Frank Beamer writes poignantly and modestly, confesses about a broken promise, questions a rival’s recruiting and censures one of his most talented players. Those were my primary takeaways from “Let Me Be Frank — My Life At Virginia Tech ,” the autobiography Beamer penned with college football author Jeff Snook.
The 293-page offering, due for September release, traces Beamer’s path from his rural upbringing in North Carolina and Virginia through the 2012 season, his 26th as the Hokies’ head coach. Most of the material is rehash, unavoidable for a public figure, but even those segments are well-presented, a credit to Snook and the extraordinary access Beamer granted him for two years.
Beamer opens up as never before about the shootings that struck Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, some coaching decisions he second-guesses and the severe burns he sustained at age 7 — he endured more than 30 subsequent surgeries.
“I was around the hospital so much as a kid,” Beamer writes, “I really did think for a while that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. Then I realized you had to be pretty smart, and that ended that idea.”
There’s Beamer at his self-effacing best, a theme sustained throughout the book with tales of his playing and early coaching days — the frog in his flooded bedroom was amusing — and obsession with golf.
Beamer also details his initial struggles at Tech and the satisfaction that accompanied the first bowl bid of his tenure: the 1993 Independence.
“Now I am telling you,” Beamer says, “we would celebrate Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl invitations in years to come, but nothing matched that day. It was our first bowl berth and it felt like we had won the Super Bowl.”
But every book needs some surprises, and “Let Me Be Frank” obliges.
For example, Beamer for the first time acknowledges what many have long known: He agreed to leave Virginia Tech for North Carolina in November 2000.
Beamer recalls the exact date: Saturday, Nov. 18. The Michael Vick-led Hokies were 9-1, ranked sixth nationally and had the week off prior to their regular-season finale against Virginia.
“It would be one of the biggest mistakes of my life,” Beamer concedes.
The morning after Tech defeated U.Va., Beamer flew to Chapel Hill, N.C., to finalize details and tour the school’s football complex. Then-Tar Heels athletic director Dick Baddour suggested a Monday news conference, but Beamer insisted on returning to Blacksburg to inform his staff and team.
After a sleepless Sunday night at home, Beamer met with Tech athletic director Jim Weaver and university president Charles Steger, secured raises for the entire coaching staff and decided to remain at his alma mater.
“What was most important to my decision-making process was the fact that those football facilities were built on somebody else’s blood and sweat,” Beamer says of North Carolina. “They weren’t built from my work.”
To say the least, calling Baddour was awkward, and Beamer led with the classic break-up line: “Listen, this is nothing to do with you. It’s me.”
How the respective programs would have fared -- North Carolina hired John Bunting, who went 27-45 in six years -- is anyone’s guess, but there’s no denying the Beamer-Blacksburg fit.
“Of course, the one regret I do have is that I went back on my word,” he writes. “My word has always been solid my entire life and this was the one time I broke it. But I broke it for a good reason, probably the best reason: loyalty.”
Beamer shows similar loyalty to Vick, the quarterback of Tech’s benchmark teams of 1999 and 2000, the former of which reached the national championship game.
“He changed the whole culture here,” Beamer says. “He made Virginia Tech a name brand. He made Virginia Tech cool.”
Beamer remains incredulous that Vick, who often brought a dog to practice, nearly ruined his NFL career with savage treatment of dogs. But the two remain close, and Beamer admires how Vick has resurrected his life on and off the field.