Hokies, Cowboys join for Camping World Bowl's Day for Kids

ORLANDO – Members of the Virginia Tech football team spent Tuesday morning playing video games, riding electric go karts, bowling and participating in laser tag, but rest assured that the two-plus hours spent at Andretti Karting & Games had a much bigger purpose.

The team’s participation was part of the Camping World Bowl’s “Day for Kids” in which members of both the Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State squads teamed for a morning of fun with underprivileged children from the Orlando community.

Bowl officials paired a child with both a player from Tech and a player from Oklahoma State. The trio then spent the two hours doing whatever they wanted within the complex, which features a wide array of fun things for kids to do.

“It was definitely fun to see the smiles on their faces and just be able to play games with them and compete with them,” Tech cornerback Greg Stroman said afterward. “Those kids are very competitive to be as young as they are, so that was definitely fun.

“It feels great to be able to help, and I just like being a part of helping put a smile on a kid’s face.”

One Tech player who thoroughly enjoyed himself perhaps more than any other was defensive tackle Ricky Walker. Of course, Walker understands the meaning of helping out younger kids. His mom worked in the foster care system, and Walker often found himself mentoring boys younger than him.

“All my life, she had [foster] boys because, in the house, there were all brothers,” Walker said. “We’d take them to the playground or basketball court all through high school. It was pretty cool.

“So doing something like this was fun. It was a great experience. It’s always good giving back. It feels different helping with the kids and watching them have fun and play games and getting to do stuff that they don’t get to do on the weekends or throughout the year. I asked several of them, and they said this was their first time coming here, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty unique.’ You know just being from Florida and stuff like that. So it was just an honor and blessing to be a part of this with them.”

Here are some more tidbits from the day:

• Tech held its final full practice at a local high school in preparation for the game, and head coach Justin Fuente revealed to the media following that practice that he liked the work put in by the players over the past few weeks.

“Guys have handled everything over the last several weeks pretty well,” Fuente said.

• Much of the media’s attention Tuesday centered on the Hokies’ situation at wide receiver – a position of scrutiny because of the season-ending surgery of standout Cam Phillips. Tech’s staff expects to use an array of players to make up for Phillips’ lost production, and Fuente singled out Eric Kumah and Phil Patterson as two who have gotten better over the course of the past six weeks.

“It’ll be a group effort,” Fuente said. “We’ll need all of them to continue to prepare over the next day and a half and be ready to go. I like the way they’ve worked. They all want to play and want an opportunity, and here it is.”

• As everyone pretty much knows by now, the Hokies go into this game without their leading receiver (Cam Phillips) and leading rusher (Travon McMillian). But Fuente said Tuesday that those two departures won’t affect their game plan that much.

“Obviously, Cam was a guy that we moved around a little bit and caught quite a few balls for us, so that’s certainly a big loss, and Travon was very productive during his time here,” he said. “But I don’t know that it changes the game plan and what plays you’re going to run.”

• Fuente didn’t reveal his strategy for using his tailbacks, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Steven Peoples didn’t receive much of the workload. Peoples uses his power to run downhill, turning 2-yard gains into 4-yard gain. Plus, he showed that he was healthy in the Hokies’ season finale against UVA when he rushed 22 times – the most by a Tech tailback this season.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Peoples said. “I feel like they’re going to use all the backs wisely and put us in good situations. I feel like we’re all going to get a lot of carries, and all are going to do pretty good.”

• Finally, Tech’s football program announced Tuesday that starting mike linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka will wear the coveted No. 25 jersey in his final collegiate game. Motuapuaka, who ranks second on the team with 85 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss, also won the No. 25 on Senior Day against Pittsburgh.

“I can’t say enough good things about Andrew, quite honestly,” Fuente said. “I think one of the biggest compliments that anyone can say about someone is that they’ve overachieved, that they’re a better player or a better person than maybe their God-given talent was meant to be. I feel that way about Andrew. I hope Andrew doesn’t take that as a slight. I’ve said that in front of the entire team. I just think his work ethic and toughness and dedication to this program our unmatched.”

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