Since the 2000 season, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” has been Virginia Tech football’s unofficial theme song, blaring over the Lane Stadium loudspeakers when the Hokies emerge from the tunnel.
Before Saturday’s 38-35 win over Miami, the sellout crowd burst into a bigger frenzy than usual when the four members of Metallica appeared on the Lane Stadium scoreboard with a special Virginia Tech-themed introduction before the song began.
“Hey, Hokie Nation, time to kick some butt. This is Metallica. Start jumping,” lead singer James Hetfield yelled before the distinctive guitar riffs of “Enter Sandman” began and Virginia Tech’s players raced onto the field.
“I saw people looking at the screen and I was wondering, ‘What are they looking at? Is this something they always do?’” said cornerback Kyle Fuller, one of several Hokies carrying a flag Saturday, and therefore one of the first in line to come out of the tunnel.
The video was the result of almost two years of work by Bruce Gearhart, a Baltimore native who is the president of the Maryland-based wine distributor, Bacchus Importers.
It all began in the fall of 2009 when Gearhart’s son, Mac, was beginning his freshman year at Virginia Tech. Gearhart, who was a vice president at EMI music before getting into the wine business, got a call from his son during the Hokies’ home opener against Marshall.
“Dad, it’s insane. You should see what goes on here with Metallica,” Bruce Gearhart recalled Monday afternoon over the phone. “But I’m pretty certain, my interest in it was an article I read on it in The Washington Post.”
Gearhart then sent the article to his friend, Marc Reiter, of Q Prime management, the company that represents Metallica. Reiter was able to get the band to autograph a football that reads: “Coach Beamer and Hokie Nation: Keep Jumping.”
Gearhart and his son presented it to Frank Beamer and the entire football team during spring practice in 2010. The football is now displayed prominently in Virginia Tech’s trophy case.
“I saw the enthusiasm that brought on, so then it was, ‘Let’s see if we can get Metallica to film an intro,’” Gearhart said. “Normally this kind of stuff, it’s not easy to get, and it has a cost. But Marc was so excited and told me, ‘They’re really excited over what’s being generated by their song and the enthusiasm they’ve gotten.’”
That got the wheels turning, and after about a year of trying to schedule a time, the spot was filmed in the beginning of September. The band and Q Prime consider the introduction a gift to Virginia Tech and are allowing the school to post it on YouTube and Facebook for no charge. Gearhart then drove a DVD of the introduction down to Blacksburg last Thursday and gave it to Beamer.
Gearhart couldn’t stay for Saturday’s game, but he was at a charity event with Reiter when he got another Lane Stadium phone call from his son, now a junior, who told them, ‘People are going crazy.’
Virginia Tech’s director of football operations, John Ballein, said the team plans to use the Metallica introduction before the Hokies’ remaining two home games, against Boston College in two weeks and next month during a Thursday night game against North Carolina.
Gearhart says he’s working on getting Metallica to participate in another Virginia Tech-related initiative, but declined to go into specifics because “unless I can deliver it, unless Marc can deliver it, then you just disappoint. …The key here is really just supporting my son and being able to fan the flames of this insane enthusiasm that they generate.”
Even Beamer thought Saturday’s crowd of 66,233 had a little extra something to it on Saturday, especially after “Enter Sandman” was cued up before Miami’s final play — this time without the video.
“I do think our fans were a part of, they helped us win again,” Beamer said Monday. “The stadium was … probably as loud as it has ever been. I appreciate that part.”