and you didn’t have receiver gloves back then so you had the brown mule, 29-cent garden glove, bought a bunch of those. So, Bruce Smith came into the equipment room with his pantyhose on, he sort of looked funny, and James Patterson, No. 74, who was the other defensive tackle, comes in and Bruce turns around and says, ‘JP, what you looking at my butt for?’ I thought that was funny.”

Q: You could probably write a book about Frank Beamer and Bud Foster, but what are a couple of your favorite stories about them that you can share?

KARLIN: “I’ve probably forgotten so much, you know, from being here so long. Coach Beamer, he kept me in the loop with everything. Coach Beamer and John Ballein kept me in touch on a lot of stuff, so there weren’t any surprises or anything. So he gave me a lot of advanced warning if we needed to change uniforms, things like that.

“Now, Bud Foster is a great guy. For a while, I would have those 18x30-inch small grease boards on the sideline and he had a habit of punching them or breaking them. So, I always had an extra one for defense during our games.”

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