Expectations Abound at UVA Media Day
By Chris Bunn
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
Mike London has used his intense and passionate style to build the Virginia Cavaliers into legitimate contenders.
Maybe it's the close up camera angle. Maybe it's the perception we get from watching them in packed mega-shrines to pigskin. Maybe I've just never processed them as normal humans. Whatever the reasn, I have always seen football players as these mythical figures that stand larger than life. Friday, I went to my first press conference as part of the media. See, I sunlight as a media professional in the Charlottesville area and moonlight as a sports addict jonesing for his next hit. This was a surreal collision of my two worlds and it couldn't have been more...normal.
My intern and I arrived early to set up our camera in a prime spot and grab some food. After a nice elderly lady handed me my first official press credential, I got in line at a very normal buffet. I ate very ordinary chicken and rice and drank a plain bottle of water.
After flipping through the media guide casually, I returned to the press room to await Coach London's first words of the season. The room slowly started to fill up and before I could process it all, London was seated and we were starting. Three hours of talking Virginia football in a room with 20 or so average joes and our protagonists.
To describe Coach London as normal or average is a slap in the face of the man. I had heard tales of his great personality, his ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds, and particularly stories of his passion-filled spirit. From the first question (referencing the new indoor facility UVA is building) you'd have suspected none of this. It's when he begins to talk about his passion, the actual game itself, that you begin to see the layers pulled back and a man revealed.
"Its an exciting year for us, we're not going to sneak up on anybody. Our young players are excited to play, the guys we got coming back are excited to play. We talk about it all the time, its where you're hitting at the end of the season instead of the beginning."
London refuses to let his team focus on the hype that comes from a four-win improvement in just his second year at the school. The Cavaliers were 8-3 heading into a home game with arch rival Virginia Tech, but were ransacked to the tune of 38-0 in what was their worst game of the season.
That trouncing aside, UVA went on to the Chick-Fil-A bowl to face defending champion Auburn. Despite the loss, many Cavalier players appreciate the experience. Perry Jones called it a measuring stick:
"It helps a lot because we know how hard we worked last summer and where we ended up, you know, at the end of the season. Now we know, using last season as a measuring stick, how hard we have to work, how much preparation we have to put in. That's going to tell us what we need to do this upcoming season."
The continued importance placed upon using the 2011 season as motivation and confirmation of ability draws upon Coach London's very point. "You can't be satisfied with what just happened. You have to be hungry for more."
The very nature of each player that came to the podium was that of a man on a mission. You could almost see it in their body language and demeanor. Like they were telling us, "What we did last year was cool but we want more. We're not done yet."
And they believe it. When Tim Smith was asked what we can expect from the UVA offense this season, his reply was simple: "A lot of points."
This just showed me how wrong I can be. This isn't a normal team. It's not average and its definitely not ordinary. The players are grounded, motivated, and confident. A direct reflection of their leader, Mike London; a coach who has built UVA, a former cellar dweller, to expect 8-4 seasons as normal.
But this team isn't normal. It's far better.
Video - Virginia QB Michael Rocco: http://www.earlessrabbit.com/gold/uva-media-kickoff-michael-rocco/
Video - Virginia head coach Mike London: http://www.earlessrabbit.com/carousel/uva-media-kickoff-head-coach-mike-london/