Vanderbilt Athletics



OCTOBER - DECEMBER 2007 ARCHIVE

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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19- 3:06 PM



John Russell, one of our sports photographers at Vanderbilt, served as an Associated Press photographer for the NAIA Football Championship between the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) and Carroll College (Mont.) last Saturday in Savannah, Tenn. Little did he know that this event would produce something special for him: a cover photo for Sports Illustrated (as shown to the right).

I talked with him earlier today to get the story on how it all went down. I mean, it's not every day you talk to someone with a SI cover listed in their credentials. John told me that he's had photos in SI before of the Predators and Titans on inside pages, but nothing as big as this.

Plus, I think the photo is amazing because it says so many things about the passion and glory of collegiate sports. I'm glad that SI went with a "feel good" picture on the cover, instead of something negative about the Mitchell report.

By the way, the magazine hits newsstands today, so pick one up. It's their annual copy of "Pictures of the Year." I hope you enjoy the interview.


John, how did you get the assignment to shoot the NAIA Championship? "Mark Humphrey called me a week ago and asked if I would cover the game for the Associated Press because he was putting on a Christmas party. I said, `sure.' I drove 2 ½ hours from Nashville to Savannah in the pouring rain. That's how I came to get the assignment, so Mark could have his Christmas party."

Once you made it to the game, how did you deal with the adverse weather conditions? "You have to be a little more careful shooting in the rain. I had rain gear on myself and my equipment. It won't work if it gets very wet. The main challenge is trying to keep the front of the lens dry even though I had a lens hood on. The blowing rain can get in there, so I'm constantly making sure that I'm keeping it tilted away out of the wind and drying it whenever needed so that pictures stay sharp. If it gets a little wet on there, then things get a little soft."

Now, your cover picture was taken while Carroll College was celebrating their championship. Describe how you got that shot. "It was right after the game, which Carroll College won 17-9. The game had been over for a couple of minutes. I was on the sideline photographing the coach. He was being congratulated by the players, and they were dumping the coolers over him. I turned around to see what else was going on and saw the players taking head first dives onto the field into the mud. I walked out there and started shooting photos of the guys taking slides, and then I noticed that this one guy, who turned out to be Carroll College's Brandon Day, take a slide. I snapped a frame of him then he came up on his knees and leaned back. I snapped that shot. I was then out of memory space on my card because I had been shooting all of the other celebrations and hadn't paid attention to the amount of file space on my card. I franticly was trying to delete other images to make space for more jubilation shots. Ten or 15 seconds of deleting and the moment was over, but fortunately, I was able to get that one shot."

Was there a fear you would accidentally delete that shot during that process of clearing out space? "I was very careful. That probably caused me to delay deleting another 10 or 15 seconds because I wanted to make sure I went forward and didn't erase any of the celebration shots. I scrolled through the card before I started popping off the photos. I probably deleted 10 frames pretty quickly, but I was very careful.

Did you know at the time you had taken a special photo? "Yeah. After my last frame, I viewed the photos and said to myself `wow.' I knew I had the shot. I knew I had a pretty good moment there."

Did you bring a couple of cameras with you, and if so, what did you use for the shot? "Yeah. I always have at least 2 bodies with me. For that setting, I used a Canon 1D MarkIII camera with 24-70mm canon lens."

Okay, so what happened when you submitted the photo to the AP? "The first I knew it was a picture they liked was when I called the New York AP office after the game to confirm they received the photos and caption information. When I called in, one of the editors I spoke with said, `everything looks good. Your picture went to AP Top Pics.' That's where editors pull photos and put them in a special category that goes everywhere. That's when I knew it was going to be seen more than my other pictures. It was going to be put in a slideshow of best images of the day from the AP."

Is it rare for that to happen? "Kind of. It's not that rare that I get it, and I'm not saying that because I shoot great pictures all the time because that's certainly not true, but they'll put stuff on there fairly regularly. If I shoot at a Titans game, they may put my photo in AP Top Pics, but it doesn't happen all the time."

How did you find out that SI was considering using your image? "I first got a call from the Associated Press. They said SI was interested in the celebration shot at the end of the game and wanted to get the original file, uncropped and untoned. After I sent it in, I received a call from Jim (Colton) at SI who said, `yeah we're considering this for the cover, but if we don't use it for the cover, we're going to use it as a double truck (shot) inside. I was excited that it was going to be used for at least a double truck. When he said they were considering it for the cover, I thought to myself, `yeah right.' I thought he was just being nice and trying to get me excited, which I was. Either way, I didn't want to get my hopes up for the cover."

