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SEYMOUR RUNS


table of contents 2 Compliance Corner Booster and reporter 4 National Commodore Club Gridiron club/Homecoming 7 More from McGugin By the numbers 8 My Game Cross country runner Alexa Rogers

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10 Jerron Seymour Freshman tailback’s early contribution 13 Josh Henderson Big man may see big minutes

5 Meet the Freshmen 1 Introducing basketball’s newcomers

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10 To submit a letter to Commodore Nation, you can e-mail: commodorenation@vanderbilt.edu or write to Commodore Nation, 2601 Jess Neely Drive, Nashville, TN 37212. Letters should include the writer’s name and address and may be edited for clarity and space.

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17 My Turn Rod Williamson’s monthly column 18 Swimming Team Underwater photography 19 Giving Thanks Student-athletes thank soldiers

21 M.J. Garrett Former ’Dore partners with VU again 23 Baseball Schedule Coach Corbin’s 2012 slate 24 Last Shots Memorial Madness

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COMPLIANCE

COR NER Q: A:

Money Givers is a booster organization for Vanderbilt University. A member of Money Givers also is a sports reporter for a local newspaper. As part of the job, this individual interviews high school (prospects) and college student-athletes. Is it permissible for him to interview a prospective student-athlete that is being recruited by Vanderbilt? Yes. NCAA Staff Interpretation—7/21/93—Booster who works with a media entity having contact with prospective student-athlete states that a media entity (e.g., radio, talk show host, newspaper reporter) who also is a representative of an institution’s athletics interests may have contact with a prospective studentathlete, provided the contact is through a normal working relationship and not for the purpose of recruiting the prospective student-athlete.

Compliance questions? Please contact: Candice Lee George Midgett Director of Compliance Compliance Coordinator 615/322-7992 615/322-2083 candice.lee@vanderbilt.edu george.d.midgett@vanderbilt.edu John Peach Andrew Turner Compliance Coordinator Recruiting/Compliance Coordinator 615/343-1060 615/322-4543 john.w.peach@vanderbilt.edu andrew.turner@vanderbilt.edu

Editorial

Publisher: Vanderbilt University Editor-in-Chief: Chris Weinman

Director of Communications: Rod Williamson Designers: Jeremy Teaford Chris Weinman

Digital Image Specialist: Julie Luckett Turner

VU Photography: Daniel Dubois Steve Green Joe Howell Jenny Mandeville Anne Rayner John Russell Susan Urmy Contributors: Andy Boggs Sterling Frierson Eli Horowitz Larry Leathers George Midgett Kyle Parkinson Ryan Schulz Jennifer Stevens Bill Traughber

Administrative

Chancellor: Nicholas S. Zeppos Vice Chancellor for University Affairs: David Williams II Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs: Beth Fortune

Vanderbilt University’s Mission, Goals and Values Vanderbilt University is a center for scholarly research, informed and creative teaching, and service to the community and society at large. Vanderbilt will uphold the highest standards and be a leader in the quest for new knowledge through scholarship, dissemination of knowledge through teaching and outreach, and creative experimentation of ideas and concepts. In pursuit of these goals, Vanderbilt values most highly intellectual freedom that supports open inquiry, and equality, compassion and excellence in all endeavors. Vanderbilt University is an equal-opportunity, affirmative-action university. ON THE COVER: Freshman running back Jerron Seymour. Photo by John Russell, VU Photography POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to National Commodore Club, 2601 Jess Neely Drive, Nashville, TN 37212. SUBSCRIPTION: To subscribe, contact Chris Weinman by by e-mail at commodorenation@vanderbilt.edu ADVERTISEMENT: To advertise with Commodore Nation, please contact Vanderbilt IMG Sports & Entertainment Properties. Jeff Miller, general manager 615/322-4468; jeff.miller@imgworld.com

Commodore Nation is printed using recycled paper.

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C O M M O D O R E C LU B

COR N E R

PHONE: 615/322-4114 • ONLINE: NationalCommodoreClub.com OLE MISS FOOTBALL GAME – SEPT. 17, 2011

Can I join the NCC Gridiron Club?

NCC 101

NCC Gridiron Club memberships are restricted gifts that go directly to support the needs of the Vanderbilt Football program. Any supporter of Vanderbilt Football can join the NCC Gridiron Club and receive benefits such as Commodore gear and an invitation to a reception with Head Football Coach James Franklin. However, you must still make an unrestricted NCC gift to retain your priority seating and parking benefits. Former football student-athletes that join the NCC Gridiron Club receive special benefits and invitations to players-only events.

NCC members Kurt and Stacey Wilson and family visited their daughter, Sparling (left), during Parents Weekend.

