Former Virginia great Chris Slade says it’s time for UVA to get back to its recruiting roots
Monday’s introductory press conference welcoming new Virginia football coach Tony Elliott quickly took on the look of a ‘Hoos Hoo of former Cavalier football alumni, no doubt a welcome sight for Virginia Athletics Director Carla Williams and Coach Elliott.
One former player that Elliott easily should have recognized was Chris Slade, a consensus All-American at Virginia in both the 1991 and 1992 seasons at the linebacker position.
Slade has spent the last nine years as head football coach at Pace Academy in Atlanta. His 2015 team won the AA Georgia high school football championship in a game played at the Georgia Dome.
Slade knows a little about winning state championships. During his high school days, Slade played with future NFL running back Terry Kirby, leading Tabb to Virginia’s 1987 Division 4 state championship.
Slade and a slew of other former Virginia gridiron greats made the trip to Charlottesville Monday to welcome Virginia’s 42nd head football coach, and Slade made it clear after that he liked what he saw and heard.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the hire,” Slade said. “Coach Elliott and I have a great relationship. He’s spent a considerable time in my office.”
Time well spent for Elliott, who has the reputation of being an elite recruiter. Slade’s nine-year tenure at Pace included the matriculation of 36 future college players, two All-Americans, and three NFL players.
Coach Elliott probably could make the trip from Clemson to Atlanta blindfolded.
Slade said that he knows Elliott has a complete grasp of the importance of reestablishing strong recruiting ties not only in Tidewater but the entire Commonwealth.
“I’m really excited about Tony being here. I think he’s the perfect fit. He’s not someone that needs to be convinced of the importance of a strong recruiting presence here in Virginia,” commented Slade.
Concerning the 757 recruiting territory, Slade said its time for Virginia “to get back in.”
“There’s a lot of great players coming from Tidewater, as well as Richmond and the DMV (Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia) that can fit in perfectly here. I should know. I’m one of them,” Slade said.
Slade said that Elliott won’t require GPS to navigate his way around the Tidewater area.
“Believe me, he knows the area, as well as the southeast, he’s a dynamic individual, he’s a people person,” Slade said.
Slade has a unique prospective about life at the University of Virginia, both as both an elite football player and student. An honor student while at Tabb, Slade played under Hall of Fame Coach George Welsh from 1989 until 1992. Slade was the 31st overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft by the New England Patriots.
While Slade is pleased with the University’s recent financial commitment to the football program, he thinks it’s more about having the right people in place.
“It’s absolutely necessary to have nice facilities. To be competitive it’s a must, but you’ve got to have the right personnel in place first, people with a passion and desire. I know Coach Elliott has both,” noted Slade.
So, what plans does a recently retired high school football coach who turned 50 this year, but looks 30, have?
“I’m just trying to figure some things out. I love the game of football. I love being around kids and teaching. I just don’t know yet,” Slade said.
One thing doesn’t need figuring out. Virginia football is a lot better when former players like Slade are taking an interest.
After all they once played instrumental roles in making it one of the nation’s most respected.
Time to get back to roots of Virginia football.
Story by Scott German