FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was reluctant to travel all the way from Blacksburg, Va., to Delray Beach, Fla., to woo a recruit until one former player persuaded Beamer to put in the effort to get to know a kid named Jayron Hosley out of Atlantic High School.
Former cornerback Brandon Flowers, also a graduate of Atlantic High, didn’t have to say much -- only that Hosley was just like him.
“He told them, ‘he might even be better than me,’” Hosley said with a smile. “That’s a big compliment coming from Brandon, being a great corner that he was coming out of Tech. That was big.”
Hosley is only a sophomore, but if this season has been any indication of what lies ahead, Beamer might want to send Flowers a little thank-you note. Hosley enters the Discover Orange Bowl against Stanford tied for the national lead in interceptions with eight and leads the country in interceptions per game with .67. He was a first-team All-America selection by the Walter Camp Foundation, and will be integral to the Hokies’ chances of an upset over Stanford, which features a sure-fire first-round NFL draft pick in quarterback Andrew Luck (if he comes out).
“J-Hosley, man, he definitely brings a lot to the table,” said cornerback Rashad Carmichael. “He’s a playmaker -- I think one of the most pure corners I’ve ever seen. When he first came on campus, I was like, 'this guy’s a corner. That’s what he do.'”
Hosley, who grew up about 30 minutes from Sun Life Stadium, said he will have 15 or 20 family members in the stands, “depending on how many tickets” he can get.
“My family is definitely looking forward to it,” Hosley said. “They want me to go out there and put on a show and do what I’ve been doing all season. They want to see me grow even more.”
So does secondary coach Torrian Gray, who’s had to “push and nudge” Hosley to be a little more aggressive. Gray said Hosley had the ability to play as a true freshman last year, but lacked a sense of urgency to be a starter.
“He’s a very quiet, laid-back kid,” Gray said, “almost too laid-back for my personality because I want you to be in it, communicate, talking, and that’s not how Jayron is. That’s the reason for his progression being kind of slow, but he’s a smart football player. Once he gets it, he’s got it.”
This year, Hosley got it -- just ask NC State.
Hosley had six tackles, four pass breakups and three interceptions against quarterback Russell Wilson, one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC. He clinched the win against the Wolfpack with a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown. He also had a critical fourth-quarter interception he returned 32 yards in the win at Miami, and two interceptions against North Carolina.
“I’ve always said when he first got here as a true freshman he has an ‘it factor,’ and you can’t teach it, whatever it is,” Gray said. “His ‘it’ is to be able to make interceptions, make plays on the ball and finish plays. For him to have some of the games he’s had, kept us in games or won some games for us, I can say that kind of took me by surprise for him to come on this quickly.”
Hosley has also been an electric returner, and brought a punt back 80 yards for a touchdown in the win over Central Michigan. He has returned 19 punts this year for 239 yards (12.6-yard average) and a touchdown. He has 37 tackles this year, including one for loss, and seven pass breakups.
“I’m glad we came and got him,” Beamer said. “He’s just an exceptional player. He’s kind of got it.”
Flowers had ‘it’ too.