“We’ll be in here throwing things on the wall,” Thomas said, “and he’ll just pop in. ‘Hey, what are y’all doing?’”
Once inside, Elliott has been known to quickly make himself at home – plopping into a couch, crossing his legs and striking up conversation.
No, there’s not a plate of freshly baked cookies in his hands. He’s instead offering fresh ideas to his fellow McCue Center residents.
“One time,” McCray said, “we ran out of whiteboard. Anna had to start on another wall.”
The words are now saved on her computer as a neat six-page document, but Thomas last spring hastily wrote in green dry erase marker the first draft of Elliott’s ultimate game plan for Virginia football players. It involves hospital visits and mission trips; lunches with professors and dinners for good students; golf lessons and financial literacy courses; internships and externships.
“We want to prepare these guys for the transition after football ends,” Elliott said. “The reality of it is, for most players, it’s a hard transition, and it happens before you want it to happen, and – boom! – it hits you in the face.
“I want my kids to be prepared to bob and weave so they get a head start in life.”
Elliott thinks big while not forgetting the small details. On Dec. 13, the day he was introduced as the Wahoos’ coach, the former Clemson University assistant said UVA is set up to fulfill his vision of building “the model program” in college football, the kind that can “win at the highest level” while also “achieving excellence in education, leadership and service.”
With on-field results pending (the season opener is Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against the University of Richmond), the off-field part of his mission has already kicked off.
The Cavalier Code
Under The Model Program, a slogan that’s now seen on video screens throughout the McCue Center and was painted on the custom shoes Elliott wore to the Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff media event in July, there’s the “Cavalier Code.”
That’s where Thomas, McCray and the whiteboards come in. Elliott, during those office drop-ins, would lead brainstorming sessions for possible initiatives to fit each pillar of the C-O-D-E.
The C stands for character, the O for opportunity, the D for duty and the E for engagement.
“He just had this long list of things and didn’t stop,” McCray said. “He’d say, ‘Move this here, move that there. Here’s what I mean when I say duty. After they graduate, what are their duties as a young man to society? Do they know how to go about buying an engagement ring? When looking at houses, do they know how to get a loan? Do they know how to write a check?’”