CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- There was a special guest waiting on the turf as the Virginia football team hit the field for some conditioning on Thursday morning. But university president Jim Ryan wasn't there to watch.
"I grew up playing football," Ryan, an avid distance runner, told reporters after running alongside the Wahoos for their full 45-minute conditioning session. "It's been a long time since I did a football workout, so it was fun to be out here."
Ryan lined up with UVA's skill position players, often right between two players regarded as arguably the fastest on the team -- quarterback Bryce Perkins and wide receiver Joe Reed.
'I was like, 'Oh wow, he's really trying to compete,'" Perkins said. "Because a lot of the guys, especially everybody on that skill group, we push the tempo a lot."
"Afterward he looked like he was doing pretty good," said another of those skill position players, cornerback Bryce Hall. "So I'm assuming, and I always see him doing some different runs, so he's probably, he probably held up pretty good."
"For pretty much the most part, he made all the times that we were making," added Perkins. "That just shows what kind of shape he's in, and what kind of hard worker he is."
Ryan was inaugurated as president at UVA last October, while the Wahoos were halfway through the program's first eight-win season since 2011. UVA's season ended with the program's first bowl victory since 2005 -- but also included a pair of overtime losses on the road to end the regular season, as the Cavaliers faded from contention for a Coastal Division title.
The team shouted "Championship!" before each sprint Thursday morning, revealing the bigger goals the Wahoos have in mind for this fall.
"We got big dreams, big aspirations," said Hall. "We want to go to the ACC championship this year. We saw last year, we were right there."
"We completed some of the goals that we had, but we didn't completely 100 percent finish them," said Perkins. "So motivation just to move forward and not backwards."
Ryan got a taste of that motivation first-hand on Thursday morning. While addressing the Cavaliers before the workout, he tried to provide a bit more.
"He talked a little bit at the beginning about how he really admires how our program is advancing, and the way we do things is the right way," Hall said. "So I just thought that was awesome."
"They seem incredibly motivated, and they seem really connected to one another. And I think both those things matter a lot," Ryan said. "I love this team, I love what Coach Mendenhall is trying to do, and yeah, it's a real kick for me to be out here."