August 30, 2016

Virginia Tech will pay homage to Frank Beamer's attention to special teams when the Hokies play their first game in 30 years without the Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines.

This week, with Beamer's approval, a member of the Hokies' special teams will wear Beamer's retired No. 25 jersey instead of the unidentified player's regular number in the season opener against Liberty. In subsequent weeks, the No. 25 jersey will be worn by Virginia Tech's special teams player of the week.

''I do not know who's going to wear it, before you even ask,'' first-year Hokies coach Justin Fuente said. ''But it's something that I think shows great pride in the past and pays tribute to the way ball has been played around here for some time.

''It's something our kids will be excited about as well.''

Excited enough to want to improve their chances of getting a turn in Beamer's jersey.

''Yeah, I would love to wear that jersey,'' running back Sam Rogers said. ''I'm going to be fighting to play on any special teams I can. Whatever I can do for this team, I'm going to be doing. The more they let me do, the more I'm going to be happy to do. If I've got a chance to go down on kickoff and wear No. 25, that'd be awesome.''

During his 29-year career at his alma mater, Beamer served as his own special teams coach, and his teams scored 55 touchdowns on special teams, blocked 67 punts, 41 field goal attempts and 28 extra point attempts. The ability to turn games around quickly on special teams was a huge element of Virginia Tech's rise in football prominence.

''I'm really honored that a member of the special teams will get to wear my old number every week,'' Beamer said in a release from the school. ''Of course, it's not just a recognition of me - it's about all those coaches and kids who made special teams part of our identity at Virginia Tech.''

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is a big fan of the effort to honor Beamer.

''I think it's really, really cool,'' said Foster, who was with Beamer for all his 29 seasons at Virginia Tech and remained on staff when Fuente was hired. ''When coach Fuente brought that up, I was thrilled for coach. It makes a statement about what we have done here. Coast Fuente is building on what we have done in the past with some traditions as well as adding in his twist.

''Obviously, special teams and `Beamerball' was a big part of our success, and I can tell you right now, that is not going to change as far as what our approach is to the football games.''

Fuente said he will tell the team and announce who will wear the jersey this week on Thursday.

He may find that with just 12 games on the schedule, he might have to disappoint some who would like a turn.

''I think it's special,'' wide receiver Isaiah Ford said. ''Everyone knows how much coach Beamer means to this program and means to us, especially me individually, the affect he had on my life. I think that it's a cool tradition to kind of live on and to kind of honor him on the field. I think that'll be cool.''

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The AP's college football page: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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