BLACKSBURG — Virginia fans don’t like Dax Hollifield.
They really don’t like Hollifield.
The then true freshman Hollifield enraged the Cavaliers fanbase when he got in Bryce Perkins face during last year’s Commonwealth Cup as the quarterback was limping off the field after a failed third down throw.
Virginia fans thought Hollifield was celebrating that Perkins twisted his ankle on the play. Hollifield had a different story.
“I just wanted to do what [former Tech defensive lineman] Luther Maddy did and just tell him to get off the field,” Hollifield said. “I didn’t know his ankle was hurting or nothing like that. I was just trying to do what my boy Luther did. They just don’t like me for that.”
Hollifield has stayed off social media in recent weeks to avoid some of the more colorful comments from a vocal contingent of Virginia fans.
“Twitter’s not my friend right now,” Hollifield said. “Hokie Nation, they’re great, but everybody else, I don’t like them.”
But the boundless energy and enthusiasm that has made Hollifield enemy No. 1 for the Cavaliers, has turned him into one of the most popular players in Blacksburg.
The defining images of Virginia Tech’s recent defensive surge have been a bloodied Hollifield celebrating a series of standout defensive performances. Hollifield got cut on the bridge of his nose during a 38-17 win. Two weeks later he reinjured his nose during a 28-0 win over Pittsburgh.
It required five stitches the second time.
“I don’t really feel it, because they gave me a shot and they covered my face up with paper, so I didn’t even know they gave me the stitches,” Hollifield said with a smile. “I just couldn’t see. I had so much adrenaline running through my veins after that game. It was cold. I didn’t really feel anything. I was just numb.”
Playing with blood pouring down your face isn’t an ideal situation for most players, but most players aren’t Hollifield.
“I’m just happy it never happens to me,” fellow linebacker Rayshard Ashby said. “I tell him every time, ‘You need to get it fixed,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, no. I don’t want to.’ Things like that. He’s hilarious. I’m just happy it doesn’t happen to me.”
Hollifield has played his best football of the season as the Hokies have won six of their last season games. He has 55 tackles (15 solo) with 3.5 for a loss with three interceptions and three passes defended.
“Now that he’s got this cut on his nose...and I told him, you finally look like a big-time linebacker right now,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “And the guy’s getting blood coming down his face and all that stuff. And he kind of eats up all that stuff.”
This is what you dream about
Virginia never got any real traction during Hollifield’s recruitment. The Cavaliers paid a visit to the then four-star linebacker when Hollifield was a senior at Shelby High School.
“I was wearing like a Virginia Tech shirt or something like that,” Hollifield said. “He was like, ‘Yep, I know we’re out, but I just wanted to come say my name.’”
Hollifield knew the rivalry was rich with tradition, but didn’t quite grasp the animosity between the two programs at the time.
“I really didn’t realize how big of a rivalry it was until last year game week, and it’s pretty big,” Hollifield said. “Bragging rights is a lot. Especially for us, it’s big time.”
Virginia Tech has won 15 straight over Virginia going back to 2003. Tech’s bowl streak isn’t on the line as it was last year, but this game carries even bigger implications — the winner goes to the ACC Championship game. It’s the third time the rivalry game has determined the ACC Coastal (2007 and 2011).
“It makes it bigger,” Hollifield said. “It makes this game just a little bit bigger. It was already big, but it makes it a little bit bigger. That’s the fun part about it, November football. This is what you dream about. This is what you dream when you’re a little kid playing.”
And Hollifield is sure to bring his unique brand of energy to Charlottesville this weekend.
“I don’t know if the guy ever has a bad day or a bad moment,” Foster said. “...“That’s what makes him unique. Because what you see is what you get. And like I told you before, that’s how he is getting ready to go into a chemistry exam. He’s bouncing and jumping around and banging off the walls, and he’ll high five you coming out knowing that he aced that thing. So he’s a high-energy, unique individual.”