Grooming Genetics by Tommy Edwards
My first experience with the Virginia Tech football program that I can remember was my dad taking me to Blacksburg to the football offices to see the equipment manager, his friend, Lou. That day, he gave me my first football helmet. I was three or four years old. It was a white Riddell suspension helmet.
I also attended a few football games with my father but he didn’t seem to be a fan of the current coaching staff under Dooley. But in the summer of 1984, I was enrolled in football camp at Virginia tech. The cable is run by Tom Fletcher who is the office of coordinator, and I was placed in a room with the running back coach, a guy name Billy Hite, and a young man named Michael Banani who is the son of Billy‘s friend from Dematha high school in Maryland. Billy began developing rapport with me, becoming the uncle that I had longed for, over the years developing deep rapport and trust. He was always availing himself as a sympathetic ear, often touching my shoulder, patting me on the back making me feel supported, and that somebody genuinely cared outside of my family.
This was well before I was beginning to show signs of being the elite super athlete, as designated by one researcher working with The NFL player association players who rejected the settlement. Like I said earlier, I was typically the last chosen when teams were picked and wasn’t all that adept at sports. Yet this man, Billy Hite, made it a point to develop rapport with me that he continued through high school. He became my coach for three years at VA Tech.
Billy had been the only hold over from the Dooley crew and had begun recruiting me at age 10. In doing this, he Utilized many of the same techniques that child molesters use to groom their victims — gained trust and access, being a concerned lister, friend, always smiling, always enthusiastic to see me interjecting himself like an uncle. He would end each interaction by telling me that I was going to do great things at Virginia tech when I played football there for him. He always paid special attention to me and went out of his way to chat me up, lend a sympathetic ear, sequester me from the group, and he would put his hand on my shoulder, back or head.
As a boy seeking approval from his father, who seemed to lack the ability to express approval, this felt like a good thing. He made me feel special, like I mattered, and as I got into my teen years he would share adult jokes of a sexual nature to gain more of a peer/friendship feel to the interactions. He even told me he would quit smoking if I signed with Tech!
He gave me a ride home from Blacksburg after my visit, having to pull over twice so that I could throw up from all the Wild Turkey I had been fed the night prior. After I stopped vomiting on the shoulder of the road and shut the car door, he said, smiling in his big fake used car salesmen toothy grin,”Did you have fun last night?” I had already committed to the school and that was the first time I saw the guy behind the smile. I could see his sarcastic forced fake mask and felt unnerved that he had not shown concern or reprimanded me for basically still being intoxicated from the night before!
When I reported for practice the following August, I quickly realized I was not in the hands of a trusted family friend, but rather a liar, bully, manipulator, and that I was on my own. With my parents embedded with the coaches, being fed one narrative while I was living a completely different one, the coaches coerced my parents tell me things that would keep me off-balance from feeling any accomplishment or Progress, and at other times exaggerating my standing in preseason.
My dad was told I was the number one fullback, and tied for number one at tailback, and to be prepared to play as a true freshman. This fueled my fire in practice and scrimmages. Feeling confident that I would be playing in the season opener against James Madison University, I planned to enjoy some drinks on the Wednesday night prior with some of my older teammates who were headed to the liquor store. On the way there, they turned on the radio to listen to the Frank Beamer Show. A caller asked about my status for the upcoming game, and Frank responded that they had decided to redshirt me so that I could develop and be more prepared the next year!
No one had mentioned this to me ever. I was gutted. The following day at practice I was told nothing. The indepth chats had never reflected what coaches were telling my dad and didn’t indicate that I was redshirting ether. I was anxious all through practice. I felt like I was suddenly being ignored, and or my performance over scrutinized and picked apart. Thursday came and went no one said a thing. Friday we had pregame practice, and afterwards we headed into the locker room. Game Jerseys were hanging on many of the lockers. I walked into the equipment cage and asked Lester if he had forgotten to put my Jersey. His answer was sarcastic and cutting,”You don’t need one, you ain’t playing this year!”
I went upstairs to the coaches office and asked to speak with Billy. He confirmed that I had indeed been redshirted. Something I had heard 46hrs earlier in the radio, a fact that the Tech fans and myself who had been tuning in knew, but no one told me prior to me asking. I was told that I needed to improve my catching the ball so see you Sunday for voluntary (nonvoluntary) workout. No speech, no words of encouragement, or uplifting BS, just, you don’t catch well and work harder. No smile, just a manipulative adult exerting power over me to control and manipulate my behavior, planting seeds of self-doubt and mistrust.
That night I got blackout drunk. I was angry, hurt, and felt betrayed. As I left Billy‘s office, I turned around. He was still smoking and, with the big smile accompanied by a wink, said, ”I got your ass here didn’t I! See you at the Alumni monogram club tailgate on the practice field.”
- Intro: All-American Touchdown Tommy Edwards Serializes His Story.
- Part 1: Tommy Edwards: All American Exile — Societal and family pressure
- Part 2: Tommy Edwards: A Child Becomes a Legacy — A football legend is born
- Part 3: Tommy Edwards: Manipulation Conspiracy — Grooming Genetics
- Part 4: Tommy Edwards: The Downward Spiral — Brain damage and CTE Symptoms
- Part 5: Tommy Edwards: Welcome to Hell — Science-CTE deniers/Football Traditionalist
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Photo Image by Tommy Edwards