TAILGATE TOUR: COLUMBIA – SEPT. 24, 2011

NCC members Kathy and Jeffrey Hard

To join the NCC Gridiron Club or for more information, visit NationalCommodoreClub.com or call the NCC office at 615/322-4114.

TAILGATE TOUR: TUSCALOOSA – OCT. 8, 2011

NCC members Jeff (’85) and Angelia Melcher with sons Harris and Hamilton

HOMECOMING FOOTBALL GAME VS. ARMY – OCT. 22, 2011

NCC member Milton Francis (football, ’80) with his daughter, Elizabeth

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Football alumni Chester Parker (’67), Steve Smith (’67) and Lane Wolbe (’66)


HOMECOMING FOOTBALL GAME VS. ARMY – OCT. 22, 2011

NCC Executive Director Mark Carter (center) with former VU baseball players Matt Buschmann, Jonathan White, Ryan Flaherty and Pedro Alvarez

NCC members Margot (’79) and Jeff (basketball, ’76) Fosnes

Kay and Jim Cunningham (football, ’71)

NCC members and track-and-field parents Alyssa and Alan Hasty

NCC member and Alumni Board Member Mark Arons (’80) with reunion staff members Addie Sullivan and Kelly Jamerson

NCC member Ricky Anderson (football, ’85) and his wife, Michelle

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More from McGugin

By The

NUMBERS

Cutler, Price host charity events in Tennessee

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first-place votes for the VU bowling team in the National Ten Pin Coaches Association’s first poll of the 2011-12 season, helping the Commodores earn a No. 2 ranking.

7 CHICAGO BEARS

wo former Commodore greats could be found giving back to the Middle Tennessee community last month, and on the same evening. The Jay Cutler Foundation joined the Block Agency to throw the fourth-annual Block and White Party on Thursday, Oct. 27 behind Virago in the Gulch. All of the proceeds of the event went to the Jay Cutler Foundation, which supports children with diabetes. More information is available at JayCutlerSix.com. The event coincided with the Chicago Bears’ bye week. VU’s former quarterback was in Nashville just days after the Bears’ 24-18 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at London’s Wembley Stadium. On the same evening, Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price hosted his annual “Dinner with Dave” at the Boys and Girls Club in his hometown of Murfreesboro. The event, which benefitted Price’s Project One Four, was highlighted by a panel disucssion that included Price, Commodore baseball Coach Tim Corbin and former Vanderbilt All-Americans Sonny Gray

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler

and Pedro Alvarez. The following days, Price’s foundation put on its fourth annual Golf Classic at the Old Fort Golf Club in Murfreesboro.

Texas A&M joins SEC as 13th member

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n Sunday, Sept. 25, Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors, acting unanimously, announced that Texas A&M University would join the SEC effective July 1, 2012, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2012-13 academic year. The addition of Texas A&M increases the SEC’s membership to 13 institutions. It is the first expansion for the SEC since 1991, when the University of South Carolina joined the league one month after the University of Arkansas. Then, the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina made the SEC the first conference to split into divisions and add a conference championship game in 1992.

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“The Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors are pleased to welcome Texas A&M University to the SEC family,” said Dr. Bernie Machen, chair of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors and president of the University of Florida. “The addition of Texas A&M University as the SEC’s 13th member gives our league a prestigious academic institution with a strong athletic tradition and a culture similar to our current institutions.” Texas A&M, located in College Station, also will be the third institution in the SEC to hold membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, joining the University of Florida and Vanderbilt University. Texas A&M has an enrollment of 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with 360,000 former students worldwide. Texas A&M also adds to the athletic excellence of the SEC. Last season, the Aggies won three NCAA team titles (men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, women’s basketball) and finished eighth in the prestigious Learfield Sports Director’s Cup all-sport rankings. “Those of us at Vanderbilt University are happy and excited about Texas A&M coming to the Southeastern Conference,” VU Vice Chancellor David Williams said. “We look forward to many years of competition and friendship with Aggie Nation.”

strokes the Vanderbilt women’s golf team shaved off its all-time, three-round scoring record with its team total of 845 at the 2011 Stanford Intercollegiate.

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states where the SEC Network can be found on Saturdays in the fall, spanning from New York and Miami to Los Angeles and even Spokane, Wash.

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years since the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team was ranked in the nation’s Top 10 in a preseason poll. They enter the 2011-12 season at No. 7, according to both the AP and the coaches.

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net rushing yards for the Vanderbilt football team against Georgia—67 more yards than UGA’s previous four opponents combined.

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points for the women’s cross country team at the 2011 Wisconsin adidas Invitational, good for second place in an impressive field that included 20 nationally ranked teams.

