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Pry’s ascent is coronation for family

Brent Pry (right) and his father, Jim Pry. Courtesy photo

By Neil Rudel

nrudel@altoonamirror.com

Brent Pry will be introduced as Virginia Tech’s head football coach today in Blacksburg, Virginia.

What a day it is for him and the entire Pry family.

Altoona natives Jim Pry and his wife Kathy were both 18 years old when Brent was born.

“We are just ecstatic,” Jim Pry said Wednesday morning from his home in Lafayette, Louisiana. “I’m so happy for him, and we’re so proud of him. He’s worked for it.”

Brent was raised on the sidelines and team buses while his dad embarked on a 40-year football journey that started at Marshall a year after the tragic plane crash (1970) when he arrived as a player out of Ferrum College.

An injury got the quarterback into coaching. He went from student assistant and graduate assistant at Marshall to West Virginia Tech to the head coach for four seasons at Lewis County High School in Weston, W.Va.

At this point, Brent was 10 years old and, Jim said, “Kathy would bring him as soon as his school day was over, and from that point on, he was always at my practices.”

From Lewis High, Jim ventured to Virginia Military Institute and Buffalo — Brent followed and went to college there — and then for 10 years at East Stroudsburg, where he met James Franklin.

Following were stops at Duke, Akron, where he won a MAC championship followed by a four-year stint (2004-08) and a Rose Bowl berth under Ron Zook at Illinois before closing his career at Dartmouth and finally Bethune-Cookman.

“I think we probably moved 12 times alone, and Brent was involved in seven of them,” Jim said.

The fact that his dad was a football lifer — often at less than glamorous spots — was not lost on Brent as he boarded the Virginia Tech plane Wednesday afternoon to be introduced as a head coach, a coveted perch his dad never quite landed.

“Every day,” Brent Pry said of his dad’s influence. “I’m just so thankful and appreciative. I wouldn’t have the passion and the desire to do this without him. My best qualities in coaching I got from him.”

Jim Pry was a college playcaller for 33 seasons, and Brent said, “Just watching him compete on Saturdays is deeply imbedded in me.”

And just like his father, at least until he came to Penn State, Brent climbed the coaching ladder at places where great coaches often work anonymously.

Brent coached at East Stroudsburg and Western Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis, Georgia Southern and Vanderbilt.

He also mixed in a three-year stop (1995-97) at Virginia Tech, where he built a relationship with Frank Beamer.

“It’s a place Brent has always held in his heart – and me, too,” Jim said. “It’s a tremendous town to live in and the fan base is tremendous.”

Much of college coaching is networking. With his dad on the VMI staff, Brent played high school football in Lexington, Virginia. One of his high school coaches, Brian Stinespring, became a GA at Virginia Tech. He recommended Brent for an opening after graduating from the University of Buffalo.

“He’s been under some great people – James, Denny Douds, Frank Beamer, Bud Foster, Jeff Monken,” Jim said. “He’s learned, and he’s ready. He’ll know exactly what he’ll need to do.”

Since news broke Tuesday morning, Jim has been busy working his phone. He estimated that he received 250 text messages.

“Texts and phone calls, a lot of people congratulating,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “Some want jobs.”

Meanwhile, Brent said his daughters, Madeline and Catherine, have been on the front line to the more than 500 messages he’s received.

“It was up to 650,” Brent said. “My daughters helped me respond while I was driving, but they’ll send out 12 and another six will come in.”

As a toddler, Pry went with his parents to Ferrum, an hour from Blacksburg, and his move to Penn State with Franklin from Vanderbilt in 2014 allowed him, his wife Amy, son Colby and his texting daughters to bond with his many relatives in Altoona for the past eight years.

In that regard, while mightily excited to become a Hokie — a terrific first head coaching opportunity and a potential career destination — Brent called the last few days, the hugs and the well wishes, “bittersweet.”

Not so for his dad, who said, “We’ll be making a lot of trips to Blacksburg.”

And, most deservedly, sitting on the 50.

Rudel can be reached at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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