Joey Slye is no stranger to being nominated for and winning awards. The Virginia Tech football team’s junior kicker was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award in 2016, awarded to the nation’s top placekicker, while also earning a spot on ESPN.com’s all-bowl team in 2015 and being named one of the team’s two Hard Hat Champions for 2017. However, no award may mean more to Slye than that of being named the 2017 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year for Virginia, an award that will be presented this May.
Slye, who lost his brother to Leukemia in February of 2014, was approached in December about running for the Virginia Chapter Man of the Year. According to the Virginia Man and Woman of the Year website, earning the title is based on dynamic and passionate individuals raising funds for blood cancer research.
Slye explains that being named this year’s LLS Man of the Year would have an even deeper meaning, as much of LLS’ research is being aimed at Acute Myeloid Leukemia, the cancer that claimed his brother’s life.
“Honestly, it’s crazy that I’m running this year when LLS’ main focus is going straight to AML,” said Slye. “He’s gone, but it’s kind of cool to know that every cent I make right now would have gone directly to him or someone else’s A.J.”
In order to claim rights to the title of Man of the Year, a candidate must out-fundraise the competing candidates. In an attempt to raise money for his campaign, Slye hosted the fundraiser “Help Joey Kick Cancer” on Sunday, April 23, in the Indoor Practice Facility. The event, which also played host to the Be The Match campaign, an initiative that swabs potential donors and places them on the bone marrow registry, was successful in raising over $6,000 and swabbed over 350 participants.
While Slye’s competitive spirit most certainly applies to the Man of the Year competition, he ultimately just wants to continue to bring attention to a personal cause.
“It’s fundraising money and spreading awareness in good competition with other people,” said Slye. “I mean yes, we want to win, but at the same time, we know as a collective group we are fundraising money that is going directly towards cancer research.”
Given the success and campus-wide involvement of Virginia Tech’s Kindergarten to College program, otherwise known as K2C, it might come as a surprise to some that it actually began as a simple favor to a friend.
Susan Magliaro, the director of the program and professor emerita at Virginia Tech, received a call from a principal in Prince William County asking if she could bring her fifth-graders to campus for the day. Eight years later, K2C welcomes roughly 1,000 fifth graders from over ten different Title I schools to campus each spring semester.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a Title I school is a school that receives particular financial assistance due to the school’s high percentage of children from low-income families. For Magliaro, being a Title I school is a key prerequisite for engaging in the program.
“We only work with Title I schools because we are trying to target kids who may not actually envision themselves being able to get to college,” said Magliaro. “So we wanted to give them that opportunity.”
Although the name might suggest otherwise, the program provides a day in the life experience of a college student to fifth graders from across the Commonwealth. As the program has expanded over the years, Magliaro has worked to incorporate nearly every aspect of Virginia Tech into the students few hours spent on campus.
The day begins with a short seminar about Virginia Tech, career opportunities that come with a college degree, and the questions that many students have about college life, including where they sleep and who does their laundry.
Following the introduction, the students, who are placed into specific color groups of roughly 10 to 15 kids prior to arrival, bounce around between buildings such as, Derring, the New Classroom Building, the WARE lab, and Goodwin Hall, engaging in a number of activities during the morning hours. For the most part, these STEM based activities are put on by undergraduate or graduate students.
Once their time in various classrooms across campus comes to an end, the students then enjoy an a la carte style lunch from the D-2 dining hall. Here, every single color group has an opportunity to engage with members of the Corps of Cadets, who eat lunch with the students. The day then concludes with a tour of Cassell Coliseum and Lane Stadium, as well as a short question and answer session with student athletes prior to departure.
Because the program is currently in its eighth year of operation, the impact of Kindergarten to College can now be quantified through data, something Magliaro is excited to explore in the coming years.
“We are just starting to see if those kids [from the first year] are going to college and where they go, if they do go anywhere,” said Magliaro. “So we are starting to collect that data.”
While it would be much easier in regards to gathering such statistics if all of the K2C participants ended up at Virginia Tech, Magliaro explains that the goal of the program is ultimately to spark the planning stages of a future that includes going to college.
“While we would love to have them come to Tech, the major message is to stay in and finish high school and go to college.”
I have spent the last seventeen years of my life playing the game of soccer for a number of teams across the state of Virginia, with the most recent team being for the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team. While the life of a division one athlete may seem glamorous to outsiders, over the last four years I have faced numerous physical, mental, and emotional battles. However, it wasn’t all that bad, I did manage to pick up a few things along the way and now that my playing days are over I finally have a chance to reflect on the three most valuable lessons I have learned over these past four years.