12,647

flu vaccines doled out to Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff during an eighthour period on Wednesday, Oct. 12, dubbed “Flu-a-palooza.” The event broke a Guinress record.

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My Game

Alexa

DANIEL DUBOIS

Rogers

Senior Alexa Rogers (above, running between Jordan White, left, and On her friendship with teammates Louise Hannallah) earned Southeastern Conference Athlete of the Week Jordan White and Louise Hannallah: honors after leading VU to a second-place finish at the Wisconsin adi- “Oh my goodness, I love these girls more than anything. They are das Invitational. Rogers discussed her game with SID Ashley Crosby for my best friends, and we have been best friends since the first day we met each other four years ago. Over Commodore Nation: the past four years we have gone through a lot together—we have leaned on one On getting into running: another and pushed each other all along. “I originally was a soccer player, but once I got We have this unspoken bond on and off to high school they told me I was too small the course—on the course, it’s really to play and that eventually I would get hurt. cool to watch because we make room for So my friend asked me to go to cross country each other and signal each other to follow camp with her, and from then on I just fell in through hand signals. Each of us has a love with the sport. Running has changed my strength, and we all feed off of one another life for the better. It has taught me patience, to make us a force.” discipline, teamwork and dedication.” On what influenced her to come to Vanderbilt: “Honestly, it was everything. I was dead set on staying in Colorado, but when I visited here I fell in love with the coaching staff, the team and the academics.” On this year’s freshmen: “The freshmen are so talented. They are smash- Rogers (top), White and Lena Josifi pile on top of Hannallah during one of the team’s “fun runs” ing all of our times just as freshmen! I can’t wait to see what they evolve into these next couple through Centennial Park adjacent to campus. of years. They are not only talented and dedicated, but they are also very lively and fun.”

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On her inspirations: “On the team my biggest inspiration has been Jordan and Louise. They are both so dedicated to this sport. Jordan has demonstrated strength and courage by quickly overcoming an injury at the beginning of the season. She is fearless. Louise has demonstrated leadership on and off the course and whips me into shape by leading core exercises. Also, Kara Slavoski has been a big inspiration to me because she also overcame an injury from this summer with so much poise, class and


grace. In life, my biggest inspiration is my sister, Natosha Rogers. She is the most balanced person I have ever met. She absolutely loves life. She has taught me to love every step of my life no matter what the situation is.” On being a senior and team leader: “It is so fun to be a senior and see the excitement of the younger girls. I try to lead by example. All of my favorite leaders—like Tim Tebow, Michael Jordan and my sister Natosha—all led by example, so I try to mimic that. It’s all about demonstrating a passion, a will and a drive to overcome obstacles and keep chasing your dreams.” On her breakout season: “I attribute our success this season to two sources. The first one is God—He has helped me so much through injuries and through life in general. If it weren’t for Him, I would be nobody. The other source is the team. Every single girl came into this season with a will to achieve our team goal of making it to Nationals. This mutual goal, will and drive have held me accountable and have pushed me to get through some really tough workouts.” On the “synergy” of this year’s team: “Like I mentioned before—this is the first time our team has all had the same goal of making it to Nationals and the same commitment level to achieve that goal. Since each of us wants it for each other and for ourselves, the team has really pulled together by loving one another, supporting one another and pushing one another. The process of getting to this point has required hard work, but it’s been beautiful.” On who she can count on for a laugh or a push: “The people who can always make me laugh are Kristen Findley and Cat Diethelm because they say what’s on their mind and let loose. Louise and Jordan definitely push me the hardest. They have a way of pulling me when I am weak physically and motivating me when I am down emotionally.” On her favorite class and being a student athlete: “My favorite class is my leadership and development class. I am so intrigued with the many types of leadership styles and love to learn why certain people can lead and what to do to become a better leader. Being a student-athlete here can be hard sometimes, given the school’s workload, but it’s definitely manageable.” On pre-meet superstitions? “I don’t have superstitions, but I do have a pre-meet routine, which is straightening my hair and wearing ribbons.” On the coaches: “Both Coach Keith and Coach Riley are amazing people. They are both so supportive and accommodating. They understand that school plays a huge part in our lives and allow us to take a day off if school is stressing us out too much. They also care about us as people, not just athletes. There have been many times where I have opened up to them about personal things, and they have helped me through them. I love them both very much. Also, our athletic trainer, David Jennings, has been an amazing blessing on this team. He has dedicated so much of his time and effort to making us better. I have chronic lower leg problems, and there were many times where I thought things wouldn’t get better, but he pushed me and found ways to help get through it.” n

