Home Carroll County High School honors native son, Virginia Tech legend Frank Beamer

Carroll County High School honors native son, Virginia Tech legend Frank Beamer

frank beamer
Photo: Jerry Carter

Carroll County doesn’t draw attention on most state maps, but a sign the intersection of US-58 & I-77 makes it clear where our sympathies lie – “Welcome to Coach Frank Beamer Country.”

Monday night was a grand evening at the High School on the Hill, known to most as Carroll County High School. Legendary Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer was being inducted into the Carroll County High School Wall of Fame.

Beamer grew up in Fancy Gap, located to the south of Hillsville, a few miles down US-52. The actual birthplace for Coach Beamer is Mounty Airy, N.C., which sits at the bottom of Groundhog Mountain, because that’s the nearest hospital.

Beamer, in his athletic prime, was a three-sport star at the now-defunct Hillsville High School. His high school years included earning 11 athletic letters while playing the Big 3 sports of football, basketball and baseball.

Beamer excelled in every season, but it was his efforts on the gridiron under the guidance of another legendary coach, Tommy Thompson, that booked his ticket out of town. Beamer tossed 41 touchdown passes in just two seasons, which at the time was Patrick Mahomes-type numbers.

When Beamer wasn’t throwing passes, he was trying hard to defend them. It was his effort on the defensive side of the ball that earned him a football scholarship to Blacksburg to play for Virginia Tech.

Beamer graduated and left town in the summer of 1965 and headed up the highway roughly 60 miles to Virginia Tech. His playing days included two trips to the Liberty Bowl, and when he picked up his degree in the summer of 1969, Beamer once again packed up his belongings, this time in search of a job coaching football.

Like any football lifer, Beamer paid his dues and followed the path of opportunities. There were a number of stops along the way, and each had one thing in common, success on the football field.

The path made a full circle when Beamer was offered the top spot at the school where his journey began. From high school All-American to putting on the pads for the Hokies, now Beamer would be become the Head Hokie.

Beamer didn’t just succeed at his job; he became the face of Virginia Tech, both on and off the field. Beamer Ball became a household phrase among football fans far and wide. Beamer and his long-time assistant, Bud Foster, helped lead the school from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, where he and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden teamed up to let the nation know that the ACC played football, too.

The football team peaked at the turn of the century when the Hokies played in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.

That Sugar Bowl was part of an unprecedented 23 straight bowl games that the Hokies played in.

Before his retirement from the game, Beamer had firmly planted himself on the short list of the all-time winningest coaches in the history of the game.

Beamer also captured so many coach of the year awards over his career that the introduction phase of the ceremony lasted quite some time. All of this was accomplished by a man known to many in certain parts as Fancy Gap Frank.

Tying together the family aspect of this feel-good story is the man standing next to Beamer throughout the evening was Carroll County principal Chuck Thompson, the son of the man that taught a young Beamer about the game of football many a moon ago.

The fire marshal must have been looking the other way last night, as there was a building full of people that wanted to pay their respects to the man that edges out even Andy Griffith on the list of People that people Love to Love.

The actual ceremony followed the Senior Night festivities for the boys basketball, dance team and cheerleaders in between the JV and varsity games. After the ceremony, both Thompson and Coach Beamer sat in one corner of the gym and remained there until the conclusion of the contest.

This allowed every person in the building to stop by a show their respect and sit for a photo.

Before the coach arrived, I asked Thompson a question about anything he knew about Beamer that would help me create a better story.

Thompson shared a thought that Beamer had shared when he was about to take over the program in Blacksburg a lifetime ago. The quote that coach offered up that day?

“I’m going to make Carroll County proud.”

Before Monday night, I knew Coach Beamer as a true Legend of our generation. I was aware of the numbers; but on this night, I was blessed with a few minutes with Fancy Gap Frank, and it’s something I will treasure for quite some time.



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