BLACKSBURG, Va. — Brent Pry’s voice cracked with emotion as he detailed the career journey he’s been on, one that has brought him back to Blacksburg as Virginia Tech‘s head football coach.
“I’m honored and humbled,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “It’s very surreal for me.”
After spending a dozen years on James Franklin’s staff, the past eight at Penn State, Pry said he wasn’t sure he would “ever step out and do my own thing.”
“It took this place to do it and took what coach [Frank Beamer] built and [former defensive coordinator Bud Foster] and so many others to be the right place,” Pry said. “For me, it was the right time.”
Beamer, who gave Pry a chance as a graduate assistant in 1995, and Foster, who had Pry working with the defensive line for three years as the program rose in status, attended Pry’s introductory news conference. J.C. Price, the Hokies’ interim coach who will lead Virginia Tech in their bowl game after Justin Fuente’s exit on Nov. 16, was also in attendance.
Pry has hired Price to be an associate head coach and defensive coach. The new coach said he will take his time and do his due diligence in building a staff.
Pry, 51, has never been a head coach, but as co-defensive coordinator and then defensive coordinator at Penn State, the Nittany Lions’ aggressive defense has been ranked in the top half of the Big Ten every season he’s been there.
“It’s been fun to watch him grow and develop and mature and … put himself in this position,” Foster said. “I’m excited for him.”
Pry will be paid $4 million in his first two seasons, receive a $750,000 raise in seasons three and four and a $250,000 raise the next two years. He’ll have a budget of $5.5 million for 10 assistants and $2.25 million for support staff.
Athletic director Whit Babcock said Pry was the first coach he spoke to about the job and while he spoke to “three to five” other candidates, “the bar was set from the get go. It’s really nice to get into a search and have somebody that does so well they’re the bar that you consider for everyone else. And he certainly stood out. He was very well prepared.”
The two had spoken via Zoom but had never met in person before Pry flew to Blacksburg on Wednesday.
Babcock originally was primarily interested in hiring a coach with head coaching experience, but said Pry has been in big games in the SEC while he was with Franklin at Vanderbilt and the Big Ten.
“He’s been the right-hand person and confidant for James Franklin,” Babcock said. “We have no doubt that he’s ready.”
It also helped that Pry has a history and appreciation for Virginia Tech.
“It certainly plays a role because you want somebody to run to the job,” Babcock said. “Again, it’s not just a great job, it’s `I’m going there because it’s Virginia Tech.'”
Fuente was criticized for never truly embracing Virginia Tech’s football history, although he did award one player a week with the honor of wearing Beamer’s retired No. 25 jersey.
Pry said one difficult thing for him will be turning over defensive play-calling duties to an assistant, but he will do it “whether that’s after spring or after year one.” He has been very involved in the details on that side of the ball since he began coaching.
He also plans to return the Hokies to being effective recruiters in the state of Virginia. Pry said he learned a great deal on that front from Franklin, who emphasizes details.
“Following through, being thorough and building those relationships with the high school coach, with the trainer, with the parents, with the uncle, with the barber who cuts hair,” Pry said. “Being actively involved as a head coach is very important to me.”
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