(WTVR) - Richmond native Bobby Ross has had several coaching stops...from Colonial Heights High School all the way to the San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions of the NFL. He has hired hundreds of assistant coaches, giving many of them their starts in the business. Some of his best hires came with his first collegiate staff after he was named the head coach at The Citadel back in 1973. That staff included future head coaches Cal McCombs, Ralph Friedgen and Jimmye Laycock, plus a graduate assistant Ross met at the University of Maryland named Frank Beamer.
Beamer was originally hired as a secondary coach by Ross who knew very early on that Beamer would be a very good coach.
"Something just jumped out at you about Frank" Ross remembered with us recently. "Very personable, very good with people. But also, and people don't normally see this side of it, a very demanding guy. Very demanding from his players. He understood the physical-ness to the game."
"Frank taught toughness because he was tough"
(WATCH: More of Ross's interview here:)
Coaching football wasn't all Ross's staff had to do back in those days. There were no tutors set up specifically for the football team or for any athletes, so the coaching staff took it upon themselves to help the players out with their studies. Frank and his wife Cheryl lived right on campus back then, making it easy for him to be available 24 hours a day. Beamer also developed ways to better know his players. One specifically that Ross remembers from those early years, was having a lot of trouble both athletically and academically. Beamer decided to use a different approach to reach this player, by playing racquetball with him each week.
"I asked 'Why raquetball?'" Ross said. "Frank said 'I want to develop a relationship with him. I want to get closer to him and find out what's making things beat for him.' He did. The player became a very good player, graduated and did very well."
Ross keeps touch with almost every player and coach with which he has interacted over the course of nearly 50 years in the sport. When he learned of Beamer's retirement announcement, he took time to send his friend and former assistant a note of appreciation, one of many Beamer has since received.
"I told him that a lot of people turn around football programs. He turned around Virginia Tech" Ross said. "He made it what it is today. I really believe that very strongly. When the people were killed [in the 2007 campus shootings], Frank met with the families. He was very, very involved. The school has a unique spirit and I think a big reason for that was Frank Beamer."
Ross also talked about Beamer's acumen coaching special teams, which have become a staple of "Beamer Ball" at Virginia Tech and which Ross believes Beamer received from coaching under former VT coach Jerry Claiborne. Beamer's good friend from his playing days at Virginia Tech was Frank Loria, and the two of them were special teams standouts during their days playing for the Hokies. When he came to The Citadel, Ross put Beamer in charge of certain aspects of their special teams coverage.
Ross also believes that Beamer is completely at peace with his decision to step away now, after 29 years at his alma mater. It can be very difficult for coaches to know when the right time is to step away, and the void in their lives is sometimes surprisingly large, given how much time and effort it takes to be a successful coach in the first place.
"There will be things that come along and test your feelings about it [retirement]" Ross said. "I went through the same things myself. You'll have certain things that you really miss in it, but I think that Frank has thought it through really well."
"I think the biggest thing for him will be his grandchildren. And that's very, very special."