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STEVE DeSHAZO: Redemption for Journell
HOKIES’ KICKER JOURNELL MAKES THE HEADLINES THE RIGHT WAY
BLACKSBURG—Compared with facing the potential loss of his freedom, or even his spot on a football roster, a 41-yard game-tying field goal attempt at the end of regulation can’t be the most traumatic issue Cody Journell has faced.
Pressure? Absolutely. Life-or-death? C’mon.
Still, Virginia Tech’s players have a newfound respect for their kicker after he delivered twice late Monday night in a pivotal season-opening 20–17 victory over Georgia Tech. After missing a 38-yard attempt earlier in the fourth quarter, Journell connected from 41 yards to force overtime, then nailed a chip-shot 17-yarder to fill Lane Stadium with jubilation.
“We kept pushing him, picking him up,” senior tackle Vinston Painter said. “For him to bounce back from what he’s been through, that’s a tough kid, There’s no doubting him at all.”
Let’s be clear: Journell’s off-field adversity was completely self-inflicted. Last December, he and two other men were charged with breaking and entering, a Class 2 felony. Prosecutors claimed they broke into the apartment of former Hokies basketball star Dorenzo Hudson, allegedly to retrieve stolen marijuana.
Journell was suspended under the school’s athlete conduct policy and missed Tech’s trip to the Sugar Bowl, where his replacement, Justin Myer, kicked four field goals but missed a potential game-tying kick in overtime.
In a plea bargain in May, Journell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing. He wasn’t reinstated to the team until July—too late to be included in the team’s annual media guide, which had already gone to print, but early enough to win back his job.
And late Monday night, he earned his keep (and a game ball) for giving the Hokies their first overtime win since 2003 at Temple and their first last-play victory since 1999 at West Virginia. Redemption doesn’t get much sweeter.
“Cody made a bad mistake, and he paid a high price,” coach Frank Beamer said. “The publicity is more than most people get—but that’s being a Virginia Tech athlete. But he’s very appreciative of his chance, and he came through tonight.”
Journell won’t talk about his legal record, but he was willing to discuss the first game-winning kick of his life—and the harder one at the end of regulation that made that possible.
“Any time you get a chance to tie a game up with [six] seconds left and to kick a field goal in overtime, it’s always special,” he said.
To be honest, Journell might not have gotten his roster reprieve if he weren’t skilled at what he does. Beamer cited his tying field goal against Blacksburg High School in a game Giles High School won in six overtimes. And Journell made 14 of 17 attempts last season, the best percentage in the ACC.
Said Beamer: “We’ve had some good kickers here, but he’s a good one.”
Still, kickers often have a tenuous connection with their teammates, even under ideal circumstances. Their practice routines are far less strenuous, and they can have a wildly disproportionate effect on a game’s outcome given the few seconds they actually spend on the field.
And when Journell failed to follow through and pulled his 38-yarder wide left early in the fourth quarter of a game that historically determines the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division title, he risked the wrath of his teammates (and all of Hokie Nation).
Instead, he received support—and justified it.
“My teammates and all my coaches let me know: ‘Hey, I’m probably gonna have another kick. We need you out there. If it comes down to it, we need your head in the game.’ I let everything go and did what I needed to do,” Journell said.
Added senior linebacker Jeron Gouveia–Winslow: “I was very proud of Cody. It would have been easy, after he missed that first one, to pack it in. But he made two clutch field goals. I didn’t have any doubt he’d make that last one and take us to overtime. I’m really proud of him. He addressed us after the game and thanked us for all the support during his adversity. I’m proud of him and glad for him. He’s back on top.”
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443