Since he was a kid, and even before, Virginia Tech football has played a vital role in Clark Ruhland’s life.
Ruhland’s parents met at a Virginia Tech football game in the ’70s, and he has sported maroon and orange since he was a kid growing up in the ‘90s.
When Frank Beamer, who has been Virginia Tech’s head coach since 1987, announced this year would be his final season, Ruhland was asked to design a logo in honor of the legendary coach.
Luckily, the task was well within Ruhland’s skillset.
Ruhland’s love of the game inspired him to pursue a communications degree at Virginia Tech. At the time, he had hoped to become a sports journalist.
Fate laid a hand when an internship with former WDBJ7 sports reporter Mike Stevens led to a career. Ruhland graduated from Virginia Tech in 2007, and when Mike Stevens accepted a position with the City of Salem as the communications director, Ruhland joined him as the city’s communications specialist.
As a student, Ruhland worked on various design projects for the school, and said he was excited that the school allowed him creative control over the logo.
“I started thinking about ideas of what would be a good sendoff-type logo, and something that would make a good patch,” Ruhland said. “The only pressure was that they needed something to be done fairly quick.”
When Beamer announced his retirement at the beginning of November, Ruhland was at a race in Martinsville. He said his phone began blowing up with text messages from friends and family, and his mind momentarily went blank. After Beamer’s press conference, one of Ruhland’s friends in the athletic department approached him about designing the logo for his farewell tour.
Ruhland began the process of throwing ideas around in his mind. He knew the logo would need to be oval shaped in order to fit on the players’ uniforms. Ruhland said he was immediately drawn to the iconic image of Beamer with his fist in the air during the team’s postgame celebration of their 1999 win over Boston College, the same year the team made it to the national championship game.
“That was the greatest moment of Tech football history, probably the peak, at least for right now,” Ruhland said.
Once he found the photo he wanted, Ruhland said he played around in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator until the design was just right. Each star around the logo represents a conference championship under Beamer’s leadership, and the signature has a special significance for Ruhland.
“One of the things about Tech is they have this lunch pail logo that they carry around with them. Years ago when I was a student, I was trying to think of something cool to give to my mom for her birthday,” Ruhland said. “One year I went online and bought a standard black lunch pail and painted to a VT on it. I got Frank Beamer and Bud Foster to sign it.”
He took a picture of the signature and traced it in Photoshop. For the final touches, he added the years Beamer began and ended his coaching career, along with the Virginia Tech Logo.
The players wore uniforms with the logo during Beamer’s final home game versus North Carolina on Nov. 21. The same signature from the logo was also painted on the field.
Shirts with the logo are available for fans to purchase through the school’s bookstore.
“It’s nice to see people wearing the shirts. I went to the Virginia game, and they were wearing them there,” Ruhland said. “Beamer signed a helmet as a thank you. They’ve been really appreciative.”
Ruhland said he was even asked to help stripe the helmets for the UVA road game last weekend.
“To me, it’s more about relationships than anything else,” Ruhland said. “It’s an honor to play a small part celebrating his legacy.”