You hear it once a week, year after year. Echoing through the halls of Newman Library, bellowing across the Drillfield, the sound ripples across campus. It’s hard to miss the voices of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Ranger Company as they run across campus during the week of the homecoming game, promoting school spirit and Hokie pride. It’s Game Ball season and every Hokie wants to get their hands on the action.
It’s a hard sight to miss: cadets running back and forth across campus, throwing the homecoming football around to each other, all while encouraging students, faculty and staff to touch the football to add a little bit of luck to it. By the time the game rolls around that Saturday, Ranger Company has run 100 miles across campus — an incredible homage to cadets who had done it long before. The ball is presented to the football team by the top three from Ranger Company: the commander, the commander’s assistant and the first sergeant.
But this tradition goes way back; Ranger Company has been running the Game Ball since 1972, when the old rivalry between Virginia Military Institute Keydets (VMI) was incredibly strong. When the opposing football teams would play at Victory Stadium in Roanoke, Virginia, Ranger Company Hokies would run the football to the site of the game –– Taylor Lacroix, a senior majoring in construction engineering and management explained that each member of the company would take turns running 10-12 miles. Followed by a van full of water, the Virginia Tech cadets carried on this tradition until the colleges stopped playing each other.
The company’s most successful feat was in 1982; the Hokies completed a 290-mile relay style run to Norfolk, Virginia, for the Oyster Bowl against the Keydets. Lacroix even mentioned that the rivalry was so intense that VMI Keydets once tried to intercept and steal the ball but were unsuccessful, of course.
Lacroix and Luke Specht, a junior majoring in national security and foreign affairs, have both had the honor to run with the ball over their time at Virginia Tech. Both can agree that homecoming brings everyone together.
“It kinda creates a better connection between the cadets and civilians,” Specht said. “They don’t really know what we do necessarily, and I think that’s (the) cool part of it.”
While big names like former head football coach Frank Beamer and University President Tim Sands have gotten in on the fun, it’s the support of the students that keeps Ranger Company running.
“It’s really cool to see the hype around it,” Lacroix said. “Everyone’s looking forward to it.”
Don’t be alarmed when you see a herd of cadets barreling toward you this week or if someone’s poking you in the back with a football while you’re studying. Get in on the fun, get in on the homecoming tradition and get a hand on the Game Ball.