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Off-the-field inspirations sparked Virginia's effort vs. Miami

Heading into an Atlantic Coast Conference game in which his team was a double-digit underdog to then-No. 22 Miami, first-year Virginia Coach Mike London used several off-the-field examples to provide the Cavaliers with a sense of reality and a deeper understanding of motivation.

The team knew that the grandmother of Special Teams Coordinator Anthony Poindexter was sick, and so London asked his players in a pregame meeting to raise their hands if they had ever lost a loved one or had someone close to them diagnosed with a serious illness or disease.

"A bunch of hands went up," London said Sunday night. "And I’m like, 'Football is a game that allows you for two hours or three hours to try to put away those type of things and go out and play hard and play for the person or the idea or the concept or whatever it is, play as hard as you can.'"

And if that wasn't enough to inspire the Cavaliers, London showed them a picture he had been given of fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica with his arm around the shoulders of a sick child at the Virginia Children's Hospital. Verica had visited the child a few weeks prior, and the team learned Thursday that the child had passed away.

"I had the picture and I said, 'See, you guys are blessed with abilities, your bodies, your minds, a chance to play fast, to play hard and enjoy this game. This young man will never, ever have an opportunity to do anything like that,'" London said. "And the room was quiet, because when you touch people and when you are around people and when you affect people’s lives and those little kids and that young man’s life, there was a smile as big as day that was on that picture.

"And the surrealness of the room, that that young man was no longer here living, we’d just touched him, we’d just smiled with him, it was a great day, great time. They made that kid’s day by being there, and then a couple days later he was no longer. You just try to bring in life lessons like that. Who cares about whether people think we can’t play and match up against Miami? It’s not about that. It’s about you taking your individual effort and you playing the best you’ve ever played and continue to try to play that way. And if it’s good enough, it’s good enough. If it’s not, at least you can look yourself in the mirror and say I gave it everything I had.

"So I think these guys, this particular game, it wasn’t necessarily listening to all the people who said we weren’t going to be able to play very well. It was being really self-reflective about, Who do you play for?"

Rather than sprint haphazardly onto the field just before the opening kickoff -- as they had done prior to every other home game this season -- the Cavaliers walked onto the field, arm-in-arm, as a group.

Then Virginia proceeded to build a 24-0 lead on the Hurricanes and hold on for a 24-19 victory, the Cavaliers' first ACC win in 10 tries and London's first signature triumph as the program's head coach.

"We always talk about starting fast, and I just think we were ready to play," London said. "It wasn’t about running through the tunnel with the smoke and stuff like that. I just think this was one of those games that an accumulation of things that had happened throughout the week that sometimes you’ve just got to draw a line in the sand and say, 'Enough is enough.' It was really neat to watch this."

The emotional week did not conclude Saturday night. London said Poindexter's grandmother passed away Sunday morning.

By Steve Yanda  | October 31, 2010; 7:32 PM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Next: Virginia secondary continues to evolve without Ras-I Dowling


Mike London is simply inspiring. He is building something special at UVa.

Posted by: gomerpyle1 | November 1, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

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