Cavalier Corner

April 2021

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cavalier sports 6 CAVALIER CORNER M iami native Mandy Alonso is one of several UVA players taking advantage of the NCAA providing an extra year of eli- gibility due to the pandemic to play another season of college football. As the veteran on Virginia's defensive line, he finds himself in a new role as the team heads into its spring practices in April. Cavalier Corner: Looking back, what was the most difficult aspect of playing football during a pandemic? Alonso: "I would say two things stood out to me. Just wearing a mask [plastic hel- met shield] during fall camp, that wasn't fun. Then having no fans at the games. It's tough to try and get your juices going when there is no one there. "Even when we were on the road, where there are no fans, it's just hard to get it going and get hyped. I even missed when we're driving up to the stadium in our buses and you can see the fans yelling at us along the side of the roads. I miss that. "It got you fired up. When we run out of the tunnel and they're booing us, it kind of puts more fire in me when we're on the road. We got through it, but those are two things I'll always remember." Cavalier Corner: Looking back, do you think you took fans attending games for granted? They were just part of the game- day experience and played their own role in the pageantry of college football. Alonso: "It is easy to say that. When I first got here, our crowds were smaller, and we would have loved to have had all of those people out there last year. I think it makes us all understand how much having the fans at the games means to us. "The crowds that were here four or five years ago, it puts it into perspective how much we should appreciate them coming to the games even when we were not that good. Without the fans last year, you kind of asked yourself, 'Is this really college football?'" Cavalier Corner: Coming back for an extra year, do you see your role changing in terms of being a team leader? Alonso: "This year, since I will be the oldest D-lineman now since [Richard] Bur- ney's gone, I have to take on a much bigger leadership role. Like now, during the winter workouts, I've had to be more vocal when I haven't been vocal in the past because that was not my style. Coach [Bronco] Men- denhall wants me to do that and I feel like I have to because of how much I have played and how many snaps I've taken. I have to be that guy now. "It's definitely outside my comfort zone and I'm learning to adjust. As Coach likes to say, 'You have to be in great enough shape to lead and be vocal at the same time.' Now, I'm trying to get these guys fired up during the workouts. We'll be running and I have to be in good enough shape where I can do my workout and yell at the other guys, too." Cavalier Corner: Why should fans get excited about this team? Alonso: "I think they should get excited because of how many people we have com- ing back from last year. We have a lot of experience both on the offense and the de- fense. You look around and you see a lot of guys who have played in a lot of games just about everywhere. "Also, I think that we're mentally pre- pared if this COVID deal goes on for an- other year. Last year, we were all really caught off guard with it. This year, I feel like we have a better grasp on how the sea- son will go and how we can make it better." Cavalier Corner: The team will play Mi- ami at Hard Rock Stadium for the third con- secutive season in 2021. As a Miami native, are you excited about that? Alonso: "I'm happy to go back to Miami, because it gives me another shot to win there, which is something we haven't done, playing Miami or playing in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock [Stadium]. "We've been close, but we just haven't been able to get it done there yet. I'm defi- nitely excited because I could have my fam- ily there again and playing in the Hard Rock Stadium is fun." — Jim Daves five questions with Fourth-Year Defensive End Mandy Alonso Alonso started nine of UVA's 10 games last year and notched 26 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, six quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA ATHLETICS

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