Pole-Sitting: a New TSL Phenomenon
by Matthew McKinley
TSL Extra, Issue #4

High Tech was getting nervous.

On the surface, it seemed like a strange emotion to have. Recruiting was going extremely well this year. The Hokies had received verbal commitments from nine outstanding athletes for the recruiting class of 2001. From DeAngelo Hall in January to D.J. Walton in October, the class was getting better athletes earlier than ever before, and it was shaping up to be a monster haul come Signing Day. But still…

High Tech was getting frustrated.

Because it had been two months since the last verbal commitment. Posters on the Recruiting Board were getting a sense that recruiting might be slowing down. Questions were asked about recruits’ intentions, bets were being placed on who might be the next to commit, and people were wondering if the current VT targets were wavering.

Finally, High Tech had had enough.

It was Friday, 8 December, when High Tech announced his intention to park himself in front of his computer, 24/7, until the next verbal was announced. It was a main topic on the board that weekend, his lonely crusade, filling the board with encouragement, laughs, and jokes about beer deliveries and catheters. Was it an over-reaction? Maybe so, but as we’re always told, "hindsight is 20/20", and hindsight does tell us one thing about his sit-in:

It worked.

Justin Hamilton, the stellar running back from Clintwood, VA, committed to the Hokies on that Monday. Immediately, the cries of praise rang out on the board for High Tech’s selfless act. Posters said (tongue in cheek, of course) that that act was what delivered Hamilton to the Hokie Nation, and that he was a hero for jump-starting the recruiting season back into full gear. But while the congratulations were flowing, one poster decided to take a big step further.

"I’m going to sit on top of a flagpole until the next recruit comes in," or words to that effect, showed up on the message board that Monday afternoon. This poster started a phenomenon that defined this recruiting season: pole-sitting. Who it was, nobody knows (or at least nobody who emailed me for the article knows). His or her name is probably lost in the trash-bin of Will’s server, as the archives don’t go back that far, so we’ll probably never know who that valiant soul was. (Well, you could probably choose one of the three "Hey, that was me!" posts that are sure to follow this article, but that’s up to you.) But whoever he or she was, they were the first pole-sitter in the history of TSL. And they probably would have been the last had Curtis Bradley, the mammoth OL from Summerville, SC, not verbally committed to Virginia Tech two days later.

With Bradley’s commitment making it seem like this pole-sitting thing actually worked, somebody was sure to follow the first pole-sitter up the pole. And so Huntsville Hokie took his turn at the watch, climbing a solitary pole in the foothills of the Appalachians of Northern Alabama. The weather was cold, and wet, and he couldn’t even see the Commonwealth of Virginia from where he sat (hey, it ain’t Lookout Mountain, you can’t see seven states from there), but he was kept warm by generous offers of booze. And his hard work paid off two more days later, on 15 December, when Chris Pannell—a prime DL prospect for the Hokies—committed.

And so we come to Atlee Hokie’s tenure on the pole. He must have thought it would be easy, as both pole-sitters and High Tech received verbals within 2 or 3 days of taking up their watches. But Atlee had a long, cold stay at the top of the pole, eventually building a room up there, and setting the pole-sitter’s standard rations of Wild Turkey Honey Liqueur and Cinnebons. His 14 day ordeal turned out to be incredibly fruitful for the Hokies, though, as Atlee was able to garner a commitment from Bryan Randall, the #1 player in Virginia and the Hokies top quarterback prospect, on 29 December, just in time for him to climb down the pole and head off to Jacksonville.

As Atlee Hokie was coming down for a well deserved rest, jackofalltrades was on his way up the pole, probably grumbling that he’d have to spend New Year’s and the Gator Bowl on the pole. But his actions proved mighty beneficial to the pole-sitters that followed him, as he upgraded the television set at the top of the pole to a 48" flat-screen TV. ("Hey, spare no expense!" he says.) He says he also left a half-full crockpot of meatballs up there, but there was no comment from the next pole-sitter, so they must not have been any good. jackofalltrades saw us through to the new millennium (yes, I’m one of those who say that 2000 wasn’t the new millennium; c’mon, was there a year zero?), pulled us through the Gator Bowl with a win, and the next day brought in Cedric Humes, another outstanding running back from Princess Anne HS in Virginia Beach.

