In an announcement that is sure to be cheered by the Hokie Nation, Virginia Tech is bringing back the Lunch Pail!!
On Friday, Virginia Tech Football (@HokiesFB) tweeted the announcement in a video narrated by former Hokies standout defensive end Darryl Tapp.
It's back.#ThisIsHome | #GroundUp
ℹ️ https://t.co/5oHPhSKulk pic.twitter.com/GotKxKwgVc
— Virginia Tech Football (@HokiesFB) August 26, 2022
The Origins of the Lunch Pail
The tradition of the Lunch Pail began in 1995 when legendary Virginia Tech coach Bud Foster became defensive coordinator. Then co-defensive coordinator Rod Sharpless obtained a battered, black metal lunch pail from his mother-in-law’s neighborhood, and the rest is history.
The famed Lunch Pail became the identity of the defense. Hard working. Tough. No-nonsense. For decades, Foster brought this approach to his defensive unit, and for decades, they responded.
Each week, the hardest working player on the defense earned the right to carry the Lunch Pail. It was a special honor that the players embraced. Current safeties coach and former defensive back Pierson Prioleau explained it best when said, “The first time I got my hands on it, I immediately understood the honor, but I also immediately felt the responsibility of being the person to carry that Lunch Pail.”
What the Lunch Pail Means to the Community
The Pail was more than a symbol of the team. It represented the community, not just the campus and the town, but also the blue-collar work ethic of the people of Southwest Virginia. The meaning grew after the tragedy of April 16, 2007. The following season, the names of the 32 victims were written on a card and kept in the Lunch Pail. It is impossible to overstate the honor that went with carrying that sacred icon into Lane Stadium.
It is only appropriate that Darryl Tapp narrated the announcement video of the Pail’s return. In 2005, Tapp earned the Lunch Pail honor week one and kept it for the entire season. He is the only Hokie to ever do that. He even kept that pail when he left Tech and was drafted in the second round by the Seattle Seahawks.
The Success of Bud Foster
The success of Foster and his defenses certainly helped grow the legend of the Lunch Pail. Eleven times between 1995 and 2013 Foster’s squad finished top ten nationally in total defense. In both 2005 and 2006, they were number one in the nation. They also led the nation twice in scoring defense and once in rushing defense. Over the course of his tenure as DC, his teams amassed more sacks and interceptions than any other FBS program in the nation. And only Alabama and Ohio State ranked higher in scoring defense over that time. For his efforts, Foster won the Broyles Award in 2006 as the top assistant coach in America.
And Brent Pry witnessed this success firsthand in its roots. Pry’s first Division I coaching job was as a graduate assistant with the 1995 Hokies. This also coincided with the first year of the Lunch Pail. Pry was there from 1995-97, when Virginia Tech reached two consecutive New Year’s Day bowls.
All three of those teams finished with a total defense ranking in the top 26. The ’95 team led the nation in rushing defense, giving up just under 75.5 yards per game on the ground. They forced 20 turnovers and finished 5th nationally in scoring defense and 10th in total defense.
Brent Pry is Familiar with the Lunch Pail Defense
Pry learned how to coach that side of the ball from Foster and his Lunch Pail defense. Employing a similarly aggressive style, Pry went on to be successful Power Five defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt then Penn State. His 2017 Nittany Lion defense finished the regular season 7th in the nation and 2nd in the Big Ten in scoring defense.
In 2018, his Penn State defense lead the country in sacks per game and finished 4th in tackles for loss. The next year, Pry’s defense finished the season ranked 8th nationally in scoring defense, 5th nationally in rushing defense, 1st nationally in forced fumbles, and 7th nationally in sacks per game. In 2021, Pry was a finalist for the Broyles Award. Sounds a little like the Lunch Pail Defense played in Happy Valley, doesn’t it?
Bringing the Lunch Pail Back was a No-Brainer
The decision to bring back the Lunch Pail was an easy one. And Foster welcomed it. In his statement, Foster said he was honored and humbled when Pry and the defensive staff asked to reincorporate it. He said, “The Lunch Pail stands for hard-nosed Virginia Tech football at its very best. I couldn’t be happier that Coach Pry and the staff are bringing this great icon back to Blacksburg.”
This news couldn’t come at a better time. Hokies fans love their culture. Jumping to “Enter Sandman.” Shaking keys on key plays. And watching aggressive, swarming, disruptive defenses that cause turnovers and change the course of the game.
Bringing back the Lunch Pail should only motivate the players even more to return Virginia Tech football to its roots. And that involves a defense that can dominate a game. That is Virginia Tech football.
This is home. Welcome back, Lunch Pail!
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