Sept. 1, 2012
By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Matt Schaub and his wife have three children under the age of 3, including 11-month-old twins, so he doesn’t travel much when the Houston Texans are not playing.
This weekend marks Schaub’s first visit to the University of Virginia in four or five years, he said Monday, and much has changed in his alma mater’s football program during that time.
Among other noteworthy events: Mike London has replaced Al Groh as the Cavaliers’ head coach, construction has begun on what will be called the George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility, and Dr. Frank McCue III has passed away.
Dr. McCue, who died in July at the age of 82, headed the UVa athletics department’s sports medicine program for more than 40 years. He retired in 2003, late in Schaub’s college career, but until his death remained a fixture at practices and games and around the building that bears his name.
“When I had my shoulder injury [in 2003], he still was a part of helping me to rehab and the planning and everything,” Schaub recalled. “He was just a tremendous person, tremendous human being, and really helped any player that came across the training room. We were really honored to be a part of what he was able to do there.”
Dr. McCue was hard to miss on the sidelines during football games, and he wanted it that way. He wore bright orange pants — not as a fashion statement, but so players and coaches and athletic trainers could easily spot him when a medical issue arose.
When the Cavaliers open the season Saturday at Scott Stadium, against Richmond, the players and coaches won’t have on orange pants, but Dr. McCue will be remembered in other ways.
Each UVa helmet will have a sticker that says “Doc,” and members of coaching staff and support staff will wear polo shirts with “Doc” embroidered on the left sleeve.
Before the 3 p.m. kickoff, a moment of silence will be held in Dr. McCue’s memory. Then at halftime he’ll be enshrined as a Virginia Legend for his service to UVa athletics.
A plaque recognizing Dr. McCue will be added to those on Legends’ Walk at the stadium’s north end. Only two other non-football players have been so honored: former UVa coaches Welsh and Art Guepe.
Also at halftime Saturday, Schaub and D’Brickashaw Ferguson will become the 20th and 21st former Cavaliers, respectively, to have their jerseys retired at Scott Stadium.
Now the Texans’ starting quarterback, Schaub was the ACC player of the year as a junior in 2002. He still holds many of UVa’s passing records, including career attempts, career completions, career touchdowns, career completion percentage and career yards.
London, who was Groh’s defensive line coach when Schaub played at Virginia, remembers Schaub as a “consummate pro, the way he approached things, even in college. You can see the same approach that he has [now]. A student of the game.”
Ferguson, the New York Jets’ starting left offensive tackle, played that position at UVa, too, and protected Schaub’s blind side in 2002 and ’03.
When Ferguson, now listed at 6-6, 310 pounds, enrolled at the University in 2002, he weighed about 250. But he immediately earned a spot on the first-team line and went on to start all 49 games he played for the Cavaliers.
“I remember D’Brickashaw when he came in,” Schaub said, “an extremely athletic guy who could run with wide receivers and defensive backs, but very thin, very lean.”
Schaub laughed. “I think he was only heavier than me by a few pounds at that point, which made me a little wary. But he was a guy that was going to work. He didn’t say much, just came to work every day as a freshman and really learned a lot and grew as a player, and he was better for it on the back end for playing right away. Very long arms, very strong and athletic guy.”
London on Ferguson: “Great student. Very personable — very articulate – kind of a model of what you look for in a Virginia graduate. I know Brick is proud of the degree he got from Virginia and the fact that he’s doing quite well in the NFL. ”
Schaub said it can be difficult to keep up with UVa football as an NFL player. It helps, he said, to run into other former Cavaliers.
“You get together and talk about old times,” Schaub said. “You try to stay as connected as you can, but with each year you’re removed, it’s harder, because there aren’t many familiar faces [at UVa].
“But with Mike London there as the coach, and some other guys on the staff that are still there and people around the building that were there back when I played, it’s easier to keep in touch and be able to keep those relationships and keep that connection. It was a great time that I had during my time there, and I always want to keep those ties and that bond with the University and, especially, the football team.”
Schaub, who redshirted in 1999, played in only three games in 2000 and didn’t become the Cavaliers’ full-time starter until the third game of the 2002 season. Once he got the job, however, he established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in school history.
In 2002, Schaub led UVa to a victory over No. 15 West Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl. A year later, in the same bowl, Schaub helped Virginia beat Pittsburgh. That win came about a month after Schaub passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns in UVa’s 35-21 thumping of Virginia Tech at Scott Stadium.
His memories of his college days, not surprisingly, are happy ones.
“The excitement level on Saturdays at Scott Stadium was unmatched in my opinion around the ACC,” Schaub said. “You’d get ready for those games and walk out to a packed house that was going crazy. Coach Groh really brought a new level of excitement to Virginia football, and the student body really embraced it. It was just an exciting time for Virginia football, with the recruiting classes we were bringing in and the talent level we had, and the ability to compete with anyone across the country was really something to remember.”
Not since that 2003 game, however, have the `Hoos beaten the Hokies. “I really, really didn’t expect it to go in that direction,” Schaub said. “I’ve felt the wrath of that, having a bunch of Virginia Tech teammates [on the Texans].”
Schaub says he’s confident, though, that better days are coming for the Cavaliers, who last season finished above .500 for the first time since 2007.
“Just in remembering my time at Virginia when Coach London was the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator and everything, just knowing the type of guy he is and the type of man he is, I have no doubt that things are in good hands,” Schaub said, “and that he’s directing and leading the program the right way, bringing the right people onto the team and into the building, and really has everything, from top to bottom, whether it’s on the field or off, going in the right direction.
“When you have that as your foundation, only good things can come from it.”
In the first game of London’s third season as the Cavaliers’ head coach, storylines will abound. To wit:
* Danny Rocco’s daughter, Amy, is a UVa student who works in the Cavaliers’ football office.
* London is a UR graduate who as head coach guided his alma mater to the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision national title in 2008. He also had two stints as a Richmond assistant. The opponent in his first game as Virginia’s head coach? Richmond, of course.
* UVa defensive coordinator Jim Reid is a former Richmond head coach.
* The Spiders’ reserve quarterbacks include Michael Strauss, who began his college career at Virginia.
“Other than this game,” London said Thursday, “I’ll be cheering for them and seeing how they’re doing in the CAA and the FCS football world as well.”