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Hokies record blistering 40 times at annual timing day

March 8, 2000
By Jimmy Robertson

Despite zipping past the competition at the IC4A meet recently the way Dale Jarrett zips past stock cars on the NASCAR circuit, André Davis was a little saddened after the weekend's events.

"I had to give up my nickname," joked Davis, who won the 60- and the 200-meter dashes at the IC4A Championships in Cambridge, Mass. "I don't deserve it anymore."

You see, Davis - nicknamed 'The Blur' - lost his title as the Hokies' fastest football player. And that marks one of the few times he's lost on the track in his career.

In a performance that left his coaches and teammates shaking their heads, quarterback Michael Vick usurped Davis as Tech's fastest player. He recorded an eye-popping 4.25 40 time at the Hokies' annual timing day held March 3rd on the indoor track at Rector Fieldhouse. The day served as part of testing week for Tech's players, who have been working out very hard since the national championship game in early January.

Everyone knew Vick possessed a ton of speed. He probably could break the sound barrier.

But a 4.25? And he slipped on the start of his first two runs.

"I honestly never thought I'd be the fastest player," Vick said. "I always thought André would. I still think he'd beat me if we raced."

"That's amazing," Davis said of Vick's time. "It's hard to explain. To see a quarterback do that is just incredible."

Vick's time shattered the quarterback record - which he previously held. And came just two one-hundredths of a second off the school record of 4.23 set by Damien Russell.

Amazingly, Vick's time was just one of several incredible times put forth by Tech's players. In fact, consider this. Davis, the Atlantic 10 indoor champ in the 55 and 200, now stands as the fourth-fastest Hokie. Fourth. Davis ran a 4.29 - the same as season.

In all, 21 players recorded 40 times of 4.5 seconds or lower and eight players recorded 40 times of 4.4 or lower. That list includes the following players:

Player Position 40 Time
Michael VickQB4.25
Larry AustinCB4.26
Lee SuggsTB4.27
André DavisWR4.29
Emmett JohnsonWR4.33
Keith BurnellTB4.35
T.J. JacksonWhip4.36
Wayne WardTB4.39

All those times are impressive. But several stand out simply because they were unexpected. Everyone knew Ward possesses a lot of physical ability. After all, he earned Coca-Cola player of the year honors in Florida his senior season at a Class 6A school. But the kid weighs 210 pounds and still ran a 4.39. In addition, he squatted 620. (Complete analysis on the lifting results will be in the next issue).

"I work out with him every day," said new whip Nick Sorensen, who ran a 4.47 himself. "He's in my group. He's such a great guy and he works so hard. I'm not surprised."

Two months ago, running backs coach Billy Hite was in a sour mood after Shyrone Stith decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to go to the NFL and after André Kendrick failed to take care of things in the classroom, costing him spring practice and possibly more. But Ward's numbers, along with those of Suggs and Burnell, left Hite with a smile on his face.

Speaking of smiles, how about Jackson, who contributed nothing last season. The redshirt freshman seemed confused and timid. But the former SuperPrep All-American always could run and he possesses the body of Adonis. Now he needs to play better.

And how about Johnson? Few expect him to run that fast because of his height (6-3) and his size (210). But after that time, they do expect a big spring.

In addition to those eight, there were several other standout times. At fullback, Jarrett Ferguson ran a 4.49 to no one's surprise. At receiver, walk-on Ron Moody, who redshirted this past season, ran a 4.45 to everyone's surprise.

On the defensive line, Nathaniel Adibi - weighing 242 pounds - and Cols Colas, two kids who also redshirted this past season, ran a 4.48 and a 4.45, respectively. And Lamar Cobb, who weighs 226, ran a 4.6. Tech's defensive ends may be inexperienced this season, but they can run. They bring the same speed Corey Moore brought off the edge.

At linebacker, Sorensen led the way. But former whip Ben Taylor surprised everyone with a 4.48. And Vegas Robinson ran just once before straining a hamstring. But he made it count, running a 4.49.

Finally, in the secondary, Ronyell Whitaker seems to have picked up right where he left off last season. The rising sophomore ran a 4.49. But that paled in comparison to rover Cory Bird, who ran a 4.42, and safety Willie Pile, who ran a 4.44.

"We put a premium on speed," said Mike Gentry, Tech's assistant AD for athletic performance. "From coach Beamer on down.

"When coach Beamer first came here, he recognized that speed was one of the most important ingredients of winning and that we didn't have enough speed. He and his staff made an effort to recruit faster players, and now that we're recruiting against the top teams in the country, you're talking about guys who can run great times."

Granted, the players today get to run on one of the best - and fastest - indoor tracks in the nation. Tech's relatively new indoor track features the ultra-quick Mondo surface, built for fast times.

"They run on an ideal surface," Gentry agreed. "But as long as you're consistent with it, you can still compare from year to year."

But Gentry and his staff also implement programs designed to increase speed. The Hokies perform numerous exercises and drills that a track coach might assign. And as a player gets stronger, he gets faster.

"We do our workouts a little differently too," Gentry said. "Most schools train their players four days out of the week. Our big guys spend four days a week lifting. But with our skill players, we train them three days in the weight room and then work them for two days on nothing but speed. And I think other teams are going to start training that way."

Gentry tries his best to ensure accuracy when recording these 40 times. Each player runs the 40 three times and three coaches time each run. A player runs the 40 the first time and a manager records the three times yelled out by the coaches. The average of those three times counts as that player's first run.

The manager does this for the second and third runs, calculating the averages. Gentry then takes the best time out of the three averages and uses that time as the 40 time for a player.

"These are hand-held times," Gentry said. "So yes, there is a margin of error. But that's the way we've always done it and we want to be consistent with it."

Still, Vick's time, Davis' time and the times of several others showed one thing. The Hokies are getting faster under Gentry, and without question, there will be even more speed on the field next fall.

"And you've got more room for error if you can make up for it with speed," Gentry said.

And who knows? With the way those 40 times keep dropping, Davis might get that nickname back sooner than one might think.

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Jimmy Robertson is the editor of the Hokie Huddler at Virginia Tech. The Hokie Huddler is the athletics department newspaper that is printed 33 times a year - weekly during football and basketball seasons and bi-monthly during the spring.

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