David S. Driver
"Providing my byline by your deadline"
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November 25, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun
Used with permission
A few days ago University of Virginia football player Patrick Slebonick got a telephone call from Cordarrow Thompson, a former high school teammate.
The two had not spoken for a long time and Slebonick was glad to catch up with Thompson, a starting defensive lineman for Virginia Tech.
“I was impressed with how he has done,” North Stafford High graduate Slebonick said of Thompson. “He has really stepped up. He lost the weight he had to lose. It is really good to see us contribute in our own way.”
Slebonick, a reserve left guard who played in the first 10 games, and Thompson may run into each other Nov. 29, but this time it could be on the football field at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.
Virginia and Virginia Tech will meet in the regular-season finale for both teams. And there is plenty riding on the outcome for both teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Slebonick, 21, still has bad memories of last season, when the Hokies won in Charlottesville over the host Cavaliers, 33-21. That win put Tech into the ACC title game.
“Last year Virginia Tech was a really big game,” Slebonick said. “We were playing to see who goes to the ACC title game.20That was a loss that was hard to stomach. There was a lot riding on the game.”
Virginia lost 13-3 at home Nov. 23 to Clemson and with a record of 5-6 needs a win at Virginia Tech in order to finish regular-season play at .500 and become Bowl eligible.
“It is huge. There are a lot of implications behind it. It is important,” Cavalier standout wide receiver Kevin Ogletree told the Virginia radio network after the game against Clemson.
“We hung in there. The defense played phenomenal,” Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney said after beating the Cavs.
Virginia Tech, after beating Duke 14-3 on Nov. 23, is now 7-4 and with a win against Virginia can claim the Coastal Division title in the wild ACC race and earn a berth in the league title game in Tampa, Fla.
“It has been a season with a lot of ups and downs,” said Slebonick, who was recruited by Virginia Tech and many other schools. “We have a lot of good wins but a lot of disappointments. We have been really close (as a team) since the off-season. We have really come together.”
Slebonick said he entered this season hoping to land a starting spot on the offensive line. But that did not happen, though he did see action in a reserve role late in the game against Maryland which his team won at home in October.
Instead, the Stafford resident has been a fixture on the punting=2 0team and on field goal attempts. That may not sound so impressive but Slebonick said the team’s success is his main focus.
“I came into this season looking to contribute anyway possible,” he said. “I did find two jobs that I can do. That is my part. I am happy to do that. Winning games is what it is all about. The greatest joy comes from winning. The team’s success is what you enjoy.”
Slebonick is on track to graduate in the spring and with that comes a big decision. He has one more year of eligibility left but would have to enter graduate school at Virginia in order to play for the Cavs in 2009.
Slebonick wants to enter law school in 2010, but is not sure how the 2009-2010 academic year will shape up.
His brother, Andrew, is on the football team at Old Dominion University. The Monarchs will play other schools in 2009 as the school re-starts its program. The elder Slebonick said his brother recently hurt his shoulder and plans to have surgery so he can be ready for spring practice. Patrick is allowed four tickets for the game at Virginia Tech and his younger brother plans to attend.
His future is in doubt, but Slebonick has tunnel vision.
“It is definitely crunch time,” Slebonick said after a recent practice on a chilly November day in Charlottesville. “It is a really exciting time of year. Everyone is trying to get a better Bowl game.