When did you officially find out how the photo was going to be used? "At 11 a.m. Monday morning, Jim said they were closing on the magazine today. I will let you know if you make the cover. I went home at 5 or 5:30 that evening and hadn't heard anything and figured it wasn't used."

Did you say anything to anyone about the possibility of your photo being on the cover of SI? "No. I don't think I said anything to anyone at that point. I didn't hear anything or even tell my wife when I got home SI was interested in the picture. I thought they closed the magazine by now. I checked my email every hour but got nothing in the inbox. At about 7:30 or 8, I had pretty much given up hope, but around 9, I got a call from a writer from SI.com who said the photo was going to be on the cover of SI. He wanted my thoughts on the taking of the photo and of it being on the cover. I said, `oh wow because Jim never emailed me to tell me I was on the cover.' He said if this was the Kentucky Derby, I'd be on the back stretch with an eight-length lead. It was not until about 11:00 when I checked my email again and Jim emailed me the actual cover."

When you saw the cover, how did you feel? "Even now, I hadn't seen a hard copy yet, but it was kind of bizarre to see that on the cover."

What's the title of the issue? "'2007 Pictures of the Year' is the issue. I was reading a story by the Helena Independent Review that did a story on it too. It said the editors at SI were torn considering my photo and a photo of the Mitchell Report. They decided to go with one with sports at its best. They went with the Mitchell Report at the top of the page as a headline over."

Why do you think they chose your photo over a photo from the Mitchell Report? "The quote from the SI editor that made me feel vindicated was, `it was the best photo I had that captured the feeling and spirit of football in the United States.' That's his direct quote out of the story. It was pretty cool he said that about my picture."

What are your thoughts about the athlete in the photo? "I'm just happy for this kid who's in the photo. It is something he'll remember for the rest of his life, as will I, but certainly for him in a different respect. A childhood dream of making the cover."

Has anyone else congratulated you on the accomplishment? "A good friend of mine used to be a SI photographer back in the `80s. He was their baseball photographer. I called him yesterday to tell him I made the cover, and he said, `that's great Johnny.' I said, `so, how many covers have you had'? He said, `I think about 80 or 90, but you don't get cover (caliber) shots unless you get cover (caliber) assignments from SI. You getting on the cover is a pretty big deal since you don't work for SI. SI rarely uses cover shots from someone other than staff.' He was very complimentary."

Did you camp out to get the first edition of the issue today? "No, but I will definitely be picking up a copy of SI today. I have a subscription to SI, and I should get that copy in the mail at least tomorrow, but I would kind of like to get a copy that doesn't have the address box in the bottom corner."

What will you do with the cover? "They're supposed to send me a PDF file where I can make larger prints of the cover. I'll probably have a copy framed to put in my house. I may even have one framed for the office. It's pretty special to me."



TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18- 12:36 PM



I thought I would drop this quick note today about some of our former student-athletes that are currently playing professional basketball in Germany. There may be a few guys that I accidentally left out... these sites aren't very easy to navigate (as you'll find out). I separated some of the links to make it easier. The picture above is of Dan Cage's team, TBB Trier. You'll notice he's still sporting the ol' number 20.

Thanks to John for sending me this info. If any of you guys playing in Europe see this, feel free to drop me an email update so I can let Commodore fans know how you're doing over there. Best of luck!

DERRICK BYARS
Team: Köln 99ers | Roster | Stats | Schedule/Results (find team and click on Spielpläne)

DAN CAGE
Team: TBB Trier | Roster | Stats | Schedule/Results (find team and click on Spielpläne)

MATT FREIJE
Team: Artland Dragons Quakenbrueck | Roster | Stats | Schedule/Results (find team and click on Spielpläne)

And since we're talking about Germany... what better time than to post a great video from "the Hoff."

I always chuckle about when Norm MacDonald was the anchor on Saturday Night Live and he'd deliver the following line with a dry sense of humor after a random news story... "Which once again proves my theory: Germans love David Hasselhoff!" This video must prove it!

Oh, and sorry, this had to be done. Please note that this video is way ahead of our time, sort of like Marty McFly playing "Johnny B. Goode" at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in Back to the Future. "Your kids are gonna love this!"





FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14- 11:52 AM



Just because a sport is in the offseason doesn't mean it's the offseason.

The Omaha Challenge is a prime example.

The Omaha Challenge (TOC) was started by head strength coach John Sisk in 1997 when he worked with baseball coach Tim Corbin at Clemson. In its tenth year of existence, TOC has spread to other universities around the nation, making it the benchmark of offseason skills competitions.

