July 11, 2012
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"Look good, play good."
Senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers summed up the latest new addition to come out of a summer of change for the Vanderbilt football program.
With new field turf, stadium lights, hillside seating, and video board being installed at Vanderbilt Stadium, the Commodore football team treated its fans to a little bit of September in July by unveiling the uniforms they will sport during the 2012 season.
The evening opened at Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt with Head Coach James Franklin joining the Voice of the Commodores, Joe Fisher, for a question and answer session. Topics ranged from Franklin's summer vacation to his excitement for the August 30 season opener against South Carolina.
"Thursday night. ESPN. Ranked opponent. In our stadium," Franklin said, with the excitement showing.
Then the real show started.
The Commodore seniors rode down the escalator at a packed Barnes & Noble, showing off the new threads for the first time before fans and their teammates.
Things started off with a familiar look, as Archibald Barnes and Josh Jelesky appeared with the traditional gold helmet, along with a black jersey and black pants.
As is the case with all the uniforms, the number font on the jerseys is different, and the trim of the digits is toned down. All three tops also feature the Vanderbilt wordmark above the number, the new circle SEC patch (which will be seen on all 14 league teams this fall) and an anchor at the collar. The "Anchor Down" slogan is printed on the inside of the collar, as a reminder for players as they pull on the their uniforms.
In addition, the Star V logo moves to the pants, where it appears on both hips.
After players modeled the new combinations of white and black jerseys and pants, along with the gold and black helmets fans saw last year, it was time for a few surprises.
The first came when Zac Stacy came down the escalator in the new gold jersey. While the Dores have had some issues in the past creating a gold that matched the helmet, Franklin is comfortable with the color this time around. However, just to be safe, the shoulders of the new gold tops are black, creating a little separation should the jersey be worn with the gold lid.
"Our players will tell you the gold jersey went from being the worst, to being the best," Franklin said.
Then came a surprise only the seniors and the coaches knew about.
Was that a Storm Trooper coming down the escalator or signal-caller Jordan Rodgers?
The answer was Rodgers, sporting the road white jersey with white pants and the "star" of the evening, a sparkling white helmet with a black Star V logo and a gold-black-gold stripe down the middle.
The anticipation in the bookstore was similar to when there's a fumble in a game and only certain fans see it right away.
Rodgers hit the top of the escalator and about 20 of his teammates could see immediately. The yelling and hollering ensued. The rest of the football team and the fans on the first level had to wait about another 10 seconds before their reaction came to the all-white look, and it was even louder.
"The white helmets were hush-hush," Rodgers explained.
Only the seniors knew going in, as Coach Franklin wanted to save a surprise for his team and the fans to experience together.
"We wanted to save one more as a surprise for them," Franklin explained. "We wanted our family, fans, the media, alumni and team to see them at the same time."
The final look of the night was the white helmet with a black jersey and white pants. That seemed to be the most popular judging by the reaction and a few of the players.
"My favorite is the white-black-white," said Rodgers. "It's awesome."
He was immediately seconded by Tristan Strong.
"Definitely the white-black-white," Strong added.
Despite the new look, Franklin was quick to point out that Vanderbilt will maintain its tradition of a gold helmet ... most of the time.
In the end, that summed up the uniforms as a whole, and maybe even Franklin's vision for the program. We're still Vanderbilt, but it's a brand new Vanderbilt.