BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- A bowl game collapse to end last year had already left Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon eager to get another season started.
Then real tragedy struck Virginia Tech on April 16 and it was just a little more personal to Glennon than most. He went to high school with two of the victims of the shooting spree and the shooter.
"I don't know if people are looking at me to ... kind of hold the banner for this whole thing, but I'm intertwined or connected to this whole thing in more ways than one," said Glennon, who did not know victims Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson or shooter Seung-Hui Cho.
All four attended Westfield High School in Chantilly in northern Virginia.
Proximity, though, "definitely makes everything that happened hit real close to home, close to the heart," Glennon said.
Cho killed 32 people and wounded dozens of others before killing himself.
The Hokies open the football season Saturday against East Carolina at Lane Stadium in what is sure to be an emotional event in a community where the pain remains and the beloved Hokies are viewed as a possible -- even if only temporary -- tonic.
"What's going to happen in that stadium is probably something like the stadium hasn't seen before, or many stadiums in the country haven't seen before," Glennon said. "The emotion and the togetherness that the 70,000 people in there are going to feel is probably something that I can't have a benchmark to right now."
For Glennon, the game is his first chance to win over Hokies fans who haven't forgotten his four second-half turnovers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Georgia, when the Hokies rolled to a 21-3 halftime lead before losing 31-24.
The Hokies canceled the final week of spring practice after the shootings, giving Glennon and the rest of the team an opportunity to go home and be with their families.
Heading to Chantilly offered no relief to Glennon.
"I thought I was getting away from the media circus and I come home and there's 10,000 media trucks within a couple miles of my house," he said.
In the months since, Glennon has spent hour upon hour watching film of the bowl game, working with teammates and undoing any damage the game did to his confidence.
Now, he's the undisputed starting quarterback for a team with national championship aspirations, but before tending to those, there's a ceremony he wants to take in.
Before the game, Virginia Tech will observe a moment of silence, release 32 balloons, play a video tribute to the victims, create human tunnels welcoming both teams onto the field simultaneously and have coaches and players meet at midfield.
Then, finally, it will be time for football, for Glennon and the Hokies and everyone in the extended Virginia Tech family to have something to enjoy.
"I think the fans and the whole community are probably looking forward to this game as much as the players are, and that's rare," he said. "The fans always look forward to it, but I think they're itching to get in that stadium as much as we are."