What is TOC? Well, to give you a quick synopsis, at the end of fall practice and workouts, the baseball team competes in four days of rigorous activities to test the physical abilities of every player on the roster.

Here are some bullet points about TOC, which took place last week:

  • It's comprised of seven speed, strength and skills competitions over a four-day period.


  • Players are split into four teams and rosters are picked by seniors via a draft (position-by-position draft to keep teams balanced).


  • For each event, the top six in each group score points for their team.


  • Events include a tire flip, the prowler push, the two-minute drill, and so on. It's tough to explain these unless you actually see them. Let's just say they're not easy.


  • The final competition every year is the obstacle course, which combines the previous activities into one grueling event to separate the best from the rest. This usually takes a player anywhere from two to four minutes to complete, and by the end of it, there are few still standing (to be honest, I don't know how they do it). Check out my pictures below from the obstacle course to get an idea of what it was like.


  • After TOC concludes, a team champion is selected based on the points earned over the four days, as well as an individual champion among both the pitchers and the fielders. This year's individual winners are ... (drum roll, please) ... Mark Lamm and Jonathan White.

    OBSTACLE COURSE PICTURES

    And like I said before, it is unbelievable how well conditioned our guys are to compete in this sort of event. Hats off to John Sisk and Gabe Teeple from our strength and conditioning program for staging the Omaha Challenge.

    Have a great weekend!



    WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5- 10:55 AM



    In only his first season, point guard Keegan Bell is one of several Commodore freshmen to provide solid minutes off the bench to help lead Vanderbilt to a 7-0 start heading into tonight's tilt with Wake Forest. Already known for his flashy passing and ability to run the point (note his 18 assists to only 8 turnovers so far), Bell was able to score the first points of his career in Saturday's 92-79 victory over Georgia Tech. I spoke with him before practice on Monday to ask him about several topics including how it felt to knock down that first basket.



    How did it feel to make your first collegiate basket Saturday against Georgia Tech? "I was definitely relieved. I remember hitting the first shot and feeling relaxed. I've been trying not to worry about it and just take what's coming to me. It was the right time for me, and I felt good."

    After making your first shot, did you feel more comfortable shooting? "Definitely. I talked with Coach (Stallings) before the game and he said I needed to look more to score. I thought before the game I was going to be more aggressive. Once the first shot went in, I felt more confident taking more shots."

    How did your teammates react after you made your first shot? "After I made the first bucket, they were definitely going crazy. When I went back to the bench, everyone was supportive of me. I hit two shots, missed a third, then when I took the ball out a few plays later, Ross (Neltner) said to me, `Was that a heat check"? I responded, "Definitely.' I was feeling it."

    Your assist to turnover ratio is very impressive for a freshman. How do you feel about your performance so far? "My role with the team is to get the ball to lots of guys that score. It's so easy to pass to Shan (Foster) or A.J. (Ogilvy) and get quick assists. They've made it very easy for me. I've just tried to play solid and not turn the ball over because Coach (Stallings) doesn't like to see turnovers."

    A lot of your great passes have set up easy scores for teammates. Does your skill come from natural ability or extra practice? "It's just kind of natural. I've always been kind of a flashy player. I played for my dad and we worked on passing a lot, especially when I was younger. He had confidence in me and wanted me to play like that. I'm not out there trying to get `oohs' and `awes', but I guess when I do it, it looks a little flashy. It's not meant to be, but I guess it's just natural."

    Talk about playing point guard as a true freshman. Did you expect to have so much early success and play so much early in the season? "I think everyone wants to play right away and do his part. It's been more than I've expected and it's been great. One of my big credits goes to Alex (Gordon). He pushed me very much through the summer. He made the success I'm having right now so much easier, especially on the defensive end. Guarding him every day has made me a better player."

    How have the seniors with their experience helped developed the young guys? "The seniors have been absolutely wonderful. They each bring different aspects of leadership. Ross (Neltner) is kind of the dad figure to us. Alex (Gordon) gives us a lot of energy. Because Alex and I both play the same position, he's been a great influence on me. He kicks my butt every day and has taught me to fight hard every play."

    Has there been a forgettable freshman moment yet this year for you, whether it was on or off the court? "I definitely had a few of those moments during the first few practices. I made a few dumb plays and felt like I was playing awful, but now, I'm starting to get more comfortable with the team and finding my role."

