How does one rehab and fight back from a season-ending injury, only to have to go through the entire cycle again? That’s the reality that Virginia Tech cornerback Jeremy Webb currently faces.
Head coach Justin Fuente confirmed the news yesterday that Webb injured his right Achilles tendon a couple of weeks ago, just one day before he was ready to return to football activities after tearing his left Achilles tendon in the summer.
“I know this about Jeremy, [if there’s] a kid that can handle that and come back from that, it’s him,” Fuente said. “Obviously it was disappointing. Everybody searches for a reason as to why it happened, and there really is none. I’d stop short of saying a freak occurrence, but it was an odd thing that happened. Very unlucky, very unfortunate.”
The 6-foot-4, 202-pounder was expected to be a key contributor to the Hokies’ secondary as a junior college recruit in 2018. At ASA College in Brooklyn, New York, Webb was honored as a 2017 first-team Northeast Football All-Conference selection.
In the very first workout of the summer, Webb tore his Achilles during a stretching drill and had to miss the entire season. In his place, Bryce Watts and Caleb Farley were forced into larger roles.
“Jeremy is going to make it back,” Fuente said. “He won’t be [back] in the spring, but he’ll be back in the summer and ready to go… It’s been a tough deal, but he’s responded in a great manner. He has an unbelievable outlook on life.”
While Webb has yet to appear in a game at Virginia Tech, there’s still a clear amount of respect that his teammates have for him.
“When I found out the news my whole mood changed because I expected him coming back,” safety Reggie Floyd said. “It’s just the worst thing that could possibly happen to someone coming back from an injury like that.”
Fuente even recounted an earlier scene that demonstrated the love that Webb has from his teammates. Injured players typically aren’t allowed on the sideline during games, but Fuente made an exception. He announced that Webb would join the team on the sideline during a team meeting, and the team’s reaction told the greater story about Webb.
“The whole team went bananas,” Fuente said. “That’s the type of following he has. He really has a maturity about himself. In the DB room, he’s really looked up to.”
Webb has been through this rehab once before. The toughest part for him now will be the mental battle he’ll have to fight. Just imagine being one day from returning to the sport you love, and all of a sudden that’s ripped away from you again. That’s what Webb is having to deal with.
“That’s quite a mental and emotional hurdle to overcome,” Fuente said. “If it was anybody other than Jeremy, I’d be less positive about the outcome. We see this kid, and I know y’all haven’t seen much of him because he hasn’t played, but we’re around the kid every day.”
Home Stretch for Recruiting
With the early national signing day rapidly approaching this Wednesday, Fuente and his staff have put in a yeoman’s work since the regular season ended to sure up the commitments and make a final push at several prospects.
Most recently, it’s resulted in the verbal commitments of defensive tackle recruits DeShawn Crawford and Joshua Fuga, who decommitted from Temple just a day earlier. Fuga was given the No. 25 jersey during his visit in Blacksburg this weekend, which might exhibit how hard the Hokies were going after the Freedom High School prospect. Fuga is now the seventh in-state recruit of the 2019 class.
“You’re always continuing to build trust in the region and it grows over time,” Fuente said. “Kids come here and have a good experience. They tell other kids it’s a good place to go. I think we’re going to end up when it’s all said and done being very productive in this state this year. We’ll hopefully continue that in the future.”
Virginia Tech’s season might not have gone as expected, but Fuente insists the 6-6 record has had little to no effect on recruiting.
“Our kids have been fantastic through this deal,” Fuente said. “I think they all understood where we’re at. I tell them that. Where we’re at, where we’re going.
“This college selection should be more than about a game, a win, a loss. It should be about a fit, a culture, a school that you want to be a part of. Identifying with other people that you’re going to school with… I think our guys understand that it’s a much bigger thing than a win-loss record or the way the game turned out.”
Ending with a Winning Record + Sibling Bragging Rights
Extend the Virginia streak? Check.
Extend the bowl streak? Check.
Extend the winning record streak? TBD.
It’s been understated that during Virginia Tech’s 25-year bowl streak, the Hokies have also finished with a winning record every year during that time. They won bowl games in 2012, 2014, and 2015 to finish 7-6 after entering the bowl season at .500. They’ll get that chance again this year on December 31 against Cincinnati.
“You never want to have a losing record,” offensive lineman Kyle Chung said. “Going 7-6 feels a lot different than going 6-7. I’ve never had a losing record in the years I’ve played football, especially here. I’m not going to go out with a losing record, that’s for sure.”
It took a lot for Virginia Tech to get to their current position, including the thrilling 34-31 overtime victory against Virginia. Defensive tackles Ricky Walker and Vinny Mihota both had older brothers who played for the Cavaliers. Rijo Walker played for Virginia from 2010-2013, and Anthony Mihota played from 2008-2011.
“After the game I saw his [Rijo’s] face,” Walker said. “He was kind of mad. It’s all brotherly love. I told him, ‘I wasn’t the class that was going to lose to y’all.’ 15 years speaks for itself. I feel like if they didn’t beat us this year, they’re not going to do it anytime soon.”
“Whatever happens down the line, I always hope Virginia Tech wins, but no matter how many times UVA wins, I will always be able to say that I never lost to UVA and Anthony never beat Virginia Tech,” Mihota said.