The speech that CB Rashad Carmichael didn't want you to know about
As this season moved along and the Virginia Tech football team began piling up wins, word began to spread about how senior cornerback Rashad Carmichael had ruffled some feathers in a good way after the Hokies fell to 0-2 with that loss to James Madison.
So for my story about the dramatic turnaround ahead of Virginia Tech's win over Florida State in the ACC championship game, I went to Carmichael earlier this month for an explanation of just what happened during the week leading up to the Hokies' win over East Carolina that began this historic winning streak.
We reporters had already heard about the players-only meeting that was called just before the ECU game, but Carmichael explained to me then that the meeting was actually the result of a practice tirade he unleashed on the team earlier in the week. He felt the younger players on the team weren't taking things seriously enough, but some took the fiery speech the wrong way at the time. So Carmichael was hesitant to let me print anything specific about the incident, for fear of ruining team chemistry ahead of the Florida State game. The only thing that ended up making the story was this paragraph:
"Tensions had been building in Blacksburg throughout the preseason and after the loss to Boise State to begin the year. A divide emerged over practice habits between the Hokies' veterans and their talented underclassmen. The seniors felt their younger counterparts just weren't taking things seriously enough."
Well, Friday morning during a scheduled media availability here in South Florida, Carmichael finally opened up again, describing the story of how he essentially challenged some of his younger teammates to a fight if they weren't ready to follow the lead of the seniors in order to turn the season around. Since Carmichael does a much better job of explaining the situation, I'll just provide the full transcription of his Q&A after the jump:
“For me, it was like I got to see a lot. I got to see Vince Hall and [Xavier] Adibi lead the team. I got to see Brandon Flowers, Macho [Harris], Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, I played with the guys that made these guys come here – the younger guys. I played with those guys and I followed those guys and I seen how we got to the first ACC championship and all of that.
"So at the beginning of the season, I was really just letting guys – you’re an adult – and there was a lot of joking, a lot of playing not doing it the Virginia Tech way pretty much. During camp and during the season, I even went to Coach [Torrian] Gray and said something to him and he was like, ‘You’re a leader, so you’ve gotta figure it out on your own.’ And I was like, ‘I’m gonna let them grow up on their own,’ and it didn’t work. We lost those two games and I had to end it. I was like: ‘This is how we’re going, this is what we’re gonna do and if you don’t like it, you can meet me at my locker or I’ll meet you at your locker. And that’s it. If you can’t follow, then you gotta go.’ And everybody followed.”
On when this all happened:
“It was the Monday after we lost to JMU. After we lost that game, I already knew. I didn’t have to tell the other seniors because I knew that’s how they already felt. I was getting calls from Brandon Flowers, Eddie Royal, all kind of guys. They were like: ‘Man, we’re embarrassed. You all lost to JMU.’ I was feeling sick the whole weekend and when Monday came I just told them my heart. And guys know that’s how I am, that’s how I play, so it was cool.”
How did the coaches react?
“At first, [the coaches] thought I was kind of, I don’t know, splitting the team up or being an individual or something like that. But I told them, if we’re supposed to be brothers, I should be able to talk to you like that. All the stuff we’ve been through this year, I told the coaches, if you preach family, if that was my real brother I’d fight him. You better get it right or I’m gonna fight you right here. And that’s that and we can go out and eat and run this over. I’m gonna give you a hug, tell Mom we were fighting and that’s it. I told him the same way. Y’all say you’re my brothers then I’m gonna treat you like my brother."
What about the details? When and how were the speech delivered?
"[Coach Frank Beamer] was done talking and he was like, ‘Anybody got something and I was like, ‘Yeah, I got something.’ It was about 10 minutes – it was wild -- and then the next day [Beamer] was like, ‘You can’t talk to everybody like that, so go back and clean it up.’ He said, ‘Call an official meeting and clean it up.’ ”
How did teammates react?
“A lot of guys didn’t know how to take it at first. A lot of people were taking it the wrong way. But like I said, most of the guys know how I am. I don’t go out. All you see me is at practice or at practice, that’s it. Other than that, I’m in the house watching film and then whatever. You need a ride, I’ll pick you up. Whatever I’m doing, I do a lot for you all, so I wasn’t worried about somebody taking it the wrong way. ... And we won, we’re here now, so it worked.”
Did you see signs that guys weren't taking things seriously early on?
“It was easy. We have a lot of young guys, too, so that’s just gonna happen when you have a lot of young guys. I knew it was gonna take us seniors to show them how to do it for the future, so those guys could be better off. We have a lot of talent. Those young guys are 10 times more talented than any of us were and they understand it quicker. But just to grow up, and the mature part of it, away from home, we had a lot of freshmen and redshirt freshmen. They didn’t understand, but now everybody gets it now. Probably like halfway through the season, you didn’t hear me no more because everybody else, they understand. That was probably my only speech. Other than that, I was just in the back.”
Who will take your spot as a leader next year?
“I think David Wilson. He wants to win. We different; we grew up different. But as far as being on the field and wanting to win, he really wants to win. He practices the hardest. He lifts the hardest. Every play, he’s running his 100 percent. That’s the kind of effort I give out and if you put your heart out there, you’re gonna want to get heart back. It hurt me personally. It wasn’t a team thing. I didn’t even want anybody to know that it hurt my heart because I’m doing what I can and people are playing. David puts his heart into and I don’t even think he knows it yet, but I see it in him.”
How did Wilson react to the speech?
“After I had talked, he came to me and said: ‘I’m gonna make some plays. I’m gonna do it for you.’ And he came back and ran that kickoff return back in the ACC championship game. That was right after. There was a bunch of stuff he did right after. The ECU game, he made some biog plays. He came to me and said: ‘I did that for you. You gotta go get me an interception.’ And I went and got an interception on the next drive.”
| December 31, 2010; 3:10 PM ET
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