For 16 Virginia Cavaliers, tonight could be their last night at Scott Stadium. These 16 Wahoos have been through a lot. They've seen two head coaches with drastically different approaches. They started in a season that only saw three wins -- all in October. This year, they're in a season that couldn't find any wins in October at all. In between that, they saw the pageantry of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, the ACC's most prestigious non-BCS bowl. And there's nothing more fitting than for them to see the Thursday night lights at Scott Stadium, playing a nationally televised game in the South's Oldest Rivalry.
"Over the course of the last couple years," Head Coach Mike London said on Monday, "it was great to see those guys have an experience like they experienced last year and what it meant to them and their families."
When London took over at the helm of a struggling Virginia program, the team was not meeting expectations in the classroom. They were not meeting expectations on the field. And they were not meeting the expectations of a community that prides itself on having strong student-athletes serving as ambassadors to the public. Mike London sought to change that.
"You know, when you come in and you try to establish a new culture of expectations, about classroom behavior, about the community and expectations of how you stress life after football, you develop a relationship because that's what I am; I kind of pride myself in being kind of a relationship oriented guy."
"And now as you see them getting to transition out and into the real world, hopefully you've had some sort of influence about talking about conduct, about grades, about how you treat people, how to be a significant player in the community that you live in. So that's part of the relationship part of it. The football part always stays off to the side because people see the games and you experience the highs and the lows and the wins and the losses, but you hopefully you become more of maybe a role model for them, and as they leave and go on, you hope that they will come back and be an active participant in the VAF."
"[We're] just really enjoying and taking it all in," middle linebacker Steve Greer said on Monday. "We know there's probably not a lot of time left. We're just really enjoying it and trying to feed off each other and still be leaders on defense."
Tonight at 7:30 against the Tar Heels, the departing seniors will get one final time to run through the smoke-filled tunnels of Scott Stadium in front of tens of thousands of screaming Wahoos. They'll get the chance to stand on the field as Cavalier nation honors their on- and off-the-field performance, while they honor their families who have stood by them. For some, it's one of just a few more chances to impress the many NFL scouts and representatives in attendance. For others, it's one of just a few more chances to stand by the men with whom they've practiced, grown up, and bonded. And in this win-or-die season, there could not be more on the line
Here are the 16 Cavaliers listed as seniors on the roster:
|72||Oday Aboushi||OT||Brooklyn, N.Y./Xaverian HS|
|4||LoVante' Battle||FB||Hampton, Va./Phoebus HS|
|88||Paul Freedman||TE||Belleair Bech, Fla./Clearwater Central Catholic|
|53||Steve Greer||ILB||Solon, Ohio/Solon HS|
|93||Will Hill||DT||Williamsburg, Va./Lafayette HS|
|27||Jacob Hodges||HLD||Stafford, Va./Mountain View HS|
|33||Perry Jones||TB||Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith HS|
|7||Kyle McCartin||TE||Warrenton, Va./Fauquier HS|
|71||Matt Mihalik||OG||Middlefield, Ohio/Gilmour Academy|
|89||Colter Phillips||TE||Darnestown, Md./Georgetown Prep|
|32||Brian Pomper||WR||Huntington, N.Y./St. Anthony's/The Hotchkiss School|
|9||LaRoy Reynolds||OLB||Norfolk, Va./Maury HS|
|62||Buddy Ruff||DT||Norfolk, Va./Norview HS|
|47||Bill Schautz||DE||Bloomfield, N.J./Bergen Catholic HS|
|3||Ausar Walcott||DE||Hackensack, N.J./Hackensack HS|
|39||Tucker Windle||LB||Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic|