CLEMSON — Pressed by reporters to explain why so many great ACC signal callers hail from inside Virginia’s borders, Mike Glennon just leaned back and grinned.
“I guess Virginia is for lovers,” N.C. State’s senior quarterback quipped at July’s ACC Kickoff.
The state’s famous tourism slogan still rings true, but in ACC football circles, a case could be made that Virginia is for quarterbacks.
Six ACC programs – Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia and Virginia Tech – start Virginia natives at quarterback. At midseason, four of the ACC’s top six in passing yards per game and pass efficiency are from Virginia.
Saturday, the league gets another marquee matchup of Virginia natives when No.14 Clemson and Virginia Tech face off inside Memorial Stadium. Clemson junior Tajh Boyd leads the ACC in passing yards per game, with 291.3 and total offense (328.7 ypg) and is second in pass efficiency; Virginia Tech junior Logan Thomas is eighth in passing yards, at 243.3, seventh in efficiency and fourth in total offense at 271.7 yards per game.
“It’s just an area where there have been some great quarterbacks,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. “It’s really phenomenal how many quarterbacks from the state of Virginia are playing at the college level. There’s no question, I think it’s a run of them right now.”
The Virginia natives are fueled by tradition and bonded by fraternity.
Take Virginia Tech’s quarterback history, for example. In the late 1990s, Tidewater-area superstar Michael Vick lifted the Hokies to national prominence, fueling a run to the 2000 BCS national title game before losing to Florida State. He was the No.1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, and following a prison sentence for dog fighting, he’s currently the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback.
After West Virginia native Bryan Randall took his turn, Vick’s younger brother Marcus had a stormy run as the Hokies’ starter; he was eventually kicked off the team after infamously stomping Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil’s lower leg in the 2006 Gator Bowl.
Marcus Vick was replaced by Fairfax County native Sean Glennon, who led the Hokies to the 2007 ACC title. Tidewater native Tyrod Taylor succeeded Glennon, and left as the program’s all-time total offense leader.
Lynchburg native Thomas, a converted tight end, spent 2010 as Taylor’s backup and is in his second season as the Hokies’ starter. At 6-foot-255 pounds, he’s the ACC’s most imposing current passer; he passed for 3,013 yards and 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a freshman.
This fall, he’s thrown 12 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Mike Glennon blazed a different path than his brother, winding up as the Wolfpack’s starter. He’s averaging 280 passing yards per game – third in the ACC – with 12 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
Two weeks ago, he outdueled Florida State and Tidewater native E.J. Manuel, leading State to a stunning 17-16 upset of then-No.3 FSU in Raleigh.
Boyd might be the class of them all. While Manuel leads the league in pass efficiency – he averages 257.7 yards per game passing with 14 touchdowns against four interceptions – Boyd leads in passing and total offense.
“I think he’s playing outstanding,” Beamer said. “He’s been running the ball well, runs tough. He runs the offense well and he’s getting all (Clemson’s) playmakers involved. I’ve really been impressed with how he leads.”
Boyd and Manuel know each other well; they grew up going to football camps together with the rest of the group, from Thomas to Glennon to North Carolina’s Bryn Renner, a Fairfax County native.
Boyd says he and Manuel are just carrying on a tradition that goes back to future NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, a Hampton native who starred as a prep quarterback before choosing to focus on basketball and a sterling NBA career.
“I look at it as, you want to be that next best guy,” Boyd said. “We have a huge and strong tradition about quarterbacks leaving a legacy. From my standpoint and E.J.’s, you look at the Iversons, Vicks, Tyrods, you want to continue to leave a strong legacy. You want to leave it for the next guy as well. It’s a competition thing. It’s fun being from the area.”
Chances are, there’ll be plenty more behind them – and plenty of reasons for the ACC to keep loving Virginia quarterbacks.
“Before and after games, (myself and E.J.) talk about where we’re from,” Boyd said. “He’s a senior. Besides when he’s playing against us, it’s fun to see him do well, because you want the tradition to keep carrying on. It’s always encouraging.”