When Byron Glaspy called his father more than a year ago and told him he hadn't made Virginia's football team through open tryouts, Archie Glaspy had this advice for his son: "Keep yourself in shape. Stay dedicated. You never know how things are going to turn out."
His father's advice proved to be prophetic. Glaspy, then a freshman engineering student at Virginia, showed up for open tryouts again this past spring and made the team as a walk-on. Because of injuries and suspensions, Glaspy found himself in an unexpected position before last week's critical ACC game against No. 24 Georgia Tech: starting at safety.
After playing for the first time on defense in the Cavaliers' 51-3 win over Temple on Nov. 5, Glaspy took the place of defensive captain Tony Franklin, one of four players suspended from playing against the Yellow Jackets because of undisclosed violations of team rules.
"It's just some unfortunate circumstances with the other kids, but Byron really worked hard to get ready," said Archie Glaspy, a former sprinter at Hampton and now an accountant in Basking Ridge, N.J. "I always told him to work hard and be ready when you're on the sideline because you never know."
Glaspy played well enough in Virginia's 27-17 victory last week that Coach Al Groh plans to start him again tomorrow against No. 7 Virginia Tech at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville. Franklin returned to practice this week and should start against the Hokies. But sophomore Nate Lyles, the other starting safety, injured his neck while trying to tackle Yellow Jackets tailback P.J. Daniels and will miss the rest of the season.
"Walk-on, full scholarship, half scholarship, National Librarian Association award winner, it doesn't make any difference to us," Groh said. "Once the player is on the team, it's all based on performance. . . . Byron's come in and done a really good job. He's smart, he's alert, he's very coachable. Obviously, he would have to be able to pick things up as quickly as he has. He's got good speed. He's got a nice toughness about him."
Glaspy, 5 feet 11 and 195 pounds, might have never expected to become a starter for the Cavaliers. He wasn't highly recruited before his senior season at Ridge High School, after playing in only two games as a junior because of injuries. But Glaspy helped lead his team to the New Jersey Class AA state championship as a senior in 2003, starting at wide receiver and safety. Because Glaspy was a good student, recruiters from Harvard and Georgetown became interested, and he was set to play football for the Division I-AA Hoyas.
But after committing to attend Georgetown, Glaspy started receiving acceptance letters from larger schools such as Boston College, North Carolina and Virginia. After attending a couple of the Cavaliers' football games last season, Glaspy changed his mind about his college destination.
"He came away thinking, 'Hey, I can play with these guys and I can play in this league,' " Archie Glaspy said. "He had the mind-set that he could play there and he wanted to play Division I-A football at a major level."
Failing to make the team during open tryouts before the 2004 season was a disappointment, so over the next six months, Glaspy worked out on his own, nearly every morning and afternoon, and watched the Cavaliers' home games from the student section at Scott Stadium.
"Byron is a musician and plays piano and guitar and taught himself to play music," Archie Glaspy said. "Once he starts something, he stays with it and finishes it."
Virginia went into spring practice this year looking for replacements for starting safeties Jermaine Hardy and Marquis Weeks, who graduated after last season. The Cavaliers moved Franklin from cornerback to safety during the preseason, but still lacked depth behind the starters. So Glaspy made the team as a walk-on with no promises about playing time.
"I was a little overwhelmed at first, but once everything slowed down, I figured I'd be okay," Glaspy said.
On the Monday morning after Glaspy made his debut against the winless Owls, graduate assistant Chad Wilt told Glaspy to get to the film room early because it looked like he would be playing even more against the Yellow Jackets. Later that day, Glaspy looked at the depth chart and saw his name listed as a starting safety.
"I was pretty surprised," Glaspy said. "I thought I better get myself ready and take advantage of the opportunity because it's so rare. I think I did alright. I know I missed some tackles and did some things I need to correct, but, for the most part, I think I did okay."
Cavaliers Notes: Groh said Franklin, senior defensive nose tackle Kwakou Robinson and senior wide receiver Ottowa Anderson have been reinstated to the team and are eligible to play against the Hokies. Sophomore defensive end Vince Redd remains suspended, the coach said.