By Jeff White
ATLANTA — Members of the UVa football program got a close look at Georgia Tech’s new indoor practice facility Wednesday afternoon, and they liked what they saw.
On Saturday night, the Cavaliers will face Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome, and that’s where they practiced Tuesday and Thursday. UVa will have its walk-through there Friday. On Wednesday, though, the Wahoos practiced on Georgia Tech’s campus, at the $9 million John and Mary Brock Football Facility.
Fund-raising is well under way for a $13 million indoor facility at UVa that will be similar to the structure Georgia Tech opened in August.
“It did provide a visual,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “It was kind of neat to see … the model for what ours will look like too.”
London recently pledged $225,000 to help pay for UVa’s indoor facility. In all, the University has about $9.5 million in pledges for the facility, which will cover one of the two fields on which the football team currently practices behind University Hall and the McCue Center. Other field sports at Virginia will use the facility as well.
The University hopes to break ground on the project by late spring 2012 and complete it by the start of training camp in August 2013.
Georgia Tech’s indoor field is only 85 yards long. UVa’s facility will include a regulation 100-yard field.
“I think it’ll be a great addition to the facilities that we already have,” senior defensive tackle Matt Conrath said, “and I think it’ll draw some recruits in, for sure.”
Junior offensive tackle Oday Aboushi agreed.
“It’s going to be huge,” Aboushi said. “I think it’s going to help recruiting a lot, just knowing we have bigger and better facilities as we’re moving up.”
For players looking at colleges, Aboushi said, facilities are “a big deal. You’re going to spend a lot of your time there, so you want to be in a nice area where you’re able to perform the best you can.”
Sophomore defensive end Jake Snyder hasn’t forgotten the day in August when a thunderstorm forced the team off the practice fields and into John Paul Jones Arena, a building that’s not conducive to football.
“That’s the type of thing you like to avoid, especially when you’re in a rhythm like that,” Snyder said.
PIECE OF HISTORY: On Tuesday evening, UVa and Auburn visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in downtown Atlanta. At Ebenezer Baptist Church, they heard about King from one of its members: Congressman John Lewis, a towering figure in the civil-rights movement.
That “was something that not everybody in this world gets to experience,” UVa cornerback Chase Minnifield said. “For us to be able to experience that is a once‑in‑a‑lifetime type of thing.”
“It was a privilege,” Virginia safety Corey Mosley said. “You take classes on stuff like that. You hear it from an outside source, but to hear it directly from a person himself is way more powerful.
“It was very humbling. [Lewis] seemed like a great man. It was a great story he had to tell.”
In 1963, Lewis spoke at the March on Washington before King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Early this year, Lewis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
King was baptized in that church and later served as its pastor from 1960 until his assassisantion in 1968.
Mosley graduated from UVa this month with a major in sociology and a minor in African-American studies. Among the classes he took in his minor, Mosley said, was one titled “Martin, Malcolm and America.”
“I ended up getting a good grade in it,” he said, “and I learned a lot about Dr. King during that term.”
On why he added a minor, Mosley said, “I like to push myself. I remember as a freshman, coming straight out of high school, my biggest worry was how I would pan out academically. I had a great support staff as far as the academic coordinators. The fellows on the team, we kind of stuck together in the whole academic process, so it made it much easier, much more comfortable, and I was just really devoted and dedicated to completing that task.”
WELCOME BACK: The Chick-fil-A Bowl will mark the return of wide receiver Matt Snyder, who hasn’t played since breaking a bone in his left foot during practice Oct. 18.
“To have him back is a positive for us,” London said before practice Thursday. “He’s been running around here pretty good.”
A 6-5, 215-pound fifth-year senior, Snyder is a tenacious blocker. He’s also one of the Cavaliers’ captains, along with junior tailback Perry Jones, senior defensive tackle Nick Jenkins and senior safety Rodney McLeod.
Snyder started five of the six regular-season games in which he played this year. For the season, he has 19 receptions for 220 yards.
LOOKING AHEAD: Several of UVa’s seniors hope to pursue professional football careers, among them Conrath, a four-year starter on the defensive line.
A first-team All-ACC selection at tackle this season, Conrath may end up back at end, the position he played as a freshman and sophomore when Virginia’s base defense was the 3-4.
The 6-7 Conrath weighed about 280 pounds when he arrived in Atlanta on Monday, though he acknowledged that he’s “probably gained some weight this week from the [Chick-fil-A] milkshake and the Brazilian steak house.”
For a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL, 280 pounds is light, and “I’m going to try to put on some weight and strength and then work on my speed” after the bowl game, Conrath said. The most he has weighed at UVa is 284, but Conrath said he’s confident he can get to around 290 by the NFL scouting combine, “and then hopefully keep adding after that.”
Another fifth-year senior, Max Milien, came to UVa as a tailback but switched to fullback after the 2009 season.
A 6-0, 220 pounds, Milien knows he’s probably not big enough to be a full-time fullback in the NFL.
“I’m going more for utility, H-back, athlete, anywhere they’ll take me,” Milien said Wednesday. “That’s been kind of my motto in college. I’ve moved around a lot, so I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
Milien has 20 catches for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.
TURNING POINT: To offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, the significance of Virginia’s Sept. 10 win at Indiana cannot be overstated. UVa led 23-3 early in the third quarter, then surrendered 28 straight points. But the ‘Hoos rallied for 11 points in the final 96 seconds to stun the Hoosiers 34-31.
The road win was Virginia’s first under London, who replaced Al Groh as head coach after the 2009 season.
“At the beginning of the second half, I felt we were going to blow them out,” Lazor recalled Thursday. “It just totally turned on us. We came back and won. After the game I thought it was better that it went that way, not for our hearts and our nerves, but for our team.”
Jones rushed for 78 yards and a TD and caught five passes for 85 yards against Indiana.
“To me that day I thought, ‘This is someone special we have here, not just running the football, but catching the ball out of the backfield,’ ” Lazor said. “He’s been the guy to come up and make those plays for us.
“A real wise, very successful coach taught me one time that you have a chance to be special as a team when your best players are your hardest workers, and that’s what Perry Jones is.”