    Talk about having the men's basketball team ranked in the top 25 for the first time this season and getting some national respect. "I think it feels great and it's only my freshman season. We didn't get that much respect coming into the season, and I think we liked that because we had to earn the respect. We played some solid teams so far and had some good outcomes. I think it means a lot more to us now. We have to keep working hard and not let the attention get to our heads."

    Well, hope you enjoyed the interview. I know I've been slacking with the blog lately, but will work on updating it more often now that football has concluded.

    In prior entries, I've posted some of my favorite "awful" videos from back in time. Well, today is no different.

    I'm going to somehow tie this video in with today's interview. Since we're talking about point guard play... and well, they're judged at times by their ability to set up their teammates for easy scores.... I am going to use the words of the great Kenny Loggins and say that it takes two to make an assist happen (not just the flashy pass, but having someone with the ability to finish).

    So, meet me halfway (okay, this is a big stretch, I know).

    By the way, since it was the title song for Sly Stallone's Over the Top, Loggins mixed in clips from the movie to make this video an instant classic. And my buddy Tommy sent me a link so I could find out what the kid from that movie (David Mendenhall, better known as Michael Cutler on the big screen) is up to these days... because we really need to know these things. Click here to see his bio. Let's just say that he's probably made the right career move.






    TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4- 12:45 PM



    One of the reasons for the men's basketball team's jump into the national rankings has been the play of senior center Alan Metcalfe.

    Metcalfe is off to a tremendous start, registering career-high point performances in his last two outings (14 vs. South Alabama and 15 vs. Georgia Tech) to push the Commodores to a 7-0 record heading into Wednesday's game with ACC power Wake Forest. In fact, he's already matched his career high for field goals made in a season (set last year with 19) and we're only seven games into the schedule.

    I had a chance to talk with Alan at Monday's practice to find out more about his early season success.




    You've been on a roll to start the season, including scoring career highs in points in the last two contests.
    I just keep trying to go out and not really think about points but really just try to play as hard as I can and get scrappy buckets under the hoop. If I can keep racking them up like I am right now then I don't think we'll be running out of points. We'll try to play the best we can as a team and I'll just do what I can to help out.

    You have to be satisfied with the way your senior season has started. Definitely. I've had some ups and downs in my career and it's just awesome to be able to come out and put a few numbers up and contribute to the team.

    Even after your big game in the win over Georgia Tech, word is that you were more concerned about going 5-for-8 from the free throw line. Yeah, I'm always focused on doing the things I need to do to get better. After the game, Coach Stallings reminded me that I'm not a 60 percent free throw shooter, which I think I was on Saturday after I missed a few that I normally make. There are always places you can improve as a player. I'll be back in practice this week trying to make that right. I just try to come out here everyday to get better with the rest of the guys.

    Does something stand out to you that you can attribute your early season success to? I think it's the "senior-itis" thing. I can remember how great Dan (Cage) and Ted (Skuchas) performed last year in their final season and I feel the experience I have allows me to have more security and confidence on the floor. I also realize that it's not just how well I play but that I also have a responsibility as a senior to help lead the six to eight guys on the roster that until a few weeks ago hadn't stepped foot in a collegiate game. I just try to solely focus on this year and put the team first with my energy and enthusiasm and let the rest of my game come to me.

    Did you seek out any advice going into the year? Dan and I were roommates last year and he'd tell me that when you get to be a senior, you begin to realize what it's all about. He kept coming in after every game talking about how it was one less game for him to play for Vanderbilt. When I look back now and remember what he was saying, I understand what it means to be a senior and how important it is to enjoy every moment on the court.

    Do you still keep in touch with some of those guys from last year? Yeah. Some of the guys are over in Germany right now playing professional ball. (Matt) Freije, Dan and Derrick (Byars) are all in the same league there. They'll send some messages to encourage us and let us know we're playing well.

    It's been brought up a few times about the impact Dan had as a senior. Did you take any of the things he did to succeed with you into this year? After I got injured against Wake Forest at the start of last year, he was put into a spot to play out of position at the 4, something that he wasn't expected to do going into the season, and due to his physicality and intensity, he stepped up to do what was best to help the team succeed. I think his attitude really rubbed off of me. You know, I just have to go out and listen to Coach and follow through with the goals that he sets for me. We're off to a good start with seven victories and it's just fun to play right now.

    The team is now ranked in both the AP and Coaches poll. Do you like the recognition or would you be okay with flying under the radar? Obviously, an early ranking is good. I don't think we're really going to focus on that right now, though. It's still the beginning of the season and there's a long way to go.

