With 'Beamer Ball' back in Blacksburg, Va. Tech gets set for Pitt
In 33 years of coaching, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer has won 263 games and earned 20 consecutive bowl berths while building a low tolerance for imperfection.
Chris Drager found that out the hard way.
It happened during Drager's redshirt freshman season when video review of a loss to Boston College caught him being penalized for a block in the back. Beamer made sure Drager — and everyone else in the room — knew sloppy play was not acceptable.
“I deserved it,” said Drager, who played on a PIAA champion and two WPIAL title-winning teams at Thomas Jefferson. “He just told me that wasn't necessary. It made me feel bad, but it made me work harder.”
Drager spent five years at Virginia Tech (2007-2011), playing tight end and defensive end and learning enough football to land on TJ coach Bill Cherpak's staff this year.
“It was stick to the basics, do what's right and don't mess around,” Drager said of what Beamer taught him.
“We had to be early (for meetings).”
Such simple logic has served Beamer well in a career that has made him one of the most successful all-time FBS coaches in terms of victories. His 263 wins (against 128 losses and four ties) heading into Saturday's game against Pitt in Blacksburg, Va., are tops among active FBS coaches.
“That's unbelievable,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said of Beamer's longevity. “I don't know if people realize how hard that is.”
Beamer, who will turn 67 on Oct. 18, doesn't give much thought to how long he will coach. Yet, he's a realist.
“I'm very aware you can overstay your welcome,” he said.
But that doesn't seem to be the case this year, his 27th as Virginia Tech's head coach. After a stretch from 2004-2011 in which the Hokies lost more than three games only once, Virginia Tech was 7-6 last year, including a surprising 35-17 loss to Pitt at Heinz Field.
“We learned that Pittsburgh will pound you if you don't play well yourself,” said Beamer, who was former Pitt coach Mike Gottfried's defensive coordinator at Murray State from 1979-80.
For his part, Drager learned it's not wise to bet and lost some money to former Pitt player Dom DeCicco, a teammate at TJ.
“They let me down,” Drager said.
In the wake of that season, Beamer remade this year's Hokies, and the result so far is a 5-1 record and No. 24 ranking.
“We are playing more young guys than we ever played, trying to get the chemistry right,” he said. “Seeing the team progress, that's kind of what keeps you going. Being around the kids and seeing their life change, those are the things.”
Beamer said he will continue coaching if he can maintain three important commodities.“As long as I have a good quarterback and my health is good, and throw in a good kicker,” he said.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst called Beamer “a legend” whom other coaches would do well to emulate.
“It's what you strive to do and do it in a way that he did it — classy and a guy who truly is all that is good about college football,” Chryst said.
“Fortunately, it's not coach Beamer against Paul Chryst (Saturday). I don't like those odds.”
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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