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Jerron Seymour

By Chris Weinman

JOHN RUSSELL

Freshman getting reps right away

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ow did the Vanderbilt football staff sign a 4,000-yard rusher from the football-rich Miami, Fla., area in less than two months? They didn’t. The story actually began years three and a half years earlier, when a freshman at Hialeah Senior High School earned a starting spot at tailback after a pair of kickoff return touchdowns in his third varsity game. That was when Wesley McGriff, then an assistant coach for the University of Miami, first took notice of Jerron Seymour. McGriff, brought on to Head Coach James Franklin’s Commodore staff last winter as the defensive backs coach and defensive recruiting coordinator, saw something special in Seymour. “I thought he was the best running back in Dade [County],” McGriff recalled. “What I saw was a kid that loved football, had good explosion and tremendous balance. He had an older brother that was a great running back, so I saw the pedigree there. [Jerron] was so consistent year in and year out. A lot of kids may do it for one year, maybe two years, this kid did it for three and a half years, so I knew he was an SEC football player.” Seymour had been overlooked by many schools, including his hometown Hurricanes, due to his height, or lack thereof. A highlight reel on YouTube of Seymour’s junior season at Hialeah, which included 1,439 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, measures the back at 5’9”. Vanderbilt lists Seymour at 5’7”. The truth may be south of both numbers.

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McGriff—who coached with Franklin at Kansas State in 2007 before spending the last four years at Miami—knew his head coach would have to take a chance on Seymour, but he believed enough in the back’s talent to show the tape to Franklin. “It didn’t take long for Coach Franklin,” McGriff said. “He knows talent. He saw the tape and said, ‘We gotta have this guy. He’s a football player.’” That evaluation by Franklin and McGriff eventually led to an offer, and Seymour announced his intent to sign with Vanderbilt on live television with a number of other top South Florida prospects. Once on campus, it did not take long for Seymour to make his mark on the collegiate field. With junior Warren Norman nursing an injury, Seymour stepped in as the No. 2 tailback from game one against Elon. In the second week, Seymour was the team’s leading rusher in Vanderbilt’s 24-21 win over Connecticut, thanks in large part to his first VU touchdown—a 40-yard, first-quarter scamper. Through the first half of the season, Seymour had run for 180 yards and three scores as a backup to junior starter Zac Stacy. Seymour had not expected to make such an immediate impact. “I’m kind of surprised that I’m in the rotation at second-string running back right now,” Seymour said. “I thought I was going to come here and probably help out in the special teams game and get limited reps, but they needed me to step up and fill that second-string spot.”


“Since he stepped foot on campus, one thing that stood out about him was his football IQ. He’s a very smart football player.” — Junior Zac Stacy

He’s done more than simply fill in, and Coach Franklin bristles at the notion that Seymour’s reps have been used to spell Stacy. Instead, he sees the freshman as a key part of Vanderbilt’s offense and has been pleased with his performance, whether or not Seymour’s number is called for a particular play. “The thing I’ve been most impressed with him, not only has he been effective as a runner, but for a true freshman he’s blocked well,” Franklin said. “He has had very few mental mistakes, as well, so he’s probably way ahead in terms of where most freshman are, especially at that position.” Getting thrown into the fire in your first season of Southeastern Conference football is no easy task, as Stacy and Norman can both attest. In 2009, that duo shared the Commodore backfield as true freshmen. “Any time you come into the SEC and make a huge contribution like he’s doing now, that’s rare as a freshman,” Stacy said. “Since he stepped foot on campus, one thing that stood out about him was his football IQ. He’s a very smart football player. He’s done a great job, and he’s gonna keep building and getting better as a player.” Franklin credits Stacy and Norman with helping Seymour adjust to the college game quickly. “Zac Stacy and Warren Norman are both two really, really mature, class-act, sharp kids,” Franklin said. “They’ve taken him under their wing since he arrived on campus. They’ve done a really good job, those two guys.” Seymour is quick to echo his coach’s sentiments. “I’m like their little brother,” Seymour said. “They help me with everything. Any time I have a miscue in practice, they’re there to correct me, teach me up and make sure I’m doing the right things. On and off the field, I look at them as role models.” The example that Stacy has put in front of Seymour this season has certainly been an inspiring one. The junior rushed for 579 in the Commodores’ first seven games, including a 198-yard, three-touchdown performance against Army. But even with the gaudy stats, Stacy credits the game plan with putting both him and Seymour in the right situations, and he says he would choose the success of the team over individual accomplishments. “[The coaches] do a great job of subbing us in and out, keeping us fresh,” Stacy said. “Whenever Jerron goes in, he does a great job of making plays, as well. If he has five touchdowns and I have zero, as long as we get the ‘W,’ that’s all I’m worried about.” That team-first attitude has pervaded Vanderbilt’s entire roster and is already paying dividends. The Commodores also know that their coach is their biggest champion and has the best interest of the team as a whole in mind. None more so than 19-year-old Seymour. “The difference with Coach Franklin,” Seymour said, “He doesn’t care about the size of the player, just the heart and what you can bring to the team.” To alter a phrase: It’s not the size, or height, of the ’Dore in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the ’Dore. n

JOHN RUSSELL

Tailback Jerron Seymour, a native of Hialeah, Fla., scored three rushing touchdowns in the first half of his true freshman season.

