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Hite, Stinespring hail the persistence of new Hokies coach Pry

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Billy Hite’s phone kept ringing. It was the same guy, every time. Some young go-getter named Brent Pry.

Pry was an aspiring coach looking for a graduate assistant job at Virginia Tech. It was 1995, and as one of Frank Beamer’s most trusted assistants, Hite was in charge of the GA hires.

One problem: He didn’t have any GA positions to offer.

That didn’t stop Pry from calling.

“I told him, you ought to check with me from time to time,” Hite recalled this week. “He called me a hundred times during that period!”

Pry had been given Hite’s name and number by one of his former football and wrestling coaches at Lexington High School, Bryan Stinespring, whose first college job was as a Tech GA in 1990. By ’95, Stinespring had ascended to the role of tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the Hokies.

He believed in Pry. But he didn’t have to field all those calls.

“Coach Hite came storming into my office one day and said, ‘Would you please tell me about this Brent Pry guy, because he is wearing me out!’” Stinespring said with a laugh. “That’s the tenacious part of Brent.

“When he wanted to move in into the coaching ranks, he was persistent, he was goal-oriented and he wasn’t going to be told no. He just finally wore coach Hite down to a pulp. That’s not easy.”

A quarter-century later, Pry was announced as Tech’s new head coach on Tuesday. And Hite couldn’t help but smile as he thought back to how it all started.

“As soon as that spot came open, I ended up hiring him,” said Hite, who retired in 2014 after 36 years at Tech and moved to South Carolina this summer. “He did a great job for us. I’ll also tell you this: He was my yard boy. I put down 40 yards of mulch every year around my house. Of course, I paid him, but he came out and helped me put all that mulch down for a couple years there.

“I can’t do anything. My wife wanted some shelves in the laundry room, so he hung metal shelves in the laundry room for her. So not only being a good football coach and a good person, but he was a good handyman, too!”

The Hokies are hoping Pry can make the right tweaks to get the program humming like it was in the glory years, which were dawning right around the time Pry worked in Blacksburg from 1995-98.

The persistence he showed in getting that Tech job has served Pry well in a career that most recently had him excelling as the defensive coordinator at Penn State.

“I see a guy that’s just grown personally and professionally,” said Stinespring, who stayed on Beamer’s staff through the Hall of Fame coach’s final season in 2015. “He certainly understands this game backwards and forwards. I think he understands the significance of recruiting. He’s done a fabulous job of that part of it.”

Hite said Pry wasn’t afraid to offer his opinions at meetings even as a young coach. He surmises that being the son of a longtime college coach (Jim Pry) gave the younger Pry confidence in his surroundings.

Both Hite and Stinespring praised Pry’s work ethic and relentlessness — two key factors in his success as a recruiter.

“All those kids in the state of Virginia that we’ve lost to out-of-state schools, he recruited a bunch of them to Penn State,” Hite said. “He’s already got a helluva name in the state of Virginia to be able to recruit the top athletes and keep them here in-state, hopefully.”

Stinespring, long known as a fantastic recruiter himself, described Pry as a “people person” who knows how to foster relationships that are vital in attracting the best players. He also hailed the 51-year-old’s ability to develop talent once athletes get to campus.

“You could say, ‘They’ve had good players wherever he’s been,’ but those players played well on Saturdays and got better year to year,” Stinespring said. “I know you’ll see those things transpire at Virginia Tech. The driven nature, the competitiveness, the goal-oriented part of this thing — I think he checks the boxes in a multitude of ways. I’m super excited for him and proud of him.”

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