HOT SPRINGS, Va. – Boston College's Will Blackmon has some reservations about his new league already. No, it's not with the teams, players or schedule. Rather it is with the drivers in his conference's environs.
As the Boston College contingent arrived at the Homestead, the Virginia mountain resort hosting this weekend's ACC kickoff, it was readily apparent that it wasn't near Beacon Hill or Copley Square anymore.
"We're coming up this windy road in here and I keep thinking we must be getting close but instead we keep going up and up this mountain," Blackmon said. "At one point we are at eye level with another mountain and I just don't like hills and mountains. Plus these native Virginians here drive like 70 MPH down around through here. It's a little much for me."
When told that he was now in stock car country, Blackmon, a Rhode Island native, just shrugged.
"I guess it's welcome to the ACC," Blackmon said.
While the terrain and overall Southern nature of their new league may take a little adjustment time, it's not to say that the Eagles are unhappy to be where they are. Last season at every Big East stop the Boston College players were met with jeers and barbs. Rival schools were vocal in their reaction to BC's pending move to the ACC.
"Everywhere we'd go they would be screaming something at us. They'd be saying this or they'd be saying that. They were all over us," said Boston College All-American defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka.
Some of those taunts?
"I think their [opponents' fans] favorite was A-C-C you later. It got personal, too. Some fans yelled at me, 'Kiwi, you're a fruit," Kiwanuka said. "I laughed at that one."
Kiwanuka, who registered 11.5 sacks last season en route to being named the Big East defensive player of the year, is happy to be in the ACC. Part of that may be to get away from the bad feelings of the remaining Big East squads but most of it has to do with the new league in which the Eagles enter.
"We know some of the teams in the ACC. Obviously, Virginia Tech and Miami used to be in the Big East. We played Wake Forest and we also played North Carolina in the bowl game to end last season. … Add in teams like Florida State, Clemson and Virginia and the others and it's just a great conference," Kiwanuka said. "We don't want to knock the Big East but this is where we want to be. This is a great conference and we will compete against this nation's best here. That's what we want and I know that's what Boston College wants."
The Eagles were 9-3 last season and capped the campaign with a 37-24 win over the Tar Heels in the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte. Kiwanuka and Blackmon, who will be switching to wide receiver, comprise parts of strong nucleus of returning players. In total, Boston College has 15 returning starters.
What should traditional ACC fans expect from the Eagles?
"We are a tough team that is going to play hard each and every night. We have a great group of guys and we never, ever give up," Kiwanuka said.
Added Blackmon: "We know that there are going to be a lot of tests week-in and week-out in the ACC. There are no weak teams in this league. We know we'll have to bring our A-game," Blackmon said.
As even expressed in the new ACC logo, BC's location leaves it floating well away from its fellow conference schools and will be the conference's first true northern locale.
"Well, it's Atlantic Coast and we are on the Atlantic Coast, so there you have it," Blackmon quipped.
The Eagles will travel to Florida State, Virginia, Wake Forest and N.C. State -- the BC duo split their answers about venturing to new stadiums and new schools.
Blackmon said that playing at the Orange Bowl in Miami had always been a dream for him and that's something he already has accomplished.
Kiwanuka showed a little more excitement about the new places the Eagles will find themselves in the next few months.
"I always love going to new places to play. I think different and new are always exciting things for players," Kiwanuka said. "I know I'm looking forward to that."
As for what ACC schools can expect when traveling to Boston College's Alumni Stadium? Blackmon says that depends when they come.
"We have great fans there but the weather can always be different. It can be sunny and warm or rainy and windy. Sometimes it can be cold and snowing. You never know," Blackmon said. "You have to bring your shorts and your raincoat because you never know."