Thursday, January 23rd, 1997

In Case You Missed It

Hokie fans are certainly facing a can't-lose scenario this weekend, when Antonio Freeman's Green Bay Packers will face off against John Burke's New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. One former Hokie is walking away with a Super Bowl championship ring at the end of the game, regardless of which team wins.

The two players are a study in contrasts, to say the least. Freeman was a star of the highest order when he was at Tech, setting Tech career records for receptions and touchdown receptions. He has continued his success in the NFL, becoming MVP Brett Favre's go-to receiver in only Freeman's second year in the league.

Burke, meanwhile, continues to toil in obscurity at tight end behind the great Ben Coates. Big John plays on special teams and only sees time on the offense when it's a two-tight-end situation. He only has one catch this year and 25 in his three-year career.

I'm a bit surprised by how early and how large Freeman's success has been in the NFL, but I think most of us were more surprised that John Burke made the NFL at all. John was a steady but unspectacular tight end, playing at a time when bigger-name stars like Jim Pyne and Tyronne Drakeford were on the field for the Hokies. I never imagined he would make the pros. So both players have been typical Hokies in that respect, exceeding our expectations. True Hokies rarely underachieve and often overachieve.

The similarities end there. Freeman is enjoying his success at Green Bay, but he remains a little miffed about his days at Virginia Tech, saying that Tech promoted Maurice DeShazo and others at his (Freeman's) expense. John Burke, on the other hand, has a completely gosh-golly-gee-whiz, I'm-just-glad-to-be-here attitude. He knows that every down he plays in the NFL, as well as the chance to suit up for a Super Bowl, is an experience to be treasured.

If you want to know more about the two men, here are some excellent on-line articles about them. You've probably seen the first article about Freeman (if not, you really need to start visiting The Roanoke Times's web site), but the other article, published by Asbury Park Press and focusing on Burke, may have slipped by you:

In the discussions that have occurred on message boards since the release of the Freeman article, most Hokies have been very gracious about Antonio's comments, attributing them to short-sighted immaturity more than anything else. I also think most people can at least slightly understand Freeman's bitterness. He was overshadowed by DeShazo the whole time he was at Tech, because Maurice was the bigger-name recruit. People automatically attributed Freeman's success to DeShazo's talents, not the other way around.

However, it's years later, and Freeman has proven himself. He needs to relax, let it go, and move on. He needs to take comfort in the fact that this past year, as Hokie receivers struggled to catch the ball consistently, more than one Hokie was heard to utter, "Can you imagine if Druck had Still and Freeman to throw to this year?"

As for Burke, what can you say about him? The guy's a class act all the way.

Signing Day is Two Weeks Away

All you recruiting nuts out there must be going crazy. National signing day for football is a scant two weeks away, on February 5th, and that's the moment in which you'll be able to open up your newspapers, your Hokie Huddlers, and your college football magazines and see how the Hokies stack up against their NCAA brethren, and most notably, against UVa in the in-state recruiting wars.

I don't pretend to be particularly savvy, knowledgeable, and up-to-date on Tech football recruiting. I leave that stuff to Chris McCrea and the Screaming Lizard, the two main gurus and documenters of Tech's recruiting fortunes. But like any other Hokie fan, I like to pull out the recruiting lists when all is said and done and see how the Hokies stack up.

It's not hard to figure out why we have a fascination with recruiting. Choosing a college is a process we all went through, and if you're sitting here reading Hokie Central, then you probably loved your times at Virginia Tech and wished that you never had to leave. So when a hotshot linebacker or running back chooses to go to Tech, you feel an instant bond with him, because he made the same decision you once did. It's the only time in most player's careers when Joe Hokie feels like he has something in common with the athletes. And we can only hope that those athletes will all enjoy their times at Tech as much as we all did.

My favorite recruit this year? That's easy - it's Camm Jackson, the linebacker/running back from Amherst who was one of Tech's first verbals this year. I like Camm not because of his playing ability or what he might do at Tech, but because of something he said when he committed. He said that he's "always wanted to be a Hokie."

That's my kind of kid. I can't wait to see him play.

Hokie Central Scores Another Coup

My jaw just about hit the floor when I visited The Roanoke Times's on-line sports page this morning. Tucked down in the left hand corner of the page is a link to none other than Hokie Central!

I was shocked to see it, mainly because (I admit it) I've been petitioning them for about a month, in two separate emails, to put a link to my page on their site, and I had received no reply. And no link.

I got to thinking about it, and I realized that we, my readers and I, haven't been very kind at times to certain Roanoke Times sportswriters who will go unnamed here (but their initials are "Doug Doughty" and "Jack Bogaczyk"). I put two-and-two together, or so I thought, and figured, "Well, they came and checked out Hokie Central, saw some negative things about their staff, and figured it would be a cold day in Charlottesville before they'd put a link to Hokie Central on their page."

After all, I don't put links to The Washington Post and the Norfolk Virginia-Pilot on my page for similar reasons. I don't like what they have to say about Tech most of the time, so to heck with 'em.

Whatever, if they saw it, they got over it, and Hokie Central continues to make its place in cyberspace.

"Can't fit in house ... head ... too ... big!!! Aaaarrrgghh!"


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