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Josh Henderson: Big shoes to fill

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Henderson has been putting in the work behind the scenes for the Commodores, adding 20 pounds to his 6’11” frame over the past year while increasing all of his lifting numbers in the weight room. Vanderbilt fans have seen firsthand how valuable a redshirt year can be after witnessing the development of Ezeli, who came to Nashville as a raw talent and sat out the 2007-08 season. A native of Nigeria, Ezeli had played very little organized basketball before his arrival on West End. Henderson prepped at Cave Spring, where he owns career records for rebounds and blocks and is the school’s second-leading scorer. Still, the extra year was extremely valuable for him. “I learned a lot,” Henderson said. “I got used to the physicality. I’ve been playing against Fes and Steve every day, and they’re some of the most physical big men in the SEC, so that definitely prepares me for any opponent that we’re going to face.” In his coach’s opinion, Henderson has the “very, very unenviable task” of working against Ezeli every day in practice. “Honest to goodness, that would be the least appealing job in our whole gym,” Stallings said. “I would hate to have to practice against that big joker every day. Josh is never going to be stronger than Fes. Josh has got to come in every day and face the strongest guy, maybe in the league.” So how has Henderson fared against the preseason All-SEC selection? “Josh does a really good job of fighting that every day and fighting Festus,” Stallings said. “Festus usually wins, but there are moments where you see Josh shine. We always say it will be really interesting for us to see Josh play against somebody else. Because it’s hard to really say what Josh can do right now.” n

JOHN RUSSELL

Zac Hardy

he excitement surrounding the Vanderbilt men’s basketball team is at an all-time high. The Commodores were ranked No. 7 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, in part because of returning all five starters from a team that won 23 games a year ago. But not all of the preseason news on West End was positive. In mid-October, the team learned that star center Festus Ezeli would miss the first six games while serving a suspension for receiving impermissible benefits. The 6’11” Ezeli started all 34 games last season, averaging 13.0 points in 23.5 minutes per game. While the Commodores definitely will miss Ezeli’s interior presence during an opening stretch that includes Oregon, North Carolina State and either Texas or Oregon State, replacing his minutes will give other players an opportunity to gain experience before the Commodores’ Southeastern Conference play. With senior Steve Tchiengang already having played in 92 games during his VU career, the player who looks to benefit the most is redshirt freshman Josh Henderson. “Steve’s already proven to us that he can be effective and will be effective,” Head Coach Kevin Stallings said. “In Josh’s case, it might have been a little more ideal to sort of throw him in there slowly and get him confidence, but he’s gonna be thrown in the fire. He’s gonna have to play some minutes.” A native of Roanoke, Va., Henderson knows that his number will be called upon early this season, and he looks forward to continuing to contribute to Vanderbilt’s team success. “It is an opportunity,” Henderson said. “I just want to do everything I can to help the team reach the goals that we’ve set. We definitely can’t wait for Fes to come back, but right now I’m just gonna work to the best I can to help the team.”

At October’s Memorial Madness event, Henderson (40) “couldn’t wait to try to get his game on,” according to Coach Stallings. “We tease sometimes in practice that he takes so many shots he thinks his last name is Jenkins.”

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March 18 and 20, 2012 Memorial Gymnasium Nashville, Tenn.

For tickets, visit vucommodores.com or call 615/322-GOLD

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Meet the Freshmen: Basketball 2011-12

JOHN RUSSELL

• Dai-Jon Parker (left) will serve as junior John Jenkins’ backup at the two-guard position (as will senior Brad Tinsley, who can slide over from the point, if needed). Parker averaged 14 points, six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals in his senior season at Milton High School in Georgia, a team that had three other Division I players in the starting five. His 2010 Milton team captured the Class 5A state championship, and the 2011 team won the regional championship. • Shelby Moats (center) is a native of Waconia, Minn., who has impressed coaches with his shooting ability in early practices. Moats averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds in his senior year at Waconia High School and ended his career with 1,772 points and 985 rebounds. • Kedren Johnson (right) will push sophomore Kyle Fuller for minutes at the point. A native of nearby Lewisburg, Tenn., Johnson averaged 27.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 3.6 steals and 1.5 blocks in his senior season at Marshall County, where he departed as the school’s all-time scoring and assist leader. His Tigers won three district and regional championships and advanced to the Class 2A semifinals when he was a senior in 2011.