1.You are a product of your choices, not a victim of your circumstances
Everyone was a superstar in high school, but not everyone can be the superstar in college. In my four years of collegiate soccer I played in a total of five games. Yes, you read that right, five. I was given the tough, and as some might put it, unfortunate, role of being the backup goalkeeper. However, I made the best of the situation every chance that I was given because I was bound and determined to be the best backup there was and even more so, the best teammate there was.
That brick wall is a road block positioned strategically to keep you from succeeding. The game of soccer has shown me that what separates the good from the great is that innate ability to get over that brick wall. Everyone wants to be great, but you have to be willing to do the work to make that happen.
3.Do it because you love it
There is no greater disservice to oneself than doing a task with half of your effort or half of your heart. If you do not love what you are doing, don’t do it anymore (disregarding taxes and laundry because you have no choice but to do it). Regardless of what it may be, do it with your whole heart, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the only way to do it.
John Engelberger, Cody Grimm, Will Montgomery, Sam Rogers—for some, those names are just that, names, but for Hokie fans, these are some of the most successful and impactful players to ever come through the Virginia Tech football program. However, what links these players is not just their success on the gridiron, but that they were all preferred walk-ons for the Hokies.
According to Recruiting-101, a preferred walk-on is a student athlete who has been noticed by a coach and are then offered a spot on a university’s athletic team, but who does not receive an athletic scholarship. With the glitz and glam of the recent National Signing Day still fresh in the minds of football fans, it begs the question: What is National Signing Day like for those preferred walk-ons?
“I kind of took part in it, but I just signed a blank piece of paper and got the pictures, that’s it,” said redshirt-junior wide receiver C.J. Carroll, a preferred walk-on for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team.
However, that’s not just it, it’s also the start of a long and trying process to ultimately earn that coveted scholarship and cement their name on the aforementioned list. Carroll, who was given a preferred walk-on spot in a signing class that featured highly touted players like Isaiah Ford and Travon McMillian, explains that his walk-on position requires playing with a different edge than that of scholarship athletes.
“You have to [play with an edge], there are very few of us out there that actually play, so once you get your opportunity, you have to make the most of it to try and earn a scholarship,” said Carroll. “As well as, to get the respect of other people who do have scholarships.”
Since joining the Hokies in the summer of 2014, Carroll has used that edge to work his way up in the team ranks, first, starting with the scout team and eventually becoming a key part of the Hokies offense and kick return game.
Carroll was also given the privilege of wearing the jersey number 25, awarded to the special team’s player of the week in honor of former head coach Frank Beamer, in the team’s game against Notre Dame. For Carroll, the opportunity had an even deeper meaning, as coach Beamer was always so giving to walk-ons like himself.
“It was crazy, that whole day was unbelievable,” said Carroll. “Notre Dame is a historic program and to wear that number 25 and play on national television…it was something that I won’t forget.”
As for the advice he would give to other players given a preferred walk-on spot?
“Work hard, earn the respect of players and coaches, and the rest will take care of itself,” said Carroll.
And that it did, just one day after the 2017 National Signing Day, Carroll was finally given his own, real, signing day when was awarded a scholarship by head football coach Justin Fuente.
Blacksburg, Va., Sept. 6- WATCHFUL EYES: C.J. Carroll watches on as his teammates complete their sets of benchpress for the day. Photo: Blayne Fink
Blacksburg, Va., Sept. 6- PUSHING TEAMMATES: A key expectation of preferred walk-ons is the job of pushing starters. Here, Carroll cheers on his teammates completing a set of benchpress. Photo: Blayne Fink
Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 6- GEAR: Preferred walk-on players are given the same gear as that of scholarship players, such as the w1n-0 training tops Carroll sports here. Photo: Blayne Fink
Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 6- GOOD TIMES: Laughing along with teammates during an off-season workout, Carroll was quick to note that preferred walk-ons are treated no differently among the team. Photo: Blayne Fink
Blacksburg, Va., Sept. 6- FROM NO TO PRO: Cody Grimm, a preferred walk-on turned NFL draft pick, is among the many Virginia Tech walk-ons to don a spot on the “Hokies in the NFL” wall. Photo: Blayne Fink
Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 6- SPECIAL PLACES: Cody Grimm even grabbed a spot in legendary coach Frank Beamer’s book “Let Me Be Frank.” Beamer was well known for his work with special teams, a job taken very seriously, especially by walk-ons. Photo: Blayne Fink
Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 6- CAPTAIN: Former Hokie walk-on Jack Tyler earned a position as captain for the 2013 Virginia Tech football season. Former walk-ons such as Will Montgomery and Willie Byrn were also given the honor. Photo: Blayne Fink