Virginia Tech's James Gayle
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "We are the Bears Shufflin' Crew, shufflin' on down, doin' it for you."We're so bad we know we're good, blowin' your mind like we knew we would."We know we're just struttin' for fun, struttin' our stuff for everyone."We're not here to start no trouble; we're just here to do the Super Bowl shuffle."For those over 40, are you cringing yet? For all you youngsters, this was the rap anthem for the 1985 Chicago Bears, perhaps the baddest and brashest of all Super Bowl champs. And you may not know/have forgotten this: That 7-minute ditty was nominated for a Grammy and nearly cracked the Billboard Top 40.James Gayle's uncle, Shaun Gayle, didn't get his own verse but sang in the background chorus. Now a defensive end on Virginia Tech's improved defense, James Gayle has a small familiarity with the video.That's understandable. The video is 28 years old and the younger Gayle is not. Today's football players are more likely to see the 1986 "Walk This Way" video by Run DMC/Aerosmith on VH1.
"I saw it a long time ago," he said. "I don't remember much, just seeing them dancing around. I wasn't born until eight years after that ... oh, the '85 Bears, maybe six years."The uncle was a defensive back back in the day, but the nephew certainly is not. He is a 6-foot-4, 255-pound monster of a defensive end who set team weightlifting records at that position, has posted at least a 391/2-inch vertical jump and was once timed at 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash.As he prepares for his team's game at noon Saturday against Marshall, his last play to date is as notable as any. As East Carolina tried to drive for a tying field goal late in the game last week, Gayle put an emphatic end to that - he smacked quarterback Shane Carden's arm before it went forward, and the resulting fumble ended in a Virginia Tech safety and a 15-10 lead.That was his second of the Hokies' seven sacks and earned him defensive linemen of the week honors from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I knew before they snapped the ball that would be my play to make," said Gayle, a Hampton, Va., native. "They had a dynamic guy back there who can make a play and I knew I had to get back there before he got the ball off. I was able to."Gayle has been named second-team All-ACC two years in a row, and NFLDraftScout.com ranks him the No. 12 defensive end prospect in a crowded field, a third- or fourth-round pick. "Gayle lacks imposing size, but is strongly built throughout his frame with the natural burst and quickness to explode off the edge with flexibility and raw power."Gayle is a fifth-year senior, along with his defensive end counterpart, J.R. Collins. The tackles are experienced and plenty beefy - senior Derrick Hopkins (6-0, 311) and junior Luther Maddy (6-1, 296). They will rotate with the second unit liberally."They roll them in and out of there and they're all, like, 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds, and can run," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said.
Tech almost had to improve on last year's defense, which contributed to the Hokies' sub-par 7-6 record. The Hokies finished 32nd in scoring defense (22.85), 29th in rushing defense (134.08) and 18th in total defense (333.15) - good for many teams, but unacceptable in Blacksburg.Those figures improved from the first snap, when Tech held Alabama to 209 total yards and two touchdowns (the Crimson Tide scored three by other means). The defenders have a deep loyalty to defensive coordinator Bud Foster and want to give him a better effort."Bud Foster is the reason I came to Virginia Tech," Gayle said. "I liked his intensity when I came here and was watching him. I knew he was a great coordinator."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.