Pepsi Guy: Akron
by The Pepsi Guy, 9/13/00

"Rain, rain go away. Come back again some other day," was the first thing I heard as I walked out of my car that Saturday afternoon. It was also a sentiment I, and I'm sure the 56,000 other Hokies outside Lane Stadium, shared with the little five-year-old marooned clad boy who said the phrase.

After the rain and lightning fest on Sunday, I couldn't imagine repeating the affair Saturday afternoon. But, yet again, clouds were overhead and the weather forecasters had predicted a good chance of thunderstorms.

Just think, thousands of Hokies trapped once more underneath the stadium, crammed like a tailback running up the middle on a Ben Taylor and Jake Houseright combo-tackle. That wasn't my idea of a Saturday afternoon at Worsham Field. Well, it was, but only for opposing teams. Besides what good is a Pepsi if it's 99% water?

Hoping for the best, in the game and for myself, I strapped on my first tray of drinks and headed into the stands. The atmosphere was no where near that of the Georgia Tech dress rehearsal, but how could you expect it to be?

First off, the game had a noon kickoff. Not very inviting for many hours of tailgating and umm… let's say, mental preparation for our fans. Additionally, with the abrupt ending of the BCA Bowl, it would be too much to expect a similar setting from the get go. It's like attending a wedding two weeks after the bride has already left the groom standing at the altar. You're still happy for the couple, but in the back of your mind you're wondering if that car you just heard start in the parking lot is the bride fleeing once again.

Thanks to the humidity, it definitely wasn't the heat, the Pepsi sells were going great. Fan after fan was waving their hands in the air and yelling out "Pepsi Guy!". It would have helped to have three hands as I continually passed out drinks and counted money, but, once I heard the opening cannon roar, I definitely took a moment to stare upon Worsham field and watch the kickoff as the 2000 season was finally underway.

Walking back to refill my tray, I wondered what this year's installment of Hokie football had in store for us fans. A return trip to the national title game or maybe another visit to the Music City Bowl?

Sure we had Michael Vick, five returning starters on the offensive line, a couple sure-handed receivers and a few starters left from our vaunted defense of a year ago, but what about Lee Suggs, what about the defensive line, the linebackers, the defensive secondary and what about the kicking game? How were we going to replace every facet of our kicking game? Some of these questions would be answered shortly.

As the game continued, and the humidity remained, the fans slowly became more enthused. By the time I came back with my third tray, the Hokies had scored on the Akron Zips and the party started. The stadium may not have been filled to capacity, though all tickets were sold, but, as I have learned throughout my years as a Pepsi Guy, once the orange and maroon score and take the lead, the fans are energized. And, by the way, buy more Pepsi.

From my few peeks of the game, I noticed that the Zips were able to drive on our defense. I was hoping Akron's offense was indeed as good as advertised or we would be staring at a couple of losses later in the season. But just as I thought the lunch pail gang was ready to submit to a Zip touchdown, I glanced at the scoreboard to only see points in multiples of three. Maybe this unit had inherited the "bend, but don't break" mentality of past Bud Foster units.

Finally, in the second quarter, I witnessed my first, of what I'm sure will be many, Michael Vick highlights of the 2000 campaign. Michael took the snap and looked to pass the ball down field. And then, like the drop of a hat, Superman shot off like a cannon and headed toward the goal line. He zipped past Akron players left and right and, just when you thought he was going to get tackled for a 35-yard gain, he stopped on a dime, changed directions and galloped into the end zone. It was a play that left many in the Hokie faithful with their jaws wide open, resting on their laps. A definite, "Ohh, my gosh, did you just see that?" highlight if I ever saw one.

Just then, a guy with a Hokie tattooed on his cheek, turned to his buddy and exclaimed, "With an offense like that, who needs a defense?" Of course this was an exaggeration, but I definitely understood what he was saying.

For the majority of the rest of the first half, I was too busy selling the carbonated concoction to gaze upon the field, but I was able to sneak a few peeks at the Jumbotron. What a wonderful innovation for us Pepsi Guys.

Michael Vick continued to show he was indeed a man among boys, racking up big play after big play and making it look so effortlessly, but our defense was breaking, giving up two late touchdowns. Though, with the Michael Vick show ongoing, we took a comfortable 35-17 lead to the half.

Under the grandstands, I had a chance to overhear some of the conversation most of which centered on the marvelous Mr. Vick, though, some fans were definitely concerned with our young defensive team. But, since we held an 18-point lead and the new season was finally underway, everyone was smiling. That is, everyone except those on the lower East side who were disappointed that the Domino's stand had run out of pizza.

In the third quarter, the rain returned, as did the very dark clouds of a week ago. But one thing was different from the BCA game, this time Jim Weaver had an evacuation plan -- much to the dismay of the crowd. After a few minutes passed, Jim Weaver finally finished the explanation of his intricate evacuation plan with many in the audience heading for the exits trying to avoid the mess of last Sunday.

The only problem I had with the plan is now every time I hear Jim Weaver's voice, I picture his face on the body of a horned frog. An interesting visual, to say the least.

As the rain continued to fall, though nothing like the previous monsoon, the Pepsi sales started to dry up. I was practically begging and pleading with fans to buy a drink. Not only to help me become the top seller, but to make my tray lighter as I repeatedly climbed the stairs of the Rock.

Finally, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, I stopped selling drinks, after getting my bonus for top salesman, and tuned my voice for chants of "Go Hokies" and "Stick it in, stick it in" instead of "Pepsi here, Pepsi".

By this time most of the starters were gone, but I was able to watch Willie Pile recover a fumble in the end zone. A fan sitting beside me informed me that he had earlier intercepted an Akron pass and returned it for a touchdown.

All I can say is I'm glad the Virginia Tech staff offered this young man a scholarship even if it was rather late in the recruiting season because every time I watch him play, all he does is make play after play and return interceptions for touchdowns. Kind of like the Vikings' Chris Carter.

I continued to watch the Hokie second and third teamers.

The second team offense looked rather impressive with a few good runs by Keith Burnell and Wayne Ward. And two-sport star Keith Willis also got in the mix with a nice catch over the middle from Grant Noel. It was hard to imagine that most of these guys' highlights last year were playing against Hargrave and Fork Union in jayvee games.

Finally, the game wound down, and the final cannon sounded as Va. Tech took home the 52-23 victory. After listening to Greg Roberts interview Coach Beamer on the field over the speakers, I headed out of the confines of Lane with a smile on my face.

Was it a perfect game? No, but it was a good starting point for what could become a special season. Michael Vick proved there would be no sophomore slump for him, the defense stepped up when necessary and most importantly we started out the season 1-0 in impressive fashion. Five more wins and bowling we will go, for the eighth straight year I might add. It may not have been the perfect game, but it definitely was a huge improvement over the perfect storm of six days ago.

Until the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers emerge two weeks from now, it's so long from the Pepsi Guy.


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