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Kristen and her father, Jim, traveled to Europe this summer to climb the Matterhorn, a mountain on the border of Switzerland and Italy.

JOHN RUSSELL

• Maggie Morrison (left) was ranked among the Top 50 best point guards in the class of 2011 by ESPN HoopGurlz. She averaged 15.3 points, 6.1 assists and 3.4 steals in her career at Archbishop Spalding High School, leading the team to the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland championship game as a junior. Balcomb on Schrann: “Maggie is one of those special players who makes everyone around her better. She is highly skilled, has great floor vision and is a confident and vocal leader.” • Kady Schrann (center) was named the Pennsylvania AA Player of the Year after averaging 17.2 points as a senior. She capped her career with 2,161 points and was named first team all-state all four years of high school. Schrann also was a standout in cross country, where she qualified for state three times. Balcomb on Schrann: “Kady has an uncanny ability to make things happen on both ends of the floor. She can impact a game with or without the ball in her hands, and that is a rare skill.” • Nadine Ndip (right) walked on to the team this past summer and will provide depth at point guard. This is her second year on campus, but she has freshman eligibility. Ndip was voted team MVP for her Klein High School squad as a senior in 2010. Balcomb on Ndip: “I love Nadine. She plays defense, she’s scrappy and is a great teammate.”

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It’s My Turn by Rod Williamson

A department on the brink

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s we put our fingers to the keyboard, Vanderbilt Athletics has four teams rated among the nation’s top seven. Women’s golf and men’s basketball are ranked seventh, while women’s cross country is third and our bowlers—fresh off a national runner-up finish—are rated second. Rankings for baseball have not been announced, but the Commodore’s freshman class has been rated No. 1 nationally by Baseball America. That equals the ranking of the men’s tennis freshman class. We have not mentioned at least two of our most perennially successful programs—women’s tennis and women’s basketball, both of whom have made over a dozen appearances in the NCAA Sweet 16. Our football program has a strong pulse. Please pause and ponder this scenario. We are on the brink of greatness. For those not paying attention, that sounds like the punchline to a joke. Greatness? Vanderbilt Commodores? Please! We might debate the definition of greatness, but how would you define these ratings? We could agree on “pretty darn good” if you like, that’s not the point. For those of us following this department for decades, times are exciting! It wasn’t always this way. What has made the difference, and have we “arrived?” The difference isn’t the sacrificing of academic standards; we’re setting new high-water marks every year. It isn’t about fudging on the rule book; we will always believe that no trophy is worth walking on the shady side of sportsmanship. It isn’t about becoming stingy with community service; Commodores continue to invest considerable time to make our community better. If experts were searching for a “smoking gun” to determine why Vanderbilt Athletics has gained such momentum, they would come up empty. There is no one coach, no single formula and no solitary lucky break. Instead, it has been a team effort with a lot of hard work and the ability to harness the various resources at the department’s disposal. Resources. That is a vital word. Resources are the lifeblood of success in any endeavor. We have natural resources in a great academic institution, the South’s most exciting city and membership in the Southeastern Conference. Those are the pluses. We also are on the brink of coming up just a bit short. While we have these rock-solid resources, we also have the smallest athletic budget in the SEC and, in some cases, our athletic facilities are in need of improvement. That’s a fact. The truth of the matter is that almost none of our 325 studentathletes chose Vanderbilt for its attractive facilities. They chose to become Commodores for the right reasons, but we are not the only school trying to do things the “right” way. Some wonder how Stanford got its football program in high gear. Having a super coach and a Heisman Trophy candidate are part of the answer but building a $200 million stadium and endowing all its scholarships didn’t hurt, either. Most of you readers understand that the old “pot of gold buried on campus” is a myth. The big endowment is earmarked at the time of gift and can’t simply be applied here and there. So progress in Commodore Nation is a team effort, and the team involves each and every one of us. This year, and years to follow, will be fascinating. We have more elite student-athletes, a stable coaching staff of winners and we’ve raised the bar on what is possible. Will we pull together and continue our amazing progress? Or is this the peak from which we could slip? We are a department on the brink. n

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JOE HOWELL

In preparation for the 2011-12 season, the Vanderbilt swim team held a photo shoot last month which included a number of underwater shots by Vanderbilt’s Joe Howell. Mark your calendar for Jan. 21, 2012, when the swim team will host its final home meet of the season at Centennial SportsPlex.

