Bond with Tony Elliott brings UVA legend Chris Slade home
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The name Chris Slade means something around Virginia, even if a few decades have passed since he wore the orange and blue of UVA.
"Coach Slade, he's old, old head, but he's been in the league for quite some time, so his resume, especially when he was in college, even the league says a lot," senior defensive end Chico Bennett said," I haven't gone back, I don't know if [his film] going to be all black and white."
"You know what I tell Chico, go back and look at that black and white film, you might can learn a little something," Slade responded to his senior edge rusher with chuckle, "If you could be half as good as that guy in black and white you'll be okay."
We checked his film, it is in color.
But the numbers say even more about Slade, a two-time first team All-American, set the ACC record for career sacks and even had his No. 85 jersey retired by the Cavaliers after his senior season. So Chris Slade is as good as anyone to ask about Virginia football, especially a perspective new head coach.
"Coach [Tony] Elliott was about to take the job, he called me and asked me do I think he would be a good fit and you're talking about a guy that's accomplished, won six ACC titles, two national titles," Slade remembers, "He's calling me asking if do I think he'd be a good fit for UVA and that's just him, his humility."
Slade and Elliott first met a decade ago, when Elliott was recruiting Pace Academy in Atlanta for Clemson as the running backs coach, where Slade was the head coach.
"The first conversation we had we talked about football for about ten minutes and the other hour and a half we talked about life and culture and building a program," Slade said.
At the time Elliott was recruiting Pace's Andrew Thomas, a first round pick of the New York Giants, and Jamaree Salyer, both of which picked Georgia.
"Chris, recruiting his school over time, developed a relationship," Elliott said, "I told him, I said 'look I chased two big lineman at your school, they went somewhere else, I can't go 0-3 on you, you're destined to be the one that I actually get out of Pace Academy'."
When Elliott was introduced as the next head football coach, Slade flew up from Atlanta to support Elliott. At the time Slade told Elliott he was fully bought in and would support him any way he could as a fan or more. A few weeks later that turned into Slade returning to his alma mater as the defensive ends coach.
"I didn't come back to UVA because it's UVA and it's comfortable and I know everything and know everybody, I came back here because I felt like he was the right guy for me to come back here and work for," Slade said, "It just so happens, it happens to be UVA."
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"The way that he talks about Virginia, I knew that it was an opportunity and he was very thoughtful in this process. And he's always wanted to come back home, but he's also made it clear that he wanted to come back in the right situation," Elliott said, "So I'm very grateful that he believes in me and that this is the right time for him to come back and help us restore the glory so to speak."
Ten years later, Slade says Elliott is still the same person and continues to show Slade why he believes in him.
"This past weekend we had black alumni weekend here at UVA and he shows up at it," Slade said, "I text and said 'Tony that was huge', so now you're going to get the support of a lot of alum who have never really been involved in football."
A coaching bond which could have gone anywhere lands Slade at home, well almost anywhere.
"I think I would have followed that guy anywhere besides Blacksburg," Slade said drawing a laugh, "That's the only place I wouldn't have followed him to. I wouldn't coach there, I couldn't sell myself."