July 17, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun, used with permission
STAFFORD — Dustin Keys has put countless hours into the Virginia Tech football program the past several years.
For his efforts this Stafford kicker has dressed for just one game — the Orange Bowl at the end of last season — and has never taken part in a single play in a meaningful game.
But that may change when the Hokies begin practice in August in Blacksburg. Keys, a redshirt senior and Brooke Point High School graduate, enters the training sessions as the most experienced kicker in the program.
“I see myself as the veteran,” said Keys, while on vacation with his family in North Carolina. “Just the experience I gained and working with other (kickers) has helped. I just feel like I have a lot more experience.”
Keys helped his status as the program’s top kicker when he converted on all three extra-point attempts in the annual spring game earlier this year at Virginia Tech. He also made his only field goal attempt in the scrimmage.
“It was from the left hash mark, about 18 yards. It was not a given=2 0because of the angle,” Keys said.
Keys is one of two players from Stafford who returns to the Tech program. He is joined by redshirt junior defensive lineman Cordarrow Thompson, a North
Stafford High School graduate expected to be a major contributor for the Hokies on defense this season. Two others from the area will enter as freshmen.
Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer praised the play of Thompson and Keys in the spring game in a recent interview with former Redskins Doc Walker on radio station WTEM 980 AM. Beamer said Thompson “made a statement” by losing several pounds since the end of last season, when he played in nine games as a reserve and made four tackles.
The Hokies begin the season Aug. 30 against East Carolina in Charlotte, N.C. The home opener is Sept. 6 versus Furman. Last season, Virginia Tech was 11-3and lost 24-21 to Kansas in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The two freshmen from Stafford are Isaiah Hamlette, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end who graduated from Brooke Point, and Jake Johnson, a 6-2, 235-pound linebacker who graduated from Stafford High School.
The state’s other top football program, the University of Virginia, returns junior guard Patrick Slebonik. The 6-5, 298-pound lineman is a graduate of North Stafford High School.
While Keys has an inside edge as the Tech’s kicker for field goals and PATs, he said there is competition for who will handle kickoffs.
“In the spring, kickoff duties were up in the air,” Keys said. “Coach Beamer wants the ball in the end zone. There was not one of us who could do that regularly. In the spring it was wide open.”
Keys said he was pleased with how they played in the annual spring game. Virginia Tech has two talented quarterbacks in Sean Glennon of Centreville and Tyrod Taylor of Hampton.
“Sean moved the ball. Tyrod moved the ball. The running backs were good,” Keys said. “On both sides of the ball, our lines had their strong points.”
Keys graduated in May with a concentration in consumer studies. He is now working on a master’s degree in health and physical education as he prepares for his last season of eligibility for football.
A year ago Keys spent most of the summer in Blacksburg and did a lot of his training there. This summer he lived in Stafford while working for a car dealership in Woodbridge. He also kicked and lifted weights several times a week at his old high school. He said he plans to report for football practice Aug. 3 in Blacksburg.