Virginia Tech linebacker Ronny Vandyke knows this season is a huge opportunity for him. Finally in a starting role after injuries early in his career slowed him down, Vandyke is ready to make an impact.
As the Hokies prepare for their spring game Saturday, Vandyke took some time to reflect on how he has done and the season that awaits.
Can you put into words how you feel now that your big opportunity is here?
RV: I’m really looking forward to this year. It’s my last year and really I just want to be the best player I can be to help my teammates win. I don’t know what my role is going to be for this season, but anything I can do to help the team to win, that’s what it’s going to be.
How did you handle going through the injury roller coaster your first few seasons?
RV: It was tough. My freshman year, I had a high ankle sprain so I was out for the majority of the camp, and I was able to come back and play my redshirt freshman year. Then the following year, 2013, I tore my labrum during camp so I missed the entire year. Last year, I pulled my groin and was out for the majority of camp so it’s been a roller coaster since I’ve been here but it allowed me to appreciate my position here at Virginia Tech and how grateful I am and how thankful I am because it’s definitely a blessing. I have learned from those roller coasters and it’s in the past now. Now, I’m just looking forward to what God has for me in the future and make the best of it.
What is the biggest lesson you learned?
RV: I know I’m here to play football, but I’ve been able to have a better understanding it’s not only football why I’m here, it’s to make an impact on my teammates’ lives spiritually. I know I’m not going to be able to play football for the rest of my life and I do want to leave something far greater than being an athlete and that’s being a man of God.
Have you taken a bigger leadership role?
RV: Just being a senior, I know a lot of the younger guys are looking to me and the other seniors. I’ve been a part of the program going into my fifth year so I know I’m automatically in that position. It’s not something I wasn’t aware of or something that’s new. I’ve been in leadership positions before. I know with the football team, we need leadership for us to be successful.
What is the expectation level for the defense this year?
RV: The expectation is higher because we have guys that want to perform, that want to win on defense, that want to be dominating and then with having Coach (Bud) Foster as our defensive coordinator, that helps us because he wants to be dominating on defense, and that’s’ just a domino effect. It’s very contagious and we want the same things. As players, we have a lot of expectations for ourselves on the defense. We know we’re good enough to be the best on defense this year. We’re going to have that mentality as we go into summer workouts and go into football camp in August.
How much of an emphasis has been placed on limiting the big plays?
RV: It’s something he’s talked about plenty of times, giving up big plays. We gave up some big plays last year that cost us the game so that’s been an emphasis this spring ball. It comes down to being focused and having an understanding that one play can affect the rest of the game. The offense can have multiple chances but for defense it only takes one time to lose the game.
Have you started talking Ohio State yet?
RV: Not as much. Of course, we’re aware they’re going to be our first game, but right now we’re trying to focus on getting better as a defense, as a team, meshing as a team, building a chemistry as a team. As it gets closer, we’re going to be talking about Ohio State and how we can beat them.
How is the chemistry on this team?
RV: I feel like as a senior now the chemistry has grown. I feel like we have guys on the team who care about each other and want to see everybody succeed in their role. I don’t think we have a lot of individuals. We have a lot of team guys who want to buy into whatever we need to buy into to perform well as a team so we can be successful this season.