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Special to theACC.com by Charlie Sallwasser, UniversityBall.org
The eve of the Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game has become an annual opportunity for the ACC to celebrate its best. The regular season award winners receive their hardware and mug for the cameras, newly-minted ACC Football Legends get a chance to reminisce and hear the cheers again, and everyone in attendance leaves with a sense of pride in the past, present, and future of an ever-evolving league. The 2014 edition was no different.
A sense of pride in the collective accomplishments of teams took precedence over individual highlights for the evening’s honorees, even with a group of Legends on hand with plentiful NFL honors (and multiple Super Bowl rings) to their credit. Chris Castor (Duke’s Legend) celebrated being part of the first Duke team in 20 years to post back-to-back winning records, Donnell Woolford (Clemson) cited his team “touching that historic rock, running down that hill in front of 80,000 fans, and winning three ACC Championships” as his favorite memory, Brad Kaaya (Miami, Offensive and Overall Freshman of the Year) humbly ceded credit for his sparkling debut to the brilliance of Duke Johnson, who had earlier accepted the Brian Piccolo Award on behalf of not just himself, but the entire University of Miami, and Cameron Erving of FSU (Jacobs Blocking Trophy) thanked his coaches and teammates for their patience and assistance in helping him move from left tackle to center.
There were moments of levity (NC State Legend Jesse Campbell saying he felt like he was on The Hunger Games as he faced the crowd, Florida State’s Derrick Brooks thanking “steak and potatoes for letting me reach 200 pounds and play linebacker”), somber moments (UVa Legend George Welsh missed the festivities to recuperate from a recent fall), the rekindling of rivalries (Wake Forest Legend Alan White fondly recalled “beating Carolina in three of our four years”) and examples of pride both athletic (Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson calling the 2014 ‘Jackets “the most fun team I’ve ever coached” and Pitt Legend Hugh Green saying that his 53 sacks in four seasons were “key” for his run at the Heisman) and academic (UNC Legend Greg Ellis and Virginia Tech Legend Jake Grove both fondly recalled their coaches’ emphasizing the importance of a degree).
It was a night that honored where the ACC came from, where it is going, and where it is now, ably setting the table for what will be a memorable main event tomorrow night.