BLACKSBURG — Bud Foster kept his retirement announcement brief. Four minutes and 14 seconds, to be exact.
Holy brevity, Sack Man! Thirty-three years of memories reduced to less time than it took for Ice Cube to tell us how “It Was a Good Day”?
Even Cliff called and recommended that these notes be expanded.
But this was by design. Virginia Tech’s iconic defensive coordinator did not take questions Thursday, nor did he hang around to hear the glowing words that were sure to be spoken about him by others. The message he sent, both verbally and by his actions, was clearly orchestrated by all involved.
“We have a season to play,” Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said, after eloquently lauding Foster’s greatness. “Before we celebrate, let’s let the book finish. There’s all these chapters written. We have one more. Coach Foster wants that. Coach [Justin] Fuente wants that. And our players of 2019 deserve that.”
They do. And when it comes to motivation, Foster’s media-day bombshell should do nothing but help.
“This is it. One last ride. It’s all or nothing,” linebacker Dax Hollifield said. “I’m telling you, that’s my dude. I love the man to death. I’d do anything for him. I’d run through any wall. I’d jump off a bridge if he told me to.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Dax. We’ll settle for a few more backside tackles where we didn’t think you had a chance to get involved in the play.
Here’s guessing those are coming.
Now, in fairness, no player on this team is more reverential to Foster than Hollifield. That’s as close to a father-son dynamic as you’ll see in any coach-player relationship, outside of literal family members.
But think about it. If you’re a defensive player who decided to go to Tech, the fact that Bud Foster was going to coach you probably had something to do with it. Suddenly, after an abysmal defensive season by Tech’s standards, you have an opportunity to play on his final unit?
“It’s an honor,” defensive back Divine Deablo said. “I don’t want to let him down. That’s my goal.”
Head coach Justin Fuente said the decision to announce Foster’s departure before the season was not made to manipulate the players’ emotions. You can believe that. This was Foster’s choice, one that took time. Once they knew definitively what that decision would be, they wanted to be forthright with everyone involved.
But hey, if the season’s coming up anyway…
“What our kids now have is a unique opportunity,” Fuente said. “Usually when a large event like this happens, you don’t know about it until the end. Sometimes it’s too late for you to even do anything about it. That’s certainly not the case here.
“We know the ending. Now we have the opportunity to write the chapter. I don’t think that point was lost on our players. I think they understand that we have an awesome opportunity to celebrate — through our play and our work — a fine, fine man and a fantastic coach.”
The final component is Foster himself. He’s followed Frank Beamer’s example in all of this so far. If that continues, post-announcement Foster will look a little different than the Foster we’ve seen before. A weight will have departed his shoulders. The familiar desire will be there, but with the end in sight, it will be stronger than ever.
“Whatever greatness is, I’m going to push them as hard as I can,” Foster said during his 4 minutes and 14 seconds. “I’m going to give them every ounce of energy, and I’m going to expect that in return.”
He’ll get it. Bet everything you own on that.