BLACKSBURG — Bud Foster didn’t think about his upcoming celebration until somebody from Virginia Tech recently stuck a camera in his face and asked him to say a few words.
Presumably, those words will be broadcast to the sellout crowd at Lane Stadium sometime around 3 p.m. Saturday, as Virginia Tech is counting down toward 3:30 kickoff of its game against No. 22 Wake Forest.
Whether Foster will even be outside the locker room when they’re aired remains to be seen. You get the feeling he’d be fine if the remembrances, cheers and tears involved him as little as possible.
He has work to do, after all. Challenging work.
“This game’s about the players, in my opinion,” he said this week. “Still.”
This is billed as Tech’s official salute to Foster, but there have been some already with more to come. His retirement announcement on Tech media day in August prompted immediate tributes from fans, colleagues and former and current players. The Hokies’ home finale — Foster’s last game roaming the sidelines where he’s been defensive coordinator since 1995 — is still two weeks away.
Even after that, Tech has its rivalry game on the road the day after Thanksgiving — Bud’s last crack at UVa. An ACC title game and/or a bowl game could follow.
What’s interesting about the timing of this is how much Foster’s defense will be tested. The Demon Deacons weren’t expected to be nearly this good. Coming off a 3-5 season in league play, they were picked to finish sixth out of seven Atlantic Division teams in the preseason.
Now they come in here at 7-1 overall, 3-1 in the ACC and boasting the seventh-ranked offense in the nation.
If ever there were a time for some Bud Foster wizardry, this would be it.
“Bud has a unique way on Saturdays,” Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “That’s when he separates himself, in my opinion, from other coordinators: The way he sees the field, the in-game adjustments that he’s able to make. He sees the perimeter very well. That’s where your adjustments are coming.”
Wiles notes that all the spatial alignments for opposing offenses are easier to see from the press box, but Foster insists on staying on the field whenever he’s healthy enough to do so. There he can create the connection with players, look them in the eyes and give them extra motivation if needed.
“Obviously I’m seen as a coach, but I’d like to think the players before me and the current players now see me as more than that,” Foster said. “Hopefully, I’ve helped them grow and develop on the field, but most importantly, I’ve helped them grow and develop off the field.”
On Friday, the Hokies released a video on social media — likely to be re-aired at Lane Stadium on Saturday — that underscores that connection.
Former Tech defensive stars such DeAngelo Hall, Antone Exum, Tremaine Edmunds and others are shown thanking Foster for his influence on their athletic careers and their lives.
“The game is about those players,” Foster reiterated. “I’ve just been fortunate to be a facilitator, to be a helper, to be a mentor for them. That’s what I’m most proud of, and the relationships that it’s created.
“Yeah, it’s a great honor for me to be recognized for longevity and the consistency that we’ve played around here and the culture that we’ve built. But at the end of the day, I’ve not taken one snap. I’ve played a lot of snaps emotionally with these guys over the years, probably every one defensively, but I’ve not played one physically. It’s a celebration of me, but to me, it’s a celebration for all the guys I’ve coached.”
And another stern test of his talents.