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JOHN RUSSELL

# Thankful

W

hen a nationally syndicated radio show came up with an outstanding way to recognize those who faithfully serve our country overseas, Vanderbilt’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee had to get involved. “The Bert Show” set a goal of collecting 400,000 handwritten letters by the end of October to send to our troops in hopes that every soldier would receive a letter of gratitude on Thanksgiving. Locally in Nashville, the effort was championed by i106 WNFM. Vanderbilt academic counselor Katie Feyes brought the idea to the SAAC Board, who encouraged all varsity athletic teams to participate. CHAMPS/Life Skills Coordinator Alison Wenzel collected and delivered more than 200 letters to the project. A sample letter, written by defensive lineman Rob Lohr, is below:

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C O M M O D O R E N AT I O N

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NOVEMBER 2011

Bill Traughber’s new book is available at historypress.net, amazon.com and Nashville-area bookstores.


Neil Brake

Ain’t Life Grand

A

s a true freshman wide receiver in September of 1999, Old Hickory native M.J. Garrett barely saw the field in his first collegiate game, save for a few assignments on special teams. The next week was not shaping up to be any different. Garrett was watching much of the game from the sideline as Northern Illinois built a 28-3 lead over the Commodores in the opening minutes of the second half. Just as Vanderbilt seemed to be gaining momentum—scoring back-to-back touchdowns at the end of the third quarter to get within 28-17 of the Huskies—the ’Dores’ No. 1 receiver, Tavarus Hogans, was forced to come out of the game with a leg injury. Garrett was sent out for his first duty at wideout, his head spinning. “I barely even know what I’m doing,” Garrett remembers. “My heart’s beating out of my chest. I had to run a slant route, a 5-yard in. I’m just trying to get off the line of scrimmage—my body’s flying everywhere—and I come out of my break and [quarterback Greg] Zolman put one right on me.” Seconds later, Garrett’s first touch became a 61-yard TD reception, part of the largest comeback in Vanderbilt history. “All I was thinking was, ‘Man, this is easy,’” Garrett said. “Then I didn’t have another catch the entire year.” There would be more catches—58 more, to be exact—in Garrett’s collegiate career. But when the fifth-generation Nashvillian realized he would not have an opportunity to catch on with an NFL team, he found himself

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at an early crossroad in his life. After working with local nonprofit Backfield in Motion for six months, Garrett decided to move to California and stay with a friend who had a small role on a soap opera. Convincing his parents to fund the move was “the first deal I ever closed.” After being in California for only a few months, a chance meeting with an executive from MTV led to a role on the hit show, “The Real World”—the 15th season of which was filmed in Philadelphia. The instant namerecognition generated by that iconic show propelled Garrett onto the speaking circuit, where he had the opportunity to reach out to college students around the country. Through all of his travelling and that “15 minutes of fame,” Garrett was rooted in his hometown. He was working a sales job in Nashville when Carl Haley approached him about a new opportunity. Haley was starting a corporate, special occasion and customized ground transportation company and wanted Garrett to head the sales department. The deal included a principal stake in the business. As the vice president of sales, Garrett has helped Grand Avenue, which has grown to be Nashville’s largest transportation company, form partnerships with the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena, as well as Vanderbilt University, VU Medical Center and, most recently, the Department of Student Athletics. Garrett, 31, has relished the chance to partner with his alma mater.

Anne Rayner

M.J. Garrett, former Commodore receiver, still at home in Nashville

As a junior in 2001, M.J. Garrett posted career highs with eight catches for 219 yards (and one touchdown) against MTSU. That performance still ranks as fourth all-time at Vanderbilt for singlegame receiving yards. Ten years later, Garrett has partnered with Vanderbilt Athletics through his company, Grand Avenue.

“Even though I’m no longer playing, I still feel connected to it,” Garrett said. “Like I’m giving back to Vanderbilt through our company by providing a great service.” He and wife, Amanda, reside in Franklin with their two daughters, Bella (4) and Liv (1). “I’m very excited about the direction of the football program and all of athletics. It’s been really terrific for me to bring my oldest daughter to games. Nashville is where I will be for the rest of my life. My dream is to have my daughters attend Vanderbilt, as well.” n

C O M M O D O R E N AT I O N

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NOVEMBER 2011


2012 Vanderbilt BASEBALL SCHEDULE February 17 (Fri.)

April at Stanford

Palo Alto, Calif.

TBA

01 (Sun.)

South Carolina *

Nashville

1 p.m.

Nashville

TBA

18 (Sat.)

at Stanford

Palo Alto, Calif.

TBA

03 (Tues.)

Tennessee-Martin

19 (Sun.)

at Stanford

Palo Alto, Calif.

TBA

06 (Fri.)

at Mississippi State * Starkville, Miss.

TBA

22 (Wed.)

