Metaphorically Speaking with coach Frank Beamer
Five days before National Signing Day, Frank Beamer is more relaxed than you would expect him to be. Maybe it is the 23 years he’s coached at Virginia Tech, or those 16 consecutive appearances at national bowl games, or his long list of awards from all across the college football community. Whatever the reason, it is clear Beamer is in his comfort zone when it comes to managing all facets of an elite college football program. In the following interview, he describes his one-of-a-kind philosophy about special teams and how he would build the perfect quarterback.
You are famous for having excellent special teams, so I was surprised to learn that you have them workout less than others. Is this like Tom Sawyer convincing someone to whitewash a fence?
Beamer: We do try to make people think differently in that we don’t want the reserves on our “pride and joy” teams, we want our best players on the team. A lot of places think they should rest their offensive and defensive starters during special teams, but here it is the opposite. You have to be more athletic to make a tackle in open field or catch a ball, so you need your most athletic guys out there. That is what people miss sometimes.
What are some of the things your special teams don’t have to do?
Beamer: We have them run fewer sprints one day a week. If they are making perfect returns they get to leave earlier. I want them to run past the guys that are still doing strength and conditioning. It would be easier to have special teams meet before or after practice because it has both offensive and defensive players, but we would never do that. That would be punishing them. Instead, we stop practice in the middle and take care of the kicking then while everyone watches.
How did you come up with the name “pride and joy”?
Beamer: It starts with the punt team, which I call the “pride” team. In this game if you can’t kick the ball, you’re done. So I tell the players on that team they have a lot of pride because it is an important team. Then we came up with our punt block/return team as being “pride and joy” because you want to have the joy of scoring. You have to have pride, but there’s got to be joy at the end of it.
If there is pride and joy, there also is going to be its opposite some of the time. Has failure ever been a motivating factor for you?
Beamer: I think the better coaches were probably average as players. The great players, sometimes, the game comes so naturally to them they can’t explain how to do things. I started out coaching at The Citadel right after the Vietnam War. It was hard to get good players there. But it probably was the best thing I could have done. Instead of saying, “Okay, let’s go make a tackle,” I really had to study how you break down, get under control, and keep your angle on the ball, for example. I think the great coaches are not afraid to fail. They’ll take a risk.
Is it true you still come up with a new rush every week?
Beamer: Pretty much, but I’ve calmed that down a bit. It used to be that teams would be in standard punt formation, with two wideouts, or head-hunters, and slots. Nowadays you see a lot more shield protection with three guys back there in front of the kicker and six guys up at the line of scrimmage. With that you can’t really add a new rush every single week, so I’ll come up with one that best matches the other team’s personnel. I treat every team we play separately. A rush might be the same we used a few weeks ago but it will be the very best rush for their protection.
If you could become Dr. Frankenstein and create the perfect quarterback whose body parts would you use?
Beamer: The first part is the mind. You see it right now with Peyton Manning. I could name some players that are great physically, but it seems like they’re always throwing interceptions or they’re not getting a first down when they need to. Football sense is number one. Physically you have to be able to throw the ball so the receiver can catch it on the run—like Drew Brees. You also have to have good feet. Michael Vick has great feet. Height helps too. Working here with Tyrod Taylor (Hampton) and Logan Thomas (Lynchburg) shows how height helps in certain areas, such as screen plays and delays. But I don’t know that any of these things are absolutely necessary other than the football mind. You have to have a smart player.
About the author
Amy Rose Dobson is a freelance writer who divides her time between Urbanna and Northern Virginia in search of interesting people with a story to tell. She writes for several national publications and has found the best part of the job is hearing the story behind the one that runs in print. This gave her the idea for a column about how people apply metaphors to their lives, and thus this column was born.