    You have to like the feel of the team right with so much balance on offense. We love the way our team looks right now. Shan (Foster) said the other day that with the post players making their shots and also getting to the foul line that it makes it easier for him and the rest of the guys on the perimeter to get looks and knock down shots. When you have guys feeding off of each other like that, then there's just a lot more confidence and rhythm on the floor. It's exciting right now because we're only seven games into the season and we're nowhere near as good as we can be. We're just trying to get better everyday to see how far this team can really go.

    Finally, is there anything specific that the crowd can do after you make a big play? Audio Answer



    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16- 4:28 PM


    Well, the team has officially made it to Knoxville to prepare for Saturday's conference matchup with Tennessee. We just checked into our hotel after spending about an hour at Neyland Stadium for the team's Friday walk-thru.

    Make sure you check out our gameday central page to view all of the content we've added this week for the big game... plus details on how you can order the contest on pay-per-view.

    It should be a great game on Saturday... especially with so much at stake for each squad. Here are some photos from the walk-thru.... take a look.

    VIEW TENNESSEE WALK-THRU PHOTOS



    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2- 8:12 PM



    On the road again.. this time in Gainesville, Florida. I thought I'd share a couple of photos from the Commodores' Friday walk-thru at "The Swamp." But before that, some bullet points from my travels so far:

    * The plane flight was about a hour and fifteen minutes or so. Transformers was the movie of choice on our flight monitors. I was indifferent to it, but did discover that I could listen to it in spanish on channel two. I must also add that I have a pretty good collection of Delta earphones during my travels this season. If anyone would like to purchase a pair, let me know. I'll make you a great deal. Oh, and one more thing on Transformers... SJ (sitting next to me) observed that one of the actors talked about "eating gator" in the opening scene of the movie. A good omen? I hope so.

    * I had never been to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium before (only need Mississippi State and LSU to check off my list of SEC stadiums visited). I can see why this place is intimidating on Saturdays. The seats feel like they're on top of you when you're on the field. It should be a great atmosphere tomorrow.. especially since they haven't had a home game in a month. I love being the small fish in a big pond. Hope we can make some noise.

    * There was a parking lot outside the stadium for scooters. Yes, I said it.. scooters. I thought this was a fad for kids when they weren't old enough to have a driver's license. I guess not. I don't know if anyone has ever looked cool on a scooter. Not even Lil' Bow Wow.

    * You'll notice in the pictures that there's a big stage in one of the endzones. Florida holds their Gator Growl homecoming pep rally at the stadium tonight. Urban Meyer's wife is serving as the MC. I was told Lynyrd Skynyrd will be performing, as well as that comedian guy who does a million impersonations and has been seen on one out of every four television commercials lately. His name is Frank........... something. Too lazy to google it.

    * We saw actual alligators in the swamp land on the side of the road while we were riding the bus back to the hotel. Explains why they're called the Gators. See, you learn something every day.

    * For dinner, a few staff members and I ate at Chili's since it was just down the street. Did you know Chili's is the "new golf course," where business gets done? At least, that's what Michael Scott said on NBC's The Office.

    * Anytime you walk into another town on a football weekend with opponent's gear, you can expect to get some looks - especially at dinner. I thought we were off to a bad start after we were served stale chips and had an extremely long wait time to be seated (don't get me wrong, I ate the stale chips). But we did encounter a few Commodore fans and even some waitressess who admitted to cheering against the Gators, so it all evened out.

    Well, that's it for my unofficial game notes. Here are some photos from walk-thru. Enjoy.

    VIEW FLORIDA WALK-THRU PHOTOS



    WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24- 3:22 PM


    Saturday Soldier. I'm sure some of you have heard about it. Senior baseball player Alex Feinberg created this cause-related fundraiser to help the families of soldiers killed in Iraq. He's raising money by selling "battle bands" ... which are similar to Lance Armstrong's "Live Strong" bands. The profits from sales will go to charities such as the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and the Fisher House Foundation. Whether you agree with the war or not, it's great to see another one of Vanderbilt's student-athletes taking a proactive stance to help those in need.

    A bunch of our football players are wearing them, as well as athletes at several other schools across the country. You can participate by visiting the SaturdaySoldier.com.

    I spoke to Alex yesterday about Saturday Soldier. Click the audio link below to listen:

    AUDIO: INTERVIEW WITH ALEX FEINBERG

    The second half of the interview discussed fall baseball practice as well as this weekend's Black and Gold series at Hawkins Field. If you want to catch a preview of the 2008 squad, then come on out to ballpark starting Thursday to watch the Commodores in action.