HokieLifer, having been on deck more than once and passed over, finally was sent up the pole for what turned out to be the most grueling sit-in of the recruiting season. He admits that his tactic of "disappearing" from the Recruiting Board when a new recruit came in finally backfired in that he had to spend 22 days on the pole when he was called up. He wasn’t alone, however, because at about that time, poles for Kevin Jones and Michael Robinson sprouted up, being manned by Technik and mfhokie respectively. A friendly rivalry was started with Technik over Kevin Jones, the #1 RB in the nation out of Pennsylvania, but the rivalry hit a snag when Nic Schmitt, the junior kicker from Salem, committed to the Hokies, but for the class of 2002. With Atlee Hokie consulting, HokieLifer decided to stay on the pole, and stayed up there another two weeks until word of Kevin Jones’ press conference filtered onto the board. By 23 January, he was ready to step down, but it was one more day until the press conference.

However, the Hokies received two commitments on the afternoon and evening of 23 January. Reggie Butler, a huge OL from Hooville of all places, committed that afternoon. But HokieLifer wasn’t coming down. "I’ve been up here over three weeks, and I’m staying at least until Kevin Jones decides." HJ Hokie decided to join him, however, just to get some new blood up there. He didn’t have to stay long, as Brandon Frye, the TE/DE from Myrtle Beach, committed that night. So HJ Hokie stepped down, and HokieLifer remained, and brought in the biggest haul of our recruiting class (and probably in the history of VT football), Kevin Jones.

With the commitment of Kevin Jones, and with the announcement of Fred Lee, the playmaker WR out of Pennsylvania, imminent, h0kie76 took his turn on the pole. He had been waiting on deck for his turn since just after the Gator Bowl, and during HokieLifer’s long stint he must have been practicing, for Fred Lee committed to the Hokies the next day. It was a very efficient use of the pole, and he was down almost as fast as he went up.

With Fred Lee’s commitment, bulab climbed away, and within 5 days, was able to bring in Andrew Fleck. Fleck, a TE from far-off Oklahoma, committed to the Hokies on 30 January, and it was time for another pole-sitter.

But the next volunteer, HokieBrazil, was a model of efficient pole-sitting as well, bringing in Jason Murphy, the monster DT prospect from Maryland, on the very next day. I think that HokieBrazil and h0kie76 must have compared notes, because they each brought in a major VT target within 24 hours. A fine example these two pole-sitters made, and more of that was needed as we moved into February, and the last week of recruiting.

HokiePride sat down in the hot seat, and while he was on the pole, Michael Robinson committed to Penn State. mfhokie, who had started his Michael Robinson pole-sit weeks earlier, climbed down from the MR pole in shame for his failure, but there was more heartache to come. In the space of two days, 3 and 4 February, Lionel Bolen committed and de-committed from the Hokies, and committed instead to Notre Dame. The important DB prospect must have been busy on the phones those days. HokiePride had stepped down from the pole, but his return was demanded. He is still on the pole at the current time (or at the very least, he should be), as we still have a recruit pending in California LB Jordan Trott. However, we haven’t heard a word from HokiePride since he went up, and we can only hope that he’s doing his job, and that his laptop batteries have died, making it impossible for him to post.

Pole-sitting was an interesting way to view the 2001 recruiting season. As HJ Hokie relates, "[it] was quite amusing to me….and it helped make it seem like we were still part of the VT team, as Coach Beamer says sometimes." Another view was offered by jackofalltrades, who stated that he thought the process added a lot of fun to the waiting. He says he plans to follow Cedric Humes, "his" recruit, closely through his VT career, but doesn’t plan on climbing the pole again until he graduates. I plan to follow "my" recruit, Chris Pannell, as well.

But probably the most telling comment about a pole-sitting experience, even though he didn’t actually pole-sit, was from High Tech. "[It] seemed like the thing to do at the time."

That it did, High Tech. That it did.

Now, who is going up the pole for our next 2002 recruit?

Matthew McKinley posts as "Huntsville Hokie" on the TSL message boards.

Copyright © 2001 Maroon Pride, LLC