David S. Driver
"Providing my byline by your deadline"
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August 13, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun
Used with permission
The time appears to be now for Patrick Slebonick, a former football standout at North Stafford High School.
Slebonick is about to enter his fourth year with the University of Virginia football program. The offensive lineman was a redshirt in his first year in 2005, did not play in any games in 2006 and played in just two games last year.
But the Cavaliers have to replace three starters on the offensive line. One of those players, Branden Albert, left school early and was drafted by Kansas City of
the NFL in the first round.
“I look at it as a great opportunity,” Slebonick said. “I have been in the system for a long time.”
Does the Stafford resident feel he has a chance to start for Virginia?
“I would definitely say that is a fair statement,” he said in a phone interview from Charlottesville. “Any position can be taken by any player that plays the best in camp. With the attrition there is extra spots. There are more spots open” on the offensive line.
Slebonick is coming off shoulder surgery in January. He said the injury was the result of some type of play last August during summer camp and the wear and tear of the 2007 season.
He said his rehab included two one-hour sessions a day during the winter.
Slebonick said the shoulder felt 100 percent by June. He has been taking two classes this summer at Virginia and plans to graduate in December with a degree in government.
“I have been in Charlottesville since late May,” said Slebonick, who played at North Stafford under Eric Cooke. “We have had a workout program going on all summer. It has been real good.”
Slebonick, who hopes to be a lawyer, has two more years of eligibility left with the Cavaliers.
His younger brother Andrew, who also graduated from North Stafford, will be a freshman this fall at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. He is a member of the new ODU football program, which will play its first games in 2009.
Virginia opens the season at home Aug. 30 against national power Southern California in a game that will nationally televised. The next week the Cavaliers will host Richmond and new coach Mike London, a former Virginia assistant coach.
“It is going to be just another game,” the Stafford resident said of Richmond. Virginia was slated to begin practice Aug. 4 for the 2008 season.
Slebonick started playing on the offensive line in seventh grade. He was a four-year starter at North Stafford High. Slebonick was rated as the 97th best prep lineman in the country by Scout.com and as the 28th best high school player in the state by the Roanoke Times.
Virginia was 9-4 last season and appeared in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl.
This season the Cavaliers are picked to finish fifth out of six teams by the media in the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Do the Cavs read pre-season polls?
“Honestly, we try not to. It is hard not to when so much of that is in your face,” Slebonick said.
Virginia Tech is picked first in the division.
The Cavaliers have had some offensive linemen encounter off-the-field problems in recent weeks.
The Daily Progress of Charlottesville reported junior offensive lineman Will Barker (an expected starter) and freshman lineman Dave Roberts were arrested July
26 at a bar in Charlottesville after a security guard, according to police, saw them take two beers each.
In a statement, head coach Al Groh said: “We do not have a comment other than to say the matter will be handled within the department and the team in accordance with the appropriate policy.”
“Last year does not have much to do with this year,” Slebonick said. “We have had a lot of adversity (in the off-season). We have been able to close ranks over that.”
Slebonick was recruited by several other ACC schools, including Maryland, V irginia Tech and North Carolina State, as well as West Virginia.
“I really felt like I fit in with the guys here. The education is second to none here,” he said. “Also head coach Al Groh and the coaching staff is great.”