    Here's the schedule (if the weather cooperates):
    Thursday - 6 p.m. CT
    Friday - 6 p.m. CT
    Sunday - 1 p.m. CT



    TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23- 12:45 PM


    One comment really stood out to me while listening to the post-game interviews last Saturday after Vanderbilt had defeated No. 6 South Carolina 17-6 in Columbia.

    A reporter mentioned to sophomore cornerback D.J. Moore that Vanderbilt had never beaten a team coached by Steve Spurrier. D.J.'s response really summed up the attitude of this year's club...

    "It's my second time playing him and we're 1-1 against him, so we're pretty much even."

    Sure, these Commodores were aware of Spurrier's all-time record against the 'Dores.... and also know that Vanderbilt hasn't made it to a bowl game since 1982 (it's brought to their attention after every win or loss, so there's no way they wouldn't know). But the team doesn't use history as an excuse after they succeed or fail. They can only control what's in their hands and what they've done on the field during their time on campus. They want to win like everyone else... and wins in places like Columbia (and Athens and Knoxville and Fayetteville) is proof that they have the fight in them to not give up when facing adversity... and to reach deep inside to work for what everyone hopes for.

    A big thanks to Dwayne Elliot for sending me the celebration picture above. There is no better moment to me as a fan then to watch the team pull off a big road victory in a hostile environment and sprint over to the Commodore faithful and salute them in victory. It gets me eveytime.

    If you weren't there to experience it, then here's a video of the celebration. Thanks to Cal Cook from the National Commodore Club for capturing it (your check is in the mail). And for more of VUcommodores.com's YouTube videos, click here

    (Oh, and here's a picture of the scoreboard that Dwayne took. This might make a nice desktop wallpaper - enjoy!)





    THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18- 10:11 AM



    I stopped by Memorial Gym Wednesday afternoon to check out the walk-on tryouts being held by the men's basketball staff. About 15 students from on campus attended the one-hour session with the hopes and dreams of making the team.

    The Commodores already have two walk-ons on the roster (Cole and Duffy), but the staff was entertaining the idea of adding one more. I talked to a couple of the guys to get their thoughts on the experience...

    Click the video player to the right to watch >>>

    In other news, Jensen Lewis and the Cleveland Indians will look to finish off the Boston Red Sox Thursday night at Jacobs Field at 7 p.m. CT on FOX. The Tribe hold a 3-1 lead... one more win and they'll advance to the World Series to face the red-hot Colorado Rockies.

    The Rockies have been getting most of the headlines since they've been unbeatable over the last month, winning 21 of 22 games... but don't forget Cleveland is 37-14 since mid-August.. not too shabby either.

    Read more about the Tribe's turnaround here.

    Have a good Thursday.



    TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16- 2:02 PM



    A couple of quick hits since I haven't posted much lately...

    First, Cleveland Indians rookie reliever Jensen Lewis continues to be an intergral part of the Tribe's success in the bullpen during post-season play.

    Cleveland currently holds a 2-1 series lead over Boston after last night's victory. In that game, Lewis relieved starter Jake Westbrook with a 4-2 lead in the seventh and the tying run at the plate. Just as the Red Sox started to gain momentum, he reared back and ended their rally, striking out Dustin Pedroia to end the inning.

    Lewis was also a factor in Saturday night's win that evened the series. With the Tribe trailing 7-6 in the fifth and Boston looking to break the game open on their home field, he saved the day by holding the Red Sox hitless in 2 1/3 innings to keep the Indians alive. He then turned the ballgame over to the rest of the bullpen and the Indians were able to pull it out in extra innings.

    That being said.. there were two articles I missed the other day about Lewis' performance in game two, plus a post-game interview that was posted on MLB.com (some good tidbits in there, so watch!)... So here they are:

    MLB.com Interview with Jensen Lewis after Game Two

    Article One | Article Two

    In other news... one of the biggest questions that Coach Johnson has dealt with the last few weeks has been about who the starting quarterback will be prior to each game. After answering the question multiple times, Coach finally settled the debate once and for all during yesterday's press conference.. and you might be surprised to hear what accidentally slipped out of his mouth.
    Listen

    Finally... we had several former Commodores on campus for homecoming last Saturday. Here are two pictures I captured during the game...


    The first one is of Jay Cutler, who was being recognized by the National Commodore Club for endowing an athletic scholarship. The Broncos had a bye week, so the timing of homecoming couldn't have been better for Jay to return.


