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NFL, Vick, Hall honor Virginia Tech at draft

NEW YORK - On this day at the NFL draft, everyone was a Hokie.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, all the rookies in the green room and nearly all the NFL personnel working behind the scenes wore Virginia Tech lapel pins to honor the memory of those killed in the massacre on the football-loving campus earlier this month.

''We, the NFL, wanted to show our support,'' Goodell said minutes before he pronounced the draft open on Saturday.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, along with former Hokies stars Michael Vick, Bruce Smith and DeAngelo Hall - all one time first-round picks - were at Radio City Music Hall as guests of the league. They all joined Goodell on the stage at Radio City Music Hall before the draft began.

''Thank you, Mr. Goodell, for having us here. Thank you for caring,'' Beamer said. ''I appreciate everyone taking time to care.''

Beamer said he's been inspired by the way the campus has come together in the nearly two weeks since Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 students and teachers before taking his own life.

On a recent walk across campus, Beamer noticed something different among the groups of people he saw.

''I think there was a lot of people who wanted to be with other people.'' Beamer said. ''I'm proud of our students.''

Football is a unifying force at the perennial Top 25 powerhouse, and the NFL is filled with dozens of former Hokies, although none of Virginia Tech's few NFL prospects were taken early Saturday.

Smith, taken by Buffalo with the draft's first pick in 1985, announced the selection made by the Bills.

''God bless the Hokies,'' Smith said softly before announcing the Bills' selection, Cal running back Marshawn Lynch.

Earlier, Smith mentioned how impressed he was with the way Virginia Tech students have responded.

''I have a newfound respect for the kids on that campus,'' Smith said.

Hall, a cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons, said the shootings reminded him of when his brother was killed 13 years ago. He felt like something horrible had happened to his family again - his Virginia Tech family.

But Saturday was about healing. Or at least, starting the process.

''Part of the therapy is being here and talking to other Hokies, to other alumni,'' Smith said.

Of course, he knows this was a small step.

''How do we move on?'' Smith asked? ''It's going to take a while.''