Mack ‘Breaks The Rock’ To Wrap Up Summer Workouts

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Virginia linebacker Jordan Mack was selected to “Break the Rock,” which officially ended summer workouts Friday morning.

Seconds after Jordan Mack’s mighty swing of the sledgehammer crushed the target on a sunny Charlottesville morning, the senior linebacker turned to his Virginia teammates surrounding him and shouted, “Beat Pitt.”

The rest of the Cavaliers joined in as they officially ended summer workouts in preparation for their Aug. 31 appointment with the Panthers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. UVA has lost four straight to Pitt and has never won in Pittsburgh, so taking on their reigning ACC Coastal Division champs has become a huge deal with Virginia ever since spring drills.

“Breaking the Rock,” has also become a huge tradition in UVA football, started last year by Shawn Griswold, the team’s director of football development and performance. The hardest worker during summer workouts is awarded the honor of swinging the sledgehammer and breaking the designated rock, which is emblazoned with “Beat Tech,” and “ACC.”

Mack was the choice as the hardest-working Cavalier, an honor started last season by running back Jordan Ellis. 

For the unknowing, “Beat Tech,” has been the UVA mantra for two years as the Cavaliers attempt to break Virginia Tech’s domination of the series. Virginia has lost 15 in a row to Tech.

UVA was the preseason media pick to win the ACC Coastal Division, another feat the Cavaliers have not accomplished since the league split into divisional play in 2005. 

All that said, those goals are down the road this season. Pitt has gained Virginia’s immediate attention.

Friday morning’s drills, which began at 6:30 a.m. and included bench presses and running maneuvers, culminated with the rock breaking.

While Griswold said any number of players could have been picked to break the rock, something UVA does after every game won, that Mack was a solid choice.

“I don’t think there’s a wrong pick,” Griswold said. “What he’s been through in the lean years here and through Bronco’s first year, the weening out period of who really wants to be here. He embodies what UVA is all about. He’s made a lot of progress.

“You look at [Mack’s] strength numbers and the leadership. I wouldn’t say he’s come out of a shell, but he’s really stepped out and been a leader.”

Joe Reed, a senior wide receiver, agreed on Mack’s choice.

“He’s a symbol for everything we stand for in Virginia football,” Reed said. “It was well deserved.”

The Cavaliers were all sporting blue t-shirts with “Believe” blaring on the front, something Griswold produced.

“Four weeks ago some of us got together and said, ‘Why don’t we do something special for the kids?’ So we gave them a shirt and surprised them,” Griswold said. “When it gets hard, they talk about ‘Believe,’ so I guarantee that from the sidelines this year you’re going to hear ‘Believe, Believe, Believe.’”

Griswold said the Virginia players have had a great summer workout session and said the incoming freshman class is something unique in that it showed up in shape and ready to work extra hard.

“It takes time to build strength,” he said of the entire team. “You can get them in shape pretty fast. We’re hoping all this parlays into having everybody on the field all the time. Fewer missed starts. Where I was before, we were fifth in the country in fewest missed starts.”

Griswold said the objective of the summer workouts was to develop size, strength and speed.

“We’re still a young team,” he said of the Cavaliers, coming off an 8-5 season that included a dominating, 28-0 win over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. “We were like the fourth-youngest team in the nation last season.”

Reed said that “Believe” replaces the previous two years’ “New Standard” motto.

“We come in here every day knowing that we can do anything,” Reed said. “We wear on our shirts, ‘Believe.’ We met as leaders one day trying to figure out how to go forward. The ‘New Standard,’ is now just the standard. So ‘Believe’ is our new slogan.”

Virginia was voted as the preseason favorite to win the Coastal Division, and Reed said that’s just fine with the Cavaliers.

“There’s no pressure,” Reed said. “We come in with the same mindset as if we were picked last instead of first. Every game is going to be a dogfight, and it’s going to come down to what we can do fundamentally and in terms of execution. It’s just time to transition all we’ve accomplished in the summer to training camp.”

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