Thirty-year vacation produces myriad memories

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On the game's second play, Welch intercepted a pass to set up a Tech touchdown. Following the Hokies' 50-0 victory, coaches presented him the game ball.

•Before Peyton and Eli Manning brought their sibling quarterback rivalry to the NFL, Aaron Brooks and Michael Vick did the cousin version. Both products of Newport News, Brooks and Vick faced one another as NFL starters for the first time on Oct. 27, 2002, when Vick's Atlanta Falcons defeated Brooks' New Orleans Saints 37-35 at the Louisiana Superdome.

Rarely has the Peninsula's wealth of sporting talent been more evident.

•At halftime of Virginia's 22-20 football victory at North Carolina in 2007, I went to the press-box restroom, where, even more than usual, I was startled by the reflection in the mirror.

"Mr. Teel, have you had chicken pox?" an ER nurse asked me the next day.

"No, ma'am."

"You do now."

Chicken pox. At 48. Ugh.

•On Aug. 20, 2000, more than one year before Christopher Newport's football debut, CNU coach Matt Kelchner and athletic director C.J. Woollum greeted 72 young men interested in playing.

In Room 101 of Gosnold Hall, Kelchner and Woollum wasted no time in establishing the highest standards of comportment and competition.

"All 18 of our teams had winning seasons last year," Woollum said. "Football will be expected to do no less. ... This football program's going to shock the world."

"If you embarrass yourself, your family or this university, on campus or 10,000 miles away, you will no longer be a part of this program," Kelchner said.

They were right. Captains football has thrived off the field with community engagement and on the field with nine national playoff appearances and nary a losing record in 13 seasons.

Kelchner remains the coach. Woollum, the gentleman and music maven who hired him, passed away last year.

•Like most sports fans, I'm fascinated by iconic arenas, their designs, histories and vibes. And thanks to the Daily Press, I've worked at Lambeau Field, the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Orange Bowl, Michigan's Big House, Madison Square Garden, Allen Field House at Kansas, the Palestra in Philadelphia, LSU's Death Valley, Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, Pinehurst No. 2, Chicago Stadium, Rupp Arena and Army's Michie Stadium, to name a baker's dozen.

One venue that's escaped is Augusta National. But not for lack of trying. In town to cover the 1997 Peach Jam, an annual stop on college basketball's July recruiting circuit, I drove my rental rig to the home of the Masters, figuring I'd take a spin up Magnolia Lane to the clubhouse.

Club security had other ideas.

•My primary focus that summer was rising Hampton High senior Ronald Curry, the best prep athlete I've seen. One of our interviews was at his home on Victoria Boulevard, where he lived with his guardian, Lillian Crawford, a.k.a., Big Mama.

She was 72 then, cursed by arthritic knees that made walking a chore. As Big Mama savored a breeze on the porch, Curry left to get treatment on a sore Achilles' tendon. But before departing, he placed the cordless phone next to her chair.

Thoughtful. Sweet.

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