Friday, September 09, 2011

Hokies lineman, a Navy officer's son, knows how to lead

Rear Adm. Greg Nosal insists his son has a tougher job as a Hokies lineman -- and that's not counting the severed pinkie.

Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times

"My father's job is much more important than foot--ball," says senior offensive guard Greg Nosal (75), who had two knockdown blocks against App State.

Rear Adm. Greg Nosal

Rear Adm. Greg Nosal

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BLACKSBURG -- Ask Rear Adm. Greg Nosal about his recent appointment as commander of the Navy's Norfolk-based Carrier Strike Group 2, and he readily concedes his new position isn't nearly as demanding as his son's post at Virginia Tech.

The admiral should know. His son Greg is the starting senior left guard on Tech's 11th-ranked football team.

"Oh, he's got the toughest job by far," the elder Nosal said. "Again, I'm not there until January. But being an offensive lineman is much harder than what I do.

"Because in the carrier strike group there's probably about 7,000 people. There's anywhere from six to 10 ships in the group, so to be in charge is pretty good because everybody kind of works for you. That's much easier than what Greg does."

While dad will soon be calling the shots from the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, his son already has launched his second year of deployment as a starter on Tech's offensive front.

The 6-foot-6, 300-pound guard and the rest of the offensive line spent last Saturday at Lane Stadium planting Appalachian State defenders on their keisters in Tech's 66-13 demolition job.

It was a resounding start for a senior-dominated group that has taken its share of shots from critics.

"This year is huge for us, especially after last year when we got off to a slow start," said the younger Nosal, referring to Tech's 0-2 start last season. "We're trying to get off to a fast start and continue what we did at the end of the season."

Nosal, an All-Group AAA tight end in his senior year at Virginia Beach's Kellam High School in 2006, has battled through injuries over the past year. He underwent surgery on his right shoulder in January and missed spring practice, plus a good portion of the team's August drills.

"The shoulder, Greg had a lot of issues with that, and he's continued to work and kept getting better and better," Hokies offensive line coach Curt Newsome said. "He's played through a lot of things that a lot of players didn't have to."

You think? The guy had the tip of his left pinkie torn off in Tech's 45-21 romp over Central Michigan last Oct. 9 in Lane. No big deal. He kept playing. The displaced pinkie tip was later found in his glove and put on ice. Nosal got his hand taped up and, with help from painkillers, rejoined his team in the second half. After playing some more, the quarter-inch tip of his finger was finally stitched back in place.

"I never knew that just a little part of my pinkie getting ripped off would be that big of a story," said Nosal, whose finger got severed when it got caught in the face mask of a defender.

If there was any question about Nosal's toughness, it was emphatically answered that day.

"Oh, man, yeah, it was terrible!" right guard Jaymes Brooks said. "It freaked me out, too. I would have come out of the game immediately and gone straight to the hospital."

Nosal (pronounced no-SAL) says, "No mas, please." He's tired of hearing about the pinkie thing, frankly.

"I could have become better known for something besides that," he said. "I don't think it's a big deal at all, 'cause people break fingers, jam them - that's part of being an offensive lineman. So what's the big deal? It's back. It's just a quarter-inch shorter now."

Nosal's parents, who were at the game, had no clue what had happened until they met their son at a Blacksburg pizza parlor for dinner afterward.

"Greg has this monstrosity on his hand, and Liz and I go, 'What happened?' " Nosal Sr. said. "And he says, 'My pinkie got ripped off.' Then we go, 'What?'

"It was like, 'Whoa!' But he got his 15 minutes of fame."

While his father was the son of an Air Force chief master sergeant and was accustomed to the constant moves from place to place that come with the military lifestyle, the younger Nosal said the constant change was not to his liking.

"I never really enjoyed moving every two years," said Nosal, whose family has lived in Virginia Beach, Jacksonville, Fla., Washington, D.C., Jacksonville (again), Hawaii and Washington, D.C. (again). Now they are heading back to Virginia Beach.

"I've been all over the place. I missed out on Hawaii because I had just graduated from high school and was getting ready to come here. I really respect what my father does, but I don't think it's for me. I like being in one place."

He said he's cherishing his final year at Tech, since it may be the end of his playing days.

"If it happens, I will be ecstatic," he said of the possibility of playing in the NFL. "I know how hard it is as a profession. We just had 13 people cut from [Tech] in the last week or whatever.

"This year might be the last time I play football. So these four months, I'm really taking it seriously, and I hope we can make it special.

"Who knows? I would actually love to get into coaching. I think I would be a good coach."

Calling the shots. Sort of like his father will be doing come January on the George H.W. Bush.

"My father's job is much more important than football," Nosal said. "He's going on be on that aircraft carrier controlling the battleships, submarines, the airplanes, about everything."

The wisecracking admiral said that although he's proud of how his oldest son has matured into a solid man at Tech, he's still in charge of the Nosal ship.

"I can still take him!" he proclaimed. "I'm not anywhere near him [size-wise], but I want to go on the record that I can still take him! That's been our joke for years. And he's tired of hearing that."

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