Bidding farewell is never easy, especially to a wonderful group such as Hokie Nation
This will be my final Kroger Roth Report at Virginia Tech, and I’m limited to 1,200 words to say “thank you” to so many people. Summing up 27 years and thousands of broadcasts in 1,200 words is nearly an impossible task. We’ve had so much fun over the decades, haven’t we?
Leaving Virginia Tech has been the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my life, and I’ve been blessed to have some great friends and advisors from both within and outside the Virginia Tech family to help me along the way, especially during the past six weeks. Still, it’s been an incredibly emotional time for me, and I hope you had the chance to see the video that the HokieVision staff created – one that pretty much covers the story: http://vthoki.es/roth.
As as I mentioned on the air at the conclusion of our spring game broadcast, I’m not saying goodbye as much as I am saying “Thank you!” Thanks to our administrators, staff and coaches who entrusted me with delivering our institution’s messages over the years. Thank you to our players – thousands of you who helped create the lasting memories over the past 27 years. And most of all, thank you to the amazing Virginia Tech fans who have been supportive over the decades. Thank you for packing the stadiums, and listening to, watching and attending our shows, from Blacksburg to New Orleans to Miami to Nashville to Atlanta and many other places.
You guys have been great.
I’ll never forget the day at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill when the North Carolina quarterback had to call a timeout because the Virginia Tech fans were roaring so loudly prior to a third-down snap. I’ve never seen that happen before at the other team’s place, before or since!
I’ll never forget looking out over a crowd of 1,500 people at the Richmond Hokie Club Kickoff Dinner and feeling the tremendous support and Hokie love in the room. Or you Hokies in Virginia Beach who snuck out of the Kickoff Dinner to grab some Beach Bully BBQ, so we could enjoy it on the plane ride home. That was a special treat.
Enter Sandman, Skipper, key plays, the exuberance of getting into the BIG EAST and later the ACC … all of it goes by in a blur when you try to recap in 1,200 words.
I loved saying at the end of a road win, when only Tech fans were remaining in the other team’s stadium, that it’s a “sea of orange, maroon and aluminum.” And I loved that, when our o-line opened up a hole as “wide as Fancy Gap,” that you were all in on the joke and chuckled along with me.
I’ve been getting the following question a bunch in the last week, including from Roy Hatfield, who runs the Gobblercountry Tech site. He and others have asked “Who was your favorite player to cover and why?”
My response: Wow, first of all, that’s a totally unfair question. Are you trying to get me in trouble? We’re talking about thousands of athletes, and I'd hate to omit any of them. I loved watching Deron Washington dunk, especially when he sailed over Greg Paulus at Duke. I really admired the way he could leap, and I loved his smile. And I loved Jamon Gordon, who was tough and did great postgame interviews and talked about his grandma.
I guess I liked tough guys, like Jake Grove and John Engelberger and Jarrett Ferguson; guys like George Del Ricco and Cody Grimm and Vince Hall and Kam Chancellor. See how you're getting me in trouble? I'm going to leave someone out.
I loved the way Michael Vick could scramble and leave guys grasping for air, and I liked the way André Davis would just zoom away from people. I loved the way David Wilson could accelerate and spin. Vapor trail. I swear I saw a vapor trail when he scored against Georgia Tech on that one touchdown at Lane. Ryan Williams, what a player. Kevin Jones. Can we please just YouTube the LSU game and watch him run? I could watch KJ run on an endless loop.
I always thought Damon Watlington had a third lung. And David and Jim Jackson? I'd go to battle with those two dudes anywhere, any time. I liked the way Tyrod Taylor was cool, like on the touchdown against FSU in Charlotte, where he casually walked into the end zone as if he had just blown out the flame on the Seminoles' spear.
Tyrod had the best penalty in 27 years when he flashed the "U" sign after scoring a touchdown against the 'Canes in Miami. It was worth every penalty yard on the ensuing kickoff.
I loved Corey Moore. I loved Lee Suggs. Still do. I cried when he tore his ACL. Eddie Royal. There's another dude who always smiled and then ran by you for a score. The Lewis brothers, and the Hopkins brothers, and the Fuller Brothers. I just want to hug Mrs. Fuller. Cornell Brown. Everyone loves Cornell, except folks in Austin, Texas, and James Brown (look it up, kids).
Blake DeChristopher … well Blake's Beard. He always referred to his beard as another person, an alter ego. I'm leaving too many people out, and I'm going to get in trouble. Bryan Randall. When he's the governor, you'll be even more proud of him. I'm doing this off the top of my head, and I'm going to get some heat. I will get an email within 20 minutes from someone like Keith Short. Wayne Ward will show up at my house and block me like he did that guy from West Virginia in that Thursday night game.
But if you're going pin me down, I'm going with (broadcast partner) Mike Burnop as my favorite athlete to cover. I've been with the guy for 27 years, and he's going to be my all-time favorite athlete, No. 81!
Mike inherited a 22-year-old kid back in 1988 as his broadcast partner, and we’ve been together for every game since. Lots of wins, a few losses, and millions of miles traveled. You’ve heard most of the on-air stories, and some of them are even true.
But it’s the off-air and travel stories that seemingly are the best, because, they’re legit.
Yeah, we really did get left behind at Oklahoma in 1991 when the team plane left without us. Yes, he always calls me “Wrong-way Roth.” I usually get lost because I know a shortcut in Quincy or Fairfax or Miami or wherever.
Yes, in 1995, at Navy, the pregame timing sheet confused Mike. It listed the pregame show (in military time) as beginning at 1100 hours and the kickoff at 1300 hours.
“Billy,” he asked. “What are we going to talk about for 200 hours?”
He calls me “Billy” and “Billy Boy” because my family calls me that, and Mike’s been a part of my family.
He came with me to Laguna Beach, California, to visit my sister for Thanksgiving in 2010. Lynda was suffering from cancer and was hooked up to a long oxygen tube, very weak at that point. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, all things considered, before taking a red-eye flight home to call the Tech-UVa football game.
I don’t think I could have gotten on the plane without Mike that day, and he’ll always be more than a close friend to me. He’s a brother. He’s a good, strong, man who’s a tremendous broadcaster. I’m lucky to have been paired with him, and I’m excited that we will continue our annual Florida vacations together.
Personally and professionally, Burnop’s the best thing that’s happened in my life in the past 30 years. You all should know that.
And finally, Whit, Buzz and Frank. I went to all three when this opportunity arose earlier this spring, and they were tremendous with their advice and guidance. Virginia Tech athletics is in such great shape under Whit’s leadership. What a star! And although I only spent one full season with Buzz, we developed a really close friendship. #GetBetter. Tech’s teams will. And Coach Beamer. I learned more about how to treat people, how to run an organization and how to care about others from this man. There is not a statue big enough or a road long enough that could justifiably honor what he has meant to the school, the football program or those lucky enough to call him a friend.
Thank you to David Braine and Jim Weaver for giving a young kid a chance to live his dream over and over and for giving me the privilege and honor of representing this school.
And so to the Hokie Nation, to all of you, I say, “Thank You!”
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, as of this writing (5/11), Virginia Tech has now held the Commonwealth Cup for 3,817 days.
Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping track from the West Coast.