BLACKSBURG — Frank Beamer and his wife, Cheryl, got emotional Saturday during the ceremony unveiling his statue in front of Lane Stadium.
They were moved even more earlier in the week.
Beamer, who retired as Virginia Tech’s football coach after the 2015 season, learned of the statue earlier in the week in a phone call from Tech executive associate athletic director John Ballein. Beamer then passed the phone to his wife.
“He comes in the bedroom with tears streaming down his face,” Cheryl Beamer said in an interview Saturday. “And then John tells me, and now I’m crying.”
“It’s amazing,” Frank Beamer said as he stood next to his wife in their box at the stadium. “I’m really touched.”
The statue was unveiled Saturday afternoon, prior to the Hokies’ game against Notre Dame. The statue is located at Moody Plaza, in front of the southwest corner of the stadium.
Beamer, who steered his alma mater for 29 seasons, wiped away tears while Virginia Tech President Tim Sands spoke during the ceremony. Beamer’s wife clutched his hand.
When Beamer thanked his wife during his speech, it was her turn to choke up.
“I thought I’d keep it together, but I didn’t,” she said later.
Beamer, a Hillsville High School graduate and former Tech defensive back, steered the Hokies to a school-record 238 wins.
“I used to come over here when I was a little kid,” Beamer, 71, said in the interview. “My uncle, he graduated from here, and he’d bring me to games when it was over in Miles Stadium. … So I’ve been around Virginia Tech football forever. To see that [statue] here at a place you love, … it’s just really very, very special.
“And where it is, with the stadium behind it, it couldn’t be more perfect.”
The bronze sculpture was made by South Carolina artist Tom Gallo. He had previously painted a portrait of Beamer.
The sculpture, which weighs about a ton, not only includes a 6-foot statue of Beamer but also a bench with a helmet on it.
“Probably a little better looking than I really am,” Beamer cracked.
The pose has Beamer putting his left foot up on the bench, with a helmet next to his left foot.
“My original [idea] was Coach on the sidelines,” Gallo said. “And then [Ballein] said, ‘No, let’s do something the fans can [interact with].’ We were thinking about Coach on the bench. [But] I wanted to do something with a little more … stature to it.”
Beamer likes the fact that the statue is not up on a pedestal, and that fans can sit on the sculpture of the bench.
“I love the way they did it,” Beamer said. “That’s the way I would’ve wanted it.”
There is a headset around Beamer’s neck and an ACC championship ring on his hand. There is a serious look on Beamer’s face.
“I didn’t smile too much on game day,” Beamer said.
A piece of paper is in his left hand. The paper features the words commitment, trust, responsibility, caring and respect, as well as some of Beamer’s accomplishments — 280 career wins; 238 wins at Tech; 23 consecutive bowl games; four ACC titles, three Big East titles; and 19 All-Americans.
Beamer had seen photos of the statue, but he did not see the statue in person until the ceremony.
“It’s really very detailed,” he said. “It’s really, really neat.”
“The detail’s amazing — the veins in his hands,” Cheryl Beamer said. “It’s unreal.”
The couple posed with the statue after the ceremony.
“Two Franks is a bit much,” Cheryl Beamer said later with a laugh.
The statue drew the approval of Tech fans.
“It looks like him,” Tech graduate Jim Poland of Blacksburg said. “It brings back a lot of old memories. He’s a great individual — not only a great coach, he’s a good person, too.”
“It looks good,” Tech fan Jami Ryan of Blacksburg said. “It looks like he’s getting ready to win a big game.”
Beamer will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.
“He definitely deserves a statue,” Ryan said. “It’s very cool that while he’s still living he’s able to see it.”
Beamer never posed for the statue. Gallo said he studied “a whole bunch of pictures.”
Gallo started by making drawings in February 2017, then began a scale model before doing a head study. The sculpture was not finished until a few weeks ago.
Gallo said he tried to capture what Beamer looked like in the early 2000s.
“It’s my job as an artist to do a very good likeness, and you work until you nail it,” Gallo said.
The Beamers’ son, Oklahoma assistant coach Shane Beamer, was not at the ceremony because the Sooners played rival Texas on Saturday, losing 48-45 on a late field goal. But the Beamers’ daughter, Casey, and her husband and children were in attendance.
“It’s always going to be here, for my family, for my little grandkids,” Beamer said of the statue after the ceremony. “I am more than honored.”
When Beamer attended a recent Oklahoma game, he looked at the monuments of former coaches.
“Never once did it ever cross my mind that something like this might be going on here,” he said.
Tech did not reveal the cost of the statue, which was funded by donors. Ballein and athletic director Whit Babcock pitched the idea of a statue to Sands.
Also Saturday, Virginia Tech announced that it has named its three-year-old football practice facility after Beamer and longtime Tech donor and former Tech Board of Visitors Rector John Lawson.
The building will now be known as the Beamer-Lawson Indoor Practice Facility.