    Also, PGA Tour rookie Brandt Snedeker was on campus and served as the official captain for the coin toss. As you can see in the picture, Brandt was being filmed all weekend by PGA Tour productions for a 30-minute feature to air in November on the Golf Channel.

    That's it for today!



    MONDAY, OCTOBER 15- 11:44 AM

    We've just added a new feature to VUcommodores.com... it's a week-in-review/preview that we will plan to produce at the start of every week. We have so many stories rolling in and out that it can be easy to miss some of the headlines and features if you don't log on every day (of course, it would be great if you did log on every day so I can keep my job.. haha).

    Anyway, check out the first post -- WEEK-IN-REVIEW OCT. 15

    If you have suggestions for content to add to this weekly feature, email me at brandon.barca@vanderbilt.edu. I'll tweak it as we go along.. and plan to include some off-the-wall stuff every now and then. Also, I probably need to come up with a better name.. so if you have one, send me that, too! (I may need to put you on payroll)



    FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12- 5:00 AM


    I had the pleasure of visiting a gospel recording session with basketball senior Shan Foster on Thursday afternoon. Since practice officially starts today, there will be plenty of time over the next couple of months to see Shan and the rest of the Commodores at Memorial Gym. Thursday was a chance to see one of our student-athletes in an environment outside of athletics.

    Earlier in the day, our new men's basketball SID Andy Boggs alerted me that Ray Goodrich and Natalie Taylor from SEC-TV were shooting a segment for one of their half-hour FSN shows to air later this fall... so I thought it would be cool to tag along (They had already filmed interviews with Coach Stallings and Alex Gordon earlier in the day).

    The theme of the segment? Music. As a lot of you already know, outside of basketball, Shan spends time singing, writing and playing the piano. On this day, he was collaborating with some of his teachers from Vanderbilt to record a track for an upcoming gospel compilation comprised of area artists.

    Sitting in on the session was a very cool and spiritual experience. You should know that Shan created the music and lyrics to the song, so yesterday was a chance for him to put it all together. First, he laid down the piano portion of the track and once that part was perfected, he sung his lyrics while the score played in the background. Finally, the recordings were merged together so we could listen to the final product.

    And let me tell you... it's powerful.

    I'd seen previous features on Shan and his love for music, but had never witnessed an actual performance. As much talent as he has on the court, you can also see he's a star in the studio. Keep in mind that this is a kid that picked up music only a couple of years ago... and his willingness to learn all aspects of the performing art has helped him turn a hobby into a passion.

    Of course, we've seen this desire before in his work on the court, so his musical success shouldn't be a surprise. When he entered campus in 2004, Shan was transitioning from playing center in high school to becoming a versatile swingman for Coach Stallings' squad. We know how that's worked out. He's polished his skills over the last three years and developed into a preseason All-American candidate.

    In addition to the recording, one thing really stood out to me... Shan mentioned that basketball was important to his everyday life, but said it wasn't the only important thing. He spoke about the significance of his family and friends, his faith, his music, and his role to serve as a mentor to youth. It was refreshing to hear that basketball wasn't life or death to him.

    As much as we sometimes like to think that everything revolves around the wins and the losses, his comments were a reminder that there are things outside of competition that really make a difference. Our student-athletes are real people, each with hopes and dreams of their own... whether it's in athletics or academics. Yesterday's experience was just another reason why I'm proud to be a Commodore fan and support our kids no matter what the scoreboard says.

    SEC-TV's segment will air later this fall (They were unsure of the exact date). We'll be sure to put a blurb on vucommodores.com when it becomes official. Also, the gospel compilation album is scheduled to be released in January. Looking forward to hearing Shan's contribution!



    FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5- 10:11 PM


    I'm going to keep things short since (1) we have an early game Saturday and (2) I need some rest for that same early game. Here are some photos I took during Friday's practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Enjoy!

    VIEW FRIDAY'S FOOTBALL GALLERY AT AUBURN



    FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5- 5:04 AM



    It's an exciting day... I'm preparing for my first team road trip of the 2007-08 season. We'll leave McGugin at 8:30 a.m. with our sights set on Auburn, Ala. I'll work on shooting some pictures from the road and hope to have something posted by late tonight. Also, my parents and aunt and uncle are driving to the game from Montgomery to cheer on the Commodores... so it will be good to spend a little time with them.

    As you know, Saturday's game will be televised by Lincoln Financial Sports at 11:30 a.m. CT (click for affiliates). For those of you that won't get the broadcast on your tube, you can watch the LFS webcast for free here.

