CHARLOTTE, NC (WDBJ7) Thursday was day one of the ACC Kickoff, where the Atlantic Division was under the microscope all day long. ACC Commissioner, John Swafford, got the day started though, and he took the opportunity to revel in what was an extremely successful 2016 season for the ACC.
John Swofford: "I'm proud of our schools. I'm proud of the commitment they've made to the sport."
The ACC Kickoff is all about looking ahead to the upcoming football season. But with all the hardware the conference brought home last season, it's hard not to take a quick look back.
John Swofford: "We're coming off of a year that included Clemson's College Football Playoff National Championship, 11 bowl teams, all that finished with winning records, which led all conferences. I think it's pretty obvious, the past year certainly was one of the league's most successful years, and possibly the most successful year that out league has ever had."
And the conference, of course, wasn't just about team accomplishments last season. The top two finishers in the Heisman Trophy race were from the ACC, including Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson of Louisville. Though Jackson says, he's not one to live in the past.
Lamar Jackson: "No, I don't really worry about it. It's done, have it. I'm going into every game trying to win it. I'm not worried about the Heisman Trophy or anything like that. I wasn't trying to win it last year. It happened. My teammates helped me out. My coaches helped me out, and I'm just blessed and humbled."
Bobby Petrino: "He made a lot of strides. He's going to continue to get better. And the best thing about Lamar Jackson is his attitude and work ethic. He comes to practice everyday with a smile on his face, and goes 100 percent."
Last season, Justin Fuente laid his foundation for the Virginia Tech football program moving forward. The Hokies made it to the ACC Championship, a game they hadn't played in since 2011, and though they would fall to Clemson, Tigers Head Coach, Dabo Swinney, says Tech is a contender in the ACC once again.
Dabo Swinney: "It's not surprising at all to see Virginia Tech back in the championship game. I've got a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Fuente. He is a great football coach, and I almost hired him myself in 2011. In fact, I told the Athletic Director (Whit Babcock), 'You hired a good guy, but I'm telling you, you hired a great football coach. He'll do a heck of a job at Virginia Tech.' With the great tradition they have there, the great resources, the passion of their fanbase, I wasn't surprised at all."
The Hokies will get another shot at the defending national champs this September, taking on the Tigers as part of the regular season for the first time since 2012. A matchup in Blacksburg that Swinney knows won't be easy.
Dabo Swinney: "They're a tough football team, and even tougher up there. I've been up there a couple times. It's a really, really difficult place to play, and it will certainly be a big challenge for us."
Even teams who the Hokies didn't play last year, and aren't scheduled to play this season have Fuente and the Hokies on their radar. Especially Florida State's Jimbo Fisher, someone who remembers what it was like to take over after a long-time coach retires.
Jimbo Fisher: "What Frank did at Virginia Tech, I mean, he took them to a national championship game and all the title games in the Big East and the ACC. Frank definitely is a hall of ame coach, and for him to walk in those shoes and go 10-4 in the first year, play for an ACC title, and do the things he did. That's kind of what we did. We were 10-4 and played for an ACC title also. But I think Justin's a great young coach."
Friday, it's the Coastal Division's turn, where we will hear from the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Virginia Cavaliers.