BLACKSBURG, Va. — Former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon still remembers the people who reached out to him when the noise became unbearable. The ones he could turn to for perspective and an encouraging word when the nasty phone calls, disparaging e-mails and rude Facebook messages first started coming his way, all from people who identified themselves as Hokies supporters. It threatened to overwhelm his entire career.
So once Glennon watched Virginia Tech’s 34-27 loss at Boston College last Saturday and saw the reaction to the four-turnover performance of current Hokies signal-caller Logan Thomas, he felt compelled to “pay it forward.” Only casual acquaintances, Glennon decided to send Thomas a text message reminding him “there’s guys that still think you’re doing a good job.”
“It’s almost impossible to block it all out. I got a lot of heat at Virginia Tech and we were winning ACC championships every year, so I can imagine,” said Glennon, who started 26 games for the Hokies between 2004 and 2008.
“What mattered most to me, and what I tried to convey to Logan, is the opinions that really matter are the coaching staff and the guys you’re with in the locker room. Fans are gonna be fans. They’re gonna be riding with you when things are going well and riding against you when they’re not, and that’s just the nature of the beast.”
Once hailed as a potential top five NFL draft pick, Thomas has become Virginia Tech’s most polarizing quarterback since Glennon. In 2012, following an offseason of Heisman hype, Thomas threw 16 interceptions as the Hokies stumbled to their worst season in 20 years. Now the scrutiny appears to have reached critical mass ahead of Virginia Tech’s crucial ACC Coastal Division showdown at No. 14 Miami (7-1, 3-1) on Saturday night.
Thomas has been besieged by critics on Twitter and message boards after committing eight turnovers the past two games, both Virginia Tech losses. The fifth-year senior now leads the ACC in interceptions (12), and a vocal segment of the Hokies’ fan base has increasingly called on Coach Frank Beamer to consider playing junior Mark Leal, Thomas’s primary backup since 2011.
With Thomas on the bench, though, the Hokies (6-3, 3-2) would also lose their top weapon. By the end of the season, he will likely set every major program record associated with quarterbacks and he’s on pace to lead Virginia Tech’s disappointing ground game in rushing for the second consecutive season.
The 6-foot-6, 254-pound Thomas still makes throws that leave pro scouts in awe. He went more than three games and 116 straight passes without an interception before this recent stretch, which makes his 55.7 completion percentage and the barrage of turnovers all the more maddening.
But as Thomas put it this week, “you can ask anybody that’s a part of this program if they think there’s any chance of me being taken out for a series and it’d be a quick, ‘No.’ ”
Beamer has since told reporters emphatically that Thomas will remain the starter. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said “if people want to blame, blame me.” He also noted that Thomas threw for a career-high 391 yards against a Boston College defense he called the most complex Virginia Tech has faced this season.
“The fact of the matter is if we eliminated two or three plays, all of you guys would be talking about how great he played,” Loeffler said. “It’s a shame.”
Thomas’s teammates have also come to his defense. Wide receiver Josh Stanford was adamant that a majority of the interceptions this season have been the fault of the receiving corps.
Right guard Andrew Miller, Thomas’s 296-pound freshman-year roommate, warned any detractors that they “better not say it around me,” before launching into a story about last season, when he was a spectator on the sideline at Lane Stadium while recovering from ankle surgery.
“It was very depressing to see how much trash-talking that actually went on in the stands besides me,” Miller said. “Most of the people are very supportive, but you get those few when something’s going wrong that point fingers. I’m not one of those guys. . . . You can’t blame it all on him.”
Now a mortgage lender in Fairfax, Glennon knows about this sort of pressure all too well. But with time, he came to understand the negativity was coming from “a vocal minority” and began to find motivation from it.
So once he sent his text message to Thomas, Glennon’s thoughts inevitably drifted to his playing days and how he’d still “give all the golden china in the world to trade places with Logan and be back at Virginia Tech.”
“That’s my biggest piece of advice to Logan: Just enjoy it,” Glennon said. “It’s not gonna last forever and as much crap as you get, and as much as there’s a lot of days where it’s like, ‘this is just crazy,’ you’re still out there playing a game in front of thousands of people, doing what you love to do with your buddies.”