Virginia tight end Billy Griggs circled today's date on his calender a while back. Picture day hadn't meant much in past years, but with Griggs' planning, it became a show of solidarity.
"At a barbecue party this summer, I told several guys I was going to cut my hair Mohawk-style, and that they should do it, too, so we could show some togetherness. We could use it as a bonding factor. It was a spontaneous thing, but then people started joining me."
The result was that six players showed up here to begin fall practice today with varying styles of hairstyles. Tackle Bryan Hitchcock and Griggs had regular Mohawks, rather conservative in comparison with "UVA" initials carved in the side of Derek Jenkins' hair, or the combination Mohawk-"V" worn by receiver Billy Smith. And tailback Antonio Rice pronounced he now will be called "Mr. A."
"Our only notoriety has been losing," said Rice, from McKinley Tech in Washington, D.C. "Fans said last year, 'Hey, these Virginia guys don't do anything crazy. They don't act like a football team.' So we decided to get our Mohawks, get pumped up and get together. It's a show of unity."
If Rice and his backfield buddies can find togetherness with the offensive line, Virginia will be vastly improved, perhaps capable of reaching Coach George Welsh's goal of winning six games. It was 2-9 in 1982.
The Cavalier backfield is said by some observers to be as good as any in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Rice rushed for 764 yards as a freshman, and Quentin Walker, the wingback (receiver/runner) in Welsh's wing-T formation, rushed for 449. Barry Word, another sophomore tailback, rushed for 226 yards (5.5 yards per carry). Jenkins, now the fullback, gained 412 yards as a tailback two years ago.
Ken Mack, the running back coach, said, "If you're talking about potential, there's probably more in our backfield than anywhere in the ACC . . . Rice can be a good one. He just needs time at the position."
"I know if we win, people will say, 'Hey, look at those Virginia backs. How come we didn't know about them?' " Rice said. "But at the same time we've got to give 110 percent. People always say that, but we really have to because 100 percent isn't good enough for us. We're in the cellar and we've got to get out."
Welsh's only comment on the haircuts: "Must have been some hell of a party."