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Dec. 3, 2011
By Charlie Sallwasser
Special to theACC.com
On the eve of crowning its 2011 football champion, the Atlantic Coast Conference celebrated its past, present and future at a star-studded gala honoring the 2011 Legends class at the Charlotte Convention Center.
The evening kicked off with the official announcement that the 2012 and 2013 ACC Football Championships will both be held in Charlotte, a proclamation that set a celebratory tone for the remainder of the evening amidst dignitaries from the Charlotte business community, Bank of America Stadium and the Carolina Panthers.
The 2011 season's individual awards were up next and Virginia Tech reflected the success of their 7-1 regular season by making like Titanic at the Oscars, taking home four of nine individual honors (David Wilson: Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, Danny Coale: Jim Tatum Award, and Blake DeChristopher: Jacobs Blocking Trophy), and finishing as the only school to take home multiple trophies. Clemson's Sammy Watkins won Rookie of the Year honors, and then, in a moving display, dedicated his team's play in the Championship Game to the memory of fallen Tiger Chester McGlockton, who passed away this week. For the full list of honorees, click here.
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The Legends headlined the evening. Hailing from eras of the ACC ranging from the `50s (Maryland's Rich Novak and NFL Hall of Fame center Jim Otto) to the `90s (Boston College linebacker Stephen Boyd, Florida State defensive end Andre Wadsworth and North Carolina State kicker Marc Primanti), the group reminisced, shared laughs, and answered questions from familiar voices in the ACC Network's Tim Brandt and Mike Hogewood. Levity reigned supreme: Virginia honoree and current Cavalier football sideline reporter Chris Slade joked with Hogewood about jostling for position for halftime interviews, and North Carolina linebacker Chris Hanburger described promising his girlfriend an engagement ring if his team made it to the Gator Bowl - and later having both his relationship and his team's postseason aspirations rest on one critical snap. The result? "The bowl was our honeymoon," Hanburger said.
Changing the lives of others is the common vein of this Legends class's post-football careers. Boyd described coaching high school football in New York and the joy he gets from helping guide his players, and Clemson's Perry Tuttle spoke of finding fulfillment in being a dad to his six children, an author and a motivational speaker. Florida State's Wadsworth is the pastor of a church in Arizona, Georgia Tech honoree Lucius Sanford guides today's Yellow Jacket athletes as Tech's Associate Athletic Director, and both Maryland's Novak and Wake Forest's Larry Russell have endowed scholarships at their respective alma maters.
Neither Legend representing the teams in tomorrow's game felt bold enough to offer a prediction outright. The Hokies' Mike Johnson said, "I don't know if I have predictions for the game, but I've got hopes," and Clemson's Tuttle opined that he'd feel much more optimistic about the Tigers' chances if they can score first.
The 2011 Night of Legends was a celebration of all things ACC football, a fitting end to a solid regular season that saw half of the conference's 12 teams make an appearance in the AP Top 25 and Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer take over the NCAA lead in victories by an active coach. Brandt said it best, saying that he "loves everything about this evening - getting to blend the past with the present is always a special night for everyone involved."