Before I head out, here’s a link to a story I wrote about today Cody Journell, who talked generally about his arrest last year at this time for the first time publicly. Here’s how the story starts:
BLACKSBURG – With the Virginia game in the balance, Cody Journell stood over a 42-yard field-goal attempt, knowing if he could push it through the cold, November air, it would all but certainly mean a win against Virginia Tech’s intrastate rival.
He tried to play the wind, aiming for the left goal post and wanting to fade it back in. But instead, he pulled it just wide to the left, keeping the game tied.
An interception by cornerback Antone Exum gave Journell another chance minutes later. With new life, he took advantage, drilling a 29-yarder as time expired, making Tech bowl eligible by the slimmest of margins.
Journell has made the most of the second chances he’s been afforded lately.
It’s been a year since the kicker made headlines in all the wrong ways, arrested and charged with breaking and entering after an alleged home invasion in Blacksburg just before Christmas.
He spent a week in jail, was suspended from the team, had the indignity of appearing in newspaper headlines across the region and waited months for a legal resolution in which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. He did community service and says he rejoined the football program in the summer as a humbled individual.
“It put a lot of things in perspective for me, being here and being as privileged as I am,” Journell said earlier this month in his first public comments about the ordeal.
“All this stuff around you, once you get that taken away from you and you don’t know if you’re going to get it back, it makes you appreciate everything that the coaches do here, what we have in front of us, the facilities and fans and everything.”
Journell talked about a number of other topics, although the story was more focused about him reflecting on the last year. Here are a few things that didn’t make the story:
- Journell made big kicks in three games this year — Georgia Tech, Boston College and Virginia. Which one stood out to him the most? “I think Georgia Tech,” he said. “I’m kind of torn between the Georgia Tech and UVa kicks, really, but being able to come back that first game and everything in the offseason happening and being able to establish myself that, ‘Hey, I’m back and I’m ready to play and put all this other stuff behind me.’ But then again, the UVa game, we had a bowl game riding on it, with seniors, whether they were going to get to play another game or not in their collegiate career. I think sentimentally that one is probably more important to me than the first one.”
- The Boston College kick was probably the most difficult. There was a wind and the snap wasn’t perfect. Trey Gresh made a nice hold just to get the ball down. Journell barely sneaked it inside the left upright. Plus, the situation was tough. “It wasn’t if I missed, then we’re just going into overtime,” Journell said. “It was just kind of like, ‘We’ve got to make this or we lose.’”
- Journell didn’t make the All-ACC team or even get an honorable mention, but he doesn’t feel snubbed. “I didn’t really have any expectations,” he said. “Almost every team that we played this year had a really good kicker.”
- Which kick did Journell want back the most this year? “I think the one that kind of stands out the most is from the Miami game,” he said, talking about a 47-yarder late in the third quarter. “I don’t remember exactly how much we were down. We might have been down a touchdown or maybe four or something like that, but I could feel we had a little bit of momentum coming up and I felt like we might have been able to pull it out, and I botched that one kick. And it probably didn’t have anything to do with it, because we lost by more than three, but I feel like it kind of offset the momentum a little bit. So I’d like to see what would have happened had we made that. I think we could have pulled it out.”
- Journell often spoke up in the locker room when times were tough this year, something he didn’t do much of his first few years. That’s not something kickers normally do. “I’m not sure how it goes in every locker room but I think me being so close with all those guys has helped a lot,” he said. “And they respect what I have to say. They know I’m not really one to talk up when it’s not necessary. If I have something to say, it’s usually something we need to hear. I think that helped the guys listen.”
- Journell, who is from nearby Ripplemead, grew up a Virginia Tech fan. He was also a big fan of Shayne Graham, who he had a chance to talk to after the UVa game. “The first time I heard his name really was in the West Virginia game. I think it was ’99,” Journell said. “Then I realized how close he grew up from here and then going through high school and watching him progress through the NFL kind of gave me some motivation, knowing that I’m not going to be the one to ever do this. It’s possible. And them giving me a scholarship out of college, it helped me compare to him a little bit. It was like, well, they have trust in me, I have trust in them. I think I can do it too.”
- There’s no special meaning to his No. 89. “It was the number that they gave me when I got here as a freshman,” he said. “I know a lot of the freshmen have 100-something as their number, because we were all on scout team still. There are more lockers than there are numbers and I was excited that I got my own number. And getting all the gear and stuff when you’re here playing the first year, I didn’t want to change it. I already had sweatshirts with No. 89 on it. I figured I’d just keep it.”
- His goals for next season? Lofty, but reasonable. “I really want to improve my accuracy from 45-plus,” he said. “We really didn’t get a chance to kick a lot of those this year. It kind of just comes with the situation. But I think the majority of the ones I missed this year were 40 and out. So obviously my goal is to go 100 percent next year. It’s a little far-fetched, but it’s been done, though.”