Billy Ray Mitchell isn't able to play any more because of an injury, but is appreciative of Virginia Tech and all his opportunities
Ever since I was a kid, I always dreamed of being just like my father and playing big-time college football. Having played in the SEC for Ole Miss in the early 1980’s and in the NFL and USFL after that, my father loved football and all that it represented. He inspired that same love and motivation in me.
I love the game. For as long as I can remember, I was doing something related to football. Beginning about second grade, I started playing organized football and spent many a spring and summer day working on blocking techniques, running up and down the field and trying to get better. I loved everything about playing football. I loved the competition, the activity, the physicality and all of the friends I made along the way.
As time passed, little league ended, and my high school career came to a close. Now it was time to attack this dream I had of playing big-time college football. Virginia Tech gave me the opportunity to pursue my dream. I was headed off to Blacksburg, Virginia to play football at Virginia Tech. From the day I got there, I was pushed and challenged both on the field and in the classroom. I’ve loved every minute of it. This Virginia Tech football program, my coaches, trainers, faculty and teammates have all help mold me day by day and helped me transition from the high school boy that arrived in the spring of 2014 into the degree-holding man I will soon be. During my first two years, I was lucky enough to learn from a legend and one of the best ever to coach college football. Coach Beamer exemplified class, respect, and always doing what was right, on and off the field. As much as he cared about making me the best football player I could be, he also wanted me to be the best man I could be.
Then Coach Fuente arrived and took the helm. He brought a fire and a new surge of energy, instilling in us all the objective of going “1 and 0.” “One and 0” meant not just winning in the football season’s W/L column or on each bench press or one-on-one drill. It meant going “1 and 0” in every aspect of your life, every single day in everything you do. The team embraced this mentality and saw huge success, winning 10 games, and an ACC Coastal Division Championship last year and improving in many key off-the-field categories as well.
Unfortunately, this spring, my football career ended earlier than I had hoped or expected. A chronic back injury forced me to stop doing something I loved and had been doing for as long as I can remember. I had to stop playing football, and this chapter of my life was ending. As I went through this process, I regretted the pending separation from the Virginia Tech football program and the friends, coaches and staffers who had impacted my life so much. I immediately started thinking of ways I could contribute. With the help of the medical staff, student-athlete development and Coach Fuente, we decided I could help out in the recruiting department. I remain connected to the program, am able to contribute to the program and continue to draw so much from the program.
Since the day I committed, I have loved everything about Virginia Tech from what it stands for to my experiences in it as a student athlete. The campus and game-day atmosphere is unique to Virginia Tech and can’t be replicated. Among my teammates, coaches, classmates, faculty and fans, there is a deep and unified love for Virginia Tech and the maroon and orange, and each person genuinely cares for one another.
Of all the decisions I have ever made in my life, deciding to become a Hokie is at the very top. That decision has impacted my present-day happiness and my future success in ways I am only beginning to understand. Although my body won’t allow me to be a contributor on the football field moving forward, I am grateful that I can help Virginia Tech go “1 and 0” in the recruiting department, complete my degree, and hopefully help other student-athletes see just how special Virginia Tech truly is.
Billy Ray Mitchell