    And don't forget to check out our football gameday central page. We just added Joe Fisher's Keys to Auburn as well as this week's Commodore Connection show including EMU highlights, an Auburn preview and a spotlight on senior defensive tackle Theo Horrocks. Watch the footage for free by signing-up for All Access.

    In other news, Vanderbilt Athletics hosted the Council on Aging of Greater Nashville Wednesday afternoon for a tour of our facilities and the opportunity to meet coaches and athletic personnel. They arrived around Noon after spending the morning with the Nashville Sports Council where they were treated to lunch by our training table chef Magic Noori followed by a brief discussion on the importance of nutrition in the college student-athlete.

    After lunch, the group of 35 headed on a quick facility tour with Josh Waters and Eric Nichols from our marketing department. The tour concluded in the Memorial Gym Admiral's Room where Eric discussed the economics of college athletics and its impact on the Nashville community followed by a question and answer session. Concluding the day was Assistant Head Coach Robbie Caldwell who talked about his career and the current Commodore football team.

    The tour came out of the Vanderbilt Speaker's Bureau and if you or anyone you know would like to request a coach or Vanderbilt administrator to come and speak at your event, please click here.

    To close out this morning's post.. two great music videos for the price of one.

    First... Since we're on the road, we'll be knockin' on the Tigers' front door any minute now.



    And in this video.... Who said Phil Collins needed Genesis? He's a one man show! (By the way, can you name the first lead singer of Genesis... it's not Phil)





    WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3- 6:52 AM

    A couple of things today...

    First, would you like to see Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit give their thoughts on Saturday's matchup between Vanderbilt and Auburn during their ESPN College Gameday show? The SEC contest is one of four games fans can vote for on ESPN's website. As I type, the Commodores' game is tied for second with Notre Dame and UCLA, which both trail the Big 12's matchup between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. To vote, click here and scroll down to the far right of the page for the poll. And thanks to James for the heads up.


    Second, I grabbed a few snapshots of the women's basketball team during their photo day in Memorial Gym on Tuesday. It's hard to believe that practice officially starts next Friday. If you haven't purchased your women's basketball season tickets, don't forget that they start at only $25! It's a great deal.

    Here are some pics I took.... Enjoy. VIEW PHOTOS FROM TEAM PICTURE DAY

    Finally.. in honor of Tuesday's release of Bruce Springsteen's new studio recording (his first with the E Street Band in five years).. here's a video from back in the day. I'll never forget seeing them in Memphis during their reunion tour while I was in college. Long Live the Boss.

    Oh, and check out Courtney Cox at the end of video. Sure, this was before she became famous on the television show 'Friends,' but who remembers her as Alex P. Keaton's girlfriend on 'Family Ties?'





    MONDAY, OCTOBER 1- 10:15 PM


    Well, I never got around to posting a follow-up to Friday's blog... so better late than never. I'm sure you were waiting in suspense (okay, maybe not). Friday afternoon I visited Lacrosse picture day. Nothing out of the ordinary in the first picture (above). But then....


    Once the official photos were complete, the players split into three teams. Each group then changed into themed costumes, which is something they do at every Friday practice in the offseason. The squad pictured above sported the Harry Potter look. I thought the costumes were a cool way of team building during the fall. I mean, who doesn't like to dress up?


    After lacrosse, I headed over to the football stadium to catch a glimpse of their Friday walk-thru. Based on the mood of practice... I'll go out on a limb and guess that the Commodores will defeat Eastern Michigan 30-7 to move to 3-1 on the season. Just a hunch.


    I finally capped the night off at the Marriott at Vanderbilt to attend the bowling team's national championship banquet. The event included a catered dinner, a highlight video and the presenting of the title rings.


    As you can see, the rings turned out great. The top of the ring has the star logo in the middle surrounded by diamonds and the text "2007 national champions." The left side has the player's last name with the NCAA trophy and the team's 2007 record of 74-14. The right area is filled with bowling pins and the school name.

    All in all, it was a great event. It was also gratifying to see the team honored at half time of Saturday's game. Big props to the crowd for giving our Commodores a standing ovation.

    And in case you forgot about all the magic from Vanderbilt's first NCAA team title, relive the moments by watching the video that played at the banquet:

    National Championship Banquet Video

    I'll close with a music video from one of my favorite bands of all-time: Huey Lewis and the News. I've always wanted to see them perform in concert, but have yet to do so. I've got it on my "things to do" list.

    Enjoy.





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