University of Virginia
Defensive Back, 1995-98
From the moment Anthony Poindexter stepped onto the field at Virginia as a redshirt freshman, he made an impact, and the hits kept getting harder and harder. By the end of his junior season, he had found national acclaim as a First Team All-American. He opted against the NFL Draft, returning for his senior season, a decision that would make him just the second two-time First Team All-American in UVA history and now the school’s fifth inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame.
“It means the world to me to go in the Hall, representing a lot of people not just myself with this honor, including my teammates, my family, my coaches at UVA, my high school and little league coaches,” said Poindexter. “I know my name is on the award, but I have been propped up by a lot of people in so many ways. I could not even begin to tell you, starting with my mom Lois and dad John who sacrificed so much.”
A star football player at Jefferson Forest High School a little more than an hour outside Charlottesville, Poindexter chose Virginia so his parents could watch him play on Saturdays. He found a set of coaches who let him flourish, including Danny Wilmer, who recruited him, Defensive Back coach Art Markos, Defensive Coordinator Rick Lantz, and of course his Hall of Fame head Coach George Welsh.
“Once they saw who I was as a player, they let me be me. They let my talents flow and they never put me in a box.”
Poindexter recalled telling Coach Welsh that he planned to return for his senior season and play for him instead of entering the NFL Draft. Welsh tried to dissuade him, encouraging him to do what was right for his family.
“That moment was big for me. He really cared for me and my family,” said Poindexter. “But I was having a great time in college. I really felt a part of it, and I really just wanted to go back and be with my teammates. My experience at UVA was so great that I wanted one more year of it.”
The team went 9-3 his final year, but on the penultimate game of the regular season, Poindexter suffered a career altering knee injury against NC State that would shorten his pro career. The upside: it led him to coaching, including stops back in Charlottesville, UConn, Purdue and his new position as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Penn State.
“I can touch more people by the way I handled the injury,” said Poindexter. “I don’t regret going back to school. It led me into coaching, and I am the poster child for telling kids to get their degree because injuries can happen. I tell [my players] if I didn’t get my degree, I would not be able to be here today coaching you.”
Poindexter cites numerous fond UVA memories, including his famous goal-line tackle of Warrick Dunn as a redshirt freshman in the final seconds of the game to hand Florida State its first ever loss as a member of the ACC and a 15-plus tackle game on the road against Clemson the same year. However, he most cherishes his teammates twice electing him a captain.
Former UVA quarterback Aaron Brooks, Poindexter’s roommate in college, recalled being down 26-3 on the road against in-state rival Virginia Tech at halftime in 1998. Poindexter’s injury kept him out of the game, and the team was struggling on both sides of the ball.
“At halftime, Dex came in the locker room and threw his crutches down, saying a few choice words, speaking clearly and violently about what we needed to do,” said Brooks. “He motivated us all. Because of that we came back and won that football game, which remains one of the largest comeback games in Virginia history…He was a leader on and off the field. As we would walk through campus, you could feel the leadership qualities that he had in him.”
ANTHONY POINDEXTER: UP CLOSE
- Named a First Team All-American in 1997 and 1998 (consensus) and one of only three Cavaliers to be a three-time First Team All-ACC selection.
- Named the 1998 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for both the Thorpe and Nagurski awards.
- Owns the school record with seven career fumble recoveries while his 342 career tackles are the second most all-time among Cavalier defensive backs.
- Played for College Football Hall of Fame coach George Welsh.
- Becomes the fifth Virginia player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.