Football season is arguably the most cherished part of going to a school as sports-oriented as Virginia Tech. There’s truly nothing like the atmosphere of Lane Stadium, especially if it’s your first time at a game. In fact, you ask any person who has been to a game and they’ll most likely tell you everything about their first time at the stadium and how special an experience it was to them.
The thing is, there are football traditions at every university with a team, but there is something about Tech’s traditions that just feel different or particularly special to the student body. Every game feels like an event of such large magnitude that even someone who isn’t especially into football would admit enjoyment at the experience of going to a game.
dIf it is your first time in Lane Stadium this coming fall, then you’re probably wondering what some of these traditions even are. They’re easy to figure out after a game or two, but a quick introduction to the biggest ones never hurt. So, without further ado, here are some of the most significant football traditions you’ll come across at Virginia Tech (in no particular order because they all are absolutely awesome in their own ways).
Generally considered a favorite of students and fans alike, the team’s entrance onto the field to Metallica’s 1991 classic “Enter Sandman” is unlike anything you’ll ever witness, and it never fails to amp a crowd up before kickoff.
This is a relatively new tradition, starting up in 2000 when Virginia Tech introduced a scoreboard called “Hokie Vision” after the 1999 season. When it was introduced, Tech decided to create a highlight video to put on before games to show off the new scoreboard. “Enter Sandman” was ultimately picked over a few classic rock jams, most notably “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses.
The song choice became a hit, and a few games into the season, the tradition of students jumping up and down like lunatics became a staple of every Virginia Tech football game to this day. Most generally consider this to be the highlight of any football game, especially primetime games under the lights. It’s a truly unique experience watching thousands of college students jump around as the players make their way onto the field.
The legend of Skipper goes all the way back to the days when Virginia Tech was a military school then known as VPI.
In 1964, when VPI’s biggest rival was fellow in-state military school VMI, the Keydets constantly taunted VPI students for their lack of a cannon used during games. “Where’s your cannon?” was a common taunt used against VPI as VMI fired their cannon “Little John.”
The taunting inspired two cadets, Homer Hickam (whose life was the basis of the book and film “October Sky”) and Alton B. Harper, to make a cannon of their own to be fired at games. Thus, Skipper was born, and it’s introduction was legendary. When VPI played VMI again, they tripled the charge of the cannon, and its blast was so strong that it blew the hats off cadets and shook the glass in the press box windows in Roanoke’s Victory Stadium. You’ll hear Skipper now when the team enters the field as well as when the team scores.
The key play is a simple one to figure out, but it’s nonetheless a very important tradition students do at Tech.
Every third down play for Tech’s defense is considered a “key play” regardless of the score or the amount of time left in the game. It’s as easy as taking out any keys you have on you and shaking them around before the opposing team’s offense gets ready for the play.
While this tradition didn’t start at Tech, it has been a staple for every football game since the 1980s.
The Lunch Pail
The lunch pail is an incredible team tradition that honors defensive players who take the blue-collar approach that is often synonymous with Virginia Tech football since Bud Foster’s tenure started in 1987.
The original lunch pail was acquired in 1995 by the mother-in-law of co-defensive coordinator Rod Sharpless, and was once owned by a coal miner. It’s an iconic tradition given to a defensive leader every week, who is tasked with taking care of it when the team travels, and it’s arguably one of the coolest examples of football tradition at Virginia Tech.
These traditions are what make Virginia Tech football such an incredible spectacle and a huge part of campus life. Hopefully this article helps give a little taste of what to expect at your first game in Lane Stadium.