From the gridiron to the racetrack, Caleb Hurd went from playing for the Virginia Tech Hokies to working in the world of NASCAR.
Hurd was interested in sports at an early age. According to his father, Roger, Caleb started off playing tee-ball at the age of five.
According to Hurd, baseball was the sport that he played during his days at Pulaski County High School where he graduated in 1996.
The interest in sports would evolve into him becoming interested in more athletics, eventually going into football. This could be attributed to him being the second cousin of former Virginia Tech kicker, Shayne Graham.
When the Hokies pursued Graham, this led to Hurd becoming part of the deal. Hurd was already planning on going to Tech to major in mechanical engineering.
Both Hurd and Graham would play together for the Hokies, with Hurd being Graham’s placeholder. Hurd said playing with his cousin made things easier.
“It added a bit of comfort and familiarity, playing with someone that I already knew, especially family,” said Hurd.
Together, the two played under College Football Hall of Fame head coach, Frank Beamer. According to Hurd, the culture around the Hokies was ideal for him.
“At first, it was scary and intimidating,” Hurd said. “I was very fortunate to land in the situation I did, for the purpose of being a placeholder. It was a very family friendly atmosphere, everyone felt included. There was no resentment towards anyone.”
According to Hurd, the seniors on the team helped give him confidence and motivation. This helped him when it came to doing his job. He said that there was a strong bond, and he immediately felt like he was part of the family. He was treated no differently from anyone else during practice.
When asked about a favorite memory of his during his time at Tech, Hurd seemed to be fond of the 1999 season, specifically mentioning the time they beat West Virginia, 22-20, and the National Championship game against Florida State, which they lost 46-29.
He said he was also fortunate enough to play in several different places, such as the old Orange Bowl and the Carrier Dome.
When asked about the West Virginia game, he said that he kept thinking in the back of his mind that he couldn’t mess up.
“I just remember in the back of my mind, that if I drop this, I can’t leave here. I can never go back home. If people didn’t know who I was after this, then I did my job right,” said Hurd.
Hurd would eventually go on to graduate from Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering, which Caleb says is his biggest accomplishment.
Eventually, Hurd would go into the world of NASCAR, receiving an internship with Hendrick Motorsports after meeting up with Tech graduate, Brian Whitesell.
Hurd said his reason for going into NASCAR was because of fond memories of when he was younger. His father was a fan, and they would go watch racing together.
After graduating from Tech, Caleb received a fulltime position in a general engineering role for the Jeff Gordon racing team.
Hurd said there are a few similarities between working for a pit crew and being on The Hokies.
“There are a few similarities. There are big crowds, there’s a national audience. I guess I would say that my time at Tech helped me get less nervous around big crowds,” said Hurd.
According to Hurd, working in a pit crew is a lot less nerve racking than holding a football.
“There’s more of a spotlight on you when you’re holding a football, but if you mess up while you’re part of a pit crew, nobody is going to know who you are,” joked Hurd.
In order to keep himself from messing up, Hurd said he would just run what he needed to do in his head. He didn’t want to be the guy who messed things up, so he just rolled with the flow and didn’t over complicate things.
He would spend his last three years with Hendrick working on the pit crew for Dale Earnhardt Jr., before eventually moving to Joe Gibbs Racing where he continues to work today.
Up until last year he was the gas man for Denny Hamlin. Now he works as the video coordinator for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hurd said he prefers his new job to being a part of the action. Now he doesn’t have to travel around as much, and he gets to spend more time with his wife and kids.
Hurd and his wife, Courtney Peek Hurd, have two daughters – Elizabeth “Ellie” Sutton Hurd, 7 and Kathryn “Kate” Hurd, 3. They live in Huntersville, N.C.
By LUCAS GOAD, The Patriot
Top Photo: Caleb visits with his former head coach, Frank Beamer.