ORLANDO, Fla. – Antone Exum had already put a pair of headphones in his shopping cart. He was making his way around the Orlando Best Buy on Monday looking for some DVDs and still considering buying himself a set of speakers.
Then, the Virginia Tech junior cornerback and former Deep Run High School star found himself struck with the Christmas spirit.
“I just got to thinking,” Exum said Tuesday before the Hokies’ football practice at the Citrus Bowl. “I felt like, when I grew up I was blessed to have fortunate Christmases. I kind of think every kid deserves to have that kind of Christmas.”
So Exum found a pair of brothers he had seen earlier in the store and offered them every kid’s wish – a shopping spree. Exum told the two brothers, and then one of their cousins, they could use his $470 gift card, part of the Tech players bowl gift for Friday’s Russell Athletic Bowl.
“I just thought giving those kids a chance to shop on my card and get whatever they want, maybe that would touch them enough, give them a Christmas they wouldn’t forget. It definitely gave me one I won’t forget. I won’t forget the smiles and how excited they were when I told them they could get all that’s tuff, but not just in their faces, but in their voices too.”
The kids, who were visiting Florida from the Bahamas, picked out a Playstation 3, a Blackberry, some controllers and some games.
“It was funny. Right when I asked them, they knew exactly what they wanted,” Exum said.
Then they took a picture with Exum, which he posted on Twitter. Within a few hours, Exum’s good deed was the talk of the internet. National news agencies were mentioning it and he was featured on the website Deadspin.com.
“I was proud of him,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “He made someone else’s Christmas better and I think he felt good about it.”
Exum got such a response on Twitter, the website shut him down while he was trying to respond individually to everyone who praised his selfless act.
“I was literally in my room by my phone just replying to everybody, and I went over 100,” Exum said. “I think if you go over 100 in a certain amount of time you go in Twitter jail or something.”
Christmas in Orlando: As he took the field for practice Tuesday at the Citrus Bowl, with temperatures in the mid 70s on Christmas Day, Virginia Tech senior linebacker Bruce Taylor had to chuckle.
“It don’t even feel like Christmas,” Taylor said.
For Tech coach Frank Beamer and his family, they celebrated the holiday on Saturday, before the team left for Orlando.
He said the unusual timing didn’t seem to bother his grandchildren, the two daughters of assistant coach Shane Beamer.
“I don’t know that they knew it wasn’t Christmas day, but they knew they were getting gifts,” Frank Beamer said.
To make the day seem a bit more like a celebration, the Tech football team went to Disney World after practice. The elder Beamer said he was confident his players could balance the work they need to do to prepare for Rutgers with the fun he wanted them to have during bowl week.
“When it’s time to go to Disney, it’s time to go to Disney,” he said. “When we’re out here, it’s time to work. I think they’ve done a good job of that so far.”
But the elder Beamer didn’t make the trip to the theme park.
“I’m going to stay back and watch a little video and do a little work back here,’ Beamer said, noting the frenetic pace he anticipated his grandchildren rushing around the park at. “I can’t keep up with them.”
A taste of Orange: After practicing at Thunder Field on Monday, a practice field next to the Citrus Bowl, the Hokies moved into the stadium for Tuesday’s workout.
“We’ll get used to the surface,” Beamer said. “I think in every way it makes it a better practice.”
Beamer said the team’s workout today would also be in the stadium.