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Va. Tech coach beams over Coale's contributions

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NEW ORLEANS (AP)

Virginia Tech coach and special teams guru Frank Beamer delights in the fact that one of his best receivers, Danny Coale, also contributes not only as a punt returner, but even as a punter.

More than that though, Beamer likes what Coale represents.

Coale was not heavily recruited for football; his best sport in high school was lacrosse. Yet he will enter Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl against Michigan as one of the most productive players in Virginia Tech history.

''The production he's had at Virginia Tech and what he's meant to our football program, and how (little) he was recruited - they don't measure up,'' Beamer said during a recent practice in the Superdome. ''That's one of the great satisfactions. We don't recruit by how many stars you've got behind your name. We recruit by: Do we like you and can you be productive in our program? That's a great example.''

Little about Coale's stature is exceptional by the standards of a major college football player. He's 6-feet tall, 200 pounds. He looks like an average guy on the street, clean cut with short brown hair.

It is on the football field where he stands out, not only because of his uncanny knack for getting open.

Teammates consider him the best blocker among the receivers and Beamer's decision to use him as a part-time punter is no gimmick.

During the ACC championship game against Clemson, Coale booted punts of 61 and 60 yards. Coale had punted in high school, and had learned from his father, a former punter at Springfield College in Massachusetts.

''There are not many guys that could punt in a ball game and then return a punt in a ball game,'' Beamer said.

In addition, Beamer noted, there are all ''the big plays he's had at Virginia Tech.''

Coale enters his final game second all-time at Virginia Tech in receptions (157) and yards receiving (2,541), trailing only his fellow senior teammate, Jarrett Boykin (180 receptions, 2,854 yards), in both categories.

''From going kind of unrecruited to ending up at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans is a pretty wild ride,'' Coale said. ''It's been an experience full of memories. ... I know this is going to be one of them.''

This season, Coale has 52 receptions for a team-leading 787 yards, putting him in range of single-season school records in both categories. He is five catches behind Boykin, but would need a big day -176 yards - to surpass Andre Davis' 962 yards receiving in 1999.

Coale said he never expected to climb so high in the Virginia Tech record books. He'd followed the careers of former Tech receivers such as Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, Justin Harper and David Clowney, who all went on to play in the NFL.

''I saw their careers and thought, `If I can just have a slice or sliver of their success ... I'll call it a good career,''' Coale said. ''I don't think I ever could have imagined it going this well.''

Coale was more relieved to have an opportunity to play for a major program after coming away from recruiting camps at several other schools - including Duke, Maryland, Vanderbilt, North Carolina State and Virginia - without scholarship offers.

His last camp was at Virginia Tech. He had grown up in Lexington, where he was an all-state lacrosse player, about an hour away from the campus in Blacksburg, but had never been there.

Coale was more familiar with Virginia's campus in Charlottesville, where his brother, Kevin, played lacrosse. But when he arrived at Tech, he immediately felt comfortable.

''I walked in and I remember telling my dad, `I really like this campus. I like the coaching staff. If they offer today then I think this might be where I want (to go),''' Coale recalled.

He's since grown into a leader both on the stat sheet and in the locker room.

When the Hokies held a players-only meeting concerning their goals in New Orleans, Coale was among the seniors who led the discussion.

He told his teammates they had earned a chance to enjoy some of New Orleans' night life, but must also remain committed to playing well against Michigan.

''We're still here to win,'' he said. ''You have to find that healthy balance of reward and focus.''

Quarterback Logan Thomas said he owes much of his early success to Coale and will miss him next year.

''He gives it his all, so that kind of rubs off on the rest of the guys that go out there and work hard,'' Thomas said. ''That's just kind of the program we've been - blue collar. Hopefully some other guys pick up on that, because I certainly have.''

Coale has already earned a finance degree and is working on a second degree in marketing management, but also wants to give the NFL a try.

''Every football player wants that dream and I'm the same,'' Coale said, adding that he's confident his education will help him succeed in other careers as well.

Given how Coale exceeded expectations in college football, there's no telling how long his non-football pursuits may have to wait.

Tagged: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Danny Coale

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