Oakland

Nashville

TBA

07 (Sat.)

at Mississippi State * Starkville, Miss.

TBA

24 (Fri.)

Oregon

Nashville

4 p.m.

08 (Sun.)

at Mississippi State * Starkville, Miss.

TBA

25 (Sat.)

Oregon

Nashville

2 p.m.

11 (Wed.)

Belmont

Nashville

6 p.m.

26 (Sun.)

Oregon

Nashville

1 p.m.

13 (Fri.)

Auburn *

Nashville

6 p.m.

29 (Wed.)

Louisiana Tech

Nashville

TBA

14 (Sat.)

Auburn *

Nashville

2 p.m.

15 (Sun.)

Auburn *

Nashville

1 p.m.

17 (Tues.)

MTSU

Nashville

6 p.m.

20 (Fri.)

at Alabama *

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TBA

21 (Sat.)

at Alabama *

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TBA

22 (Sun.)

at Alabama *

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TBA

25 (Wed.)

at MTSU

Murfreesboro

27 (Fri.)

Kentucky *

Nashville

6 p.m.

28 (Sat.)

Kentucky *

Nashville

2 p.m.

29 (Sun.)

Kentucky *

Nashville

1 p.m.

March 02 (Fri.)

Rhode Island

Nashville

4 p.m.

03 (Sat.)

Rhode Island

Nashville

2 p.m.

04 (Sun.)

Rhode Island

Nashville

1 p.m.

06 (Tues.)

at Belmont

Nashville

TBA

09 (Fri.)

San Diego

Nashville

4 p.m.

10 (Sat.)

San Diego

Nashville

2 p.m.

11 (Sun.)

San Diego

Nashville

1 p.m.

13 (Tues.)

Siena

Nashville

TBA

14 (Wed.)

Siena

Nashville

TBA

May

TBA

16 (Fri.)

at Florida *

Gainesville, Fla.

TBA

04 (Fri.)

at Tennessee *

Knoxville

TBA

17 (Sat.)

at Florida *

Gainesville, Fla.

TBA

05 (Sat.)

at Tennessee *

Knoxville

TBA

18 (Sun.)

at Florida *

Gainesville, Fla.

TBA

06 (Sun.)

at Tennessee *

Knoxville

TBA

20 (Tues.)

Evansville

Nashville

4 p.m.

08 (Tues.)

vs. Louisville

Nashville

6 p.m.

23 (Fri.)

Georgia *

Nashville

6 p.m.

11 (Fri.)

at LSU *

Baton Rouge, La.

TBA

24 (Sat.)

Georgia *

Nashville

2 p.m.

12 (Sat.)

at LSU *

Baton Rouge, La.

TBA

25 (Sun.)

Georgia *

Nashville

1 p.m.

13 (Sun.)

at LSU *

Baton Rouge, La.

27 (Tues.)

Tennessee Tech

Nashville

TBA

TBA

17 (Thurs.) vs. Ole Miss *

Nashville

6 p.m.

30 (Fri.)

South Carolina *

Nashville

6 p.m.

18 (Fri.)

vs. Ole Miss *

Nashville

6 p.m.

31 (Sat.)

South Carolina *

Nashville

2 p.m.

19 (Sat.)

vs. Ole Miss *

Nashville

1 p.m.

VUCOMMODORES.COM

All game times are central (CT) and subject to change Home games played at Charles Hawkins Field * denotes Southeastern Conference game

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP May 23-27 at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.

NCAA REGIONAL June 1-4 at 16 campus sites

NCAA SUPER REGIONAL June 8-11 at eight campus sites

STEVE GREEN

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES June 15-26 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. After losing 11 players to the MLB Draft this summer, Vanderbilt will look for new faces to step up next season. Junior Sam Selman pitched five innings of two-hit ball against Cal State Fullerton in October.

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C O M M O D O R E N AT I O N

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ZAC HARDY / VU PHOTOGRAPHY

F

last shots

or the first time since 2005, Vanderbilt held an open preseason exhibition on the first day of college basketball practice. Dubbed “Memorial Madness,” the Oct. 14 event hosted more than 3,000 excited Commodore fans. Highlights of the evening included the slam dunk competition, won by freshman Dai-Jon Parker (right), and a half-court, behind-the-back shot that Head Coach Kevin Stallings sank on his first attempt (below, players’ reactions to the shot). Head Coach Melanie Balcomb’s women’s team also took part in the event, with sophomore Christina Foggie pairing up with senior Steve Tchiengang to win a three-point shooting contest.

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NOVEMBER 2011


Commodore Nation, November 2011  

http://vucommodores.com/nation The November 2011 issue of the Commodore Nation magazine, the official publication of Vanderbilt Student Athl...

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