Kyle Shurmur at SEC Media Days

July 11, 2017

By Zac Ellis

HOOVER, Ala. – It’s 7:26 a.m., and Kyle Shurmur is already poking fun at Ralph Webb.

Shurmur, Vanderbilt’s junior quarterback, sits beside the Commodores’ running back in a suite at the Wynfrey Hotel 15 minutes south of Birmingham. The dapper duo, alongside linebacker Oren Burks, is dressed in jackets, ties and well-pressed pants in anticipation of a packed day of interviews at SEC Media Days.

The Vanderbilt threesome has a few minutes to kill before the Commodores take the stage on Tuesday. Shurmur opts to use that time to spotlight Webb, his high-profile running back. It seems the senior Webb lucked into his own hotel room the night before. Shurmur, meanwhile, bunked up with his teammate Burks.

That didn’t sit well with the Dores starting quarterback.

“Ralph got his own room,” Shurmur exclaims. “A king room, king bed – everything!”

Shurmur felt comfortable prodding a veteran teammate because, in 2017, he is a veteran himself. The Vanderbilt junior has 18 career starts under his belt and enters the fall as one of the SEC’s most experienced signal-callers. But prior to this week, Shurmur had never represented Vanderbilt at SEC Media Days.

On Tuesday, followed the Dores’ starting quarterback through a full day of interviews in Hoover, where he faced a brighter spotlight than ever.

7:40 a.m.
Shurmur exits the lobby elevator of the Wynfrey and ventures through Radio Row, his first stop at SEC Media Days. The junior delivers a handful of quick hits to stations from around the country: 104.5 FM ESPN Baton Rouge, 94.5 Jox FM in Birmingham and WSNR 95.9 FM Nashville.

One morning host asks Shurmur to name his favorite quarterback to watch as a young player.

“I mean, you’ve got to go with Tom Brady,” Shurmur says. “The greatest of all time.”

Shurmur wraps his stint on Radio Row and heads to a nearby food court for breakfast. Along the way, the quarterback pats the back of Vanderbilt communications staffer Larry Leathers, tasked with leading the junior through the Media Days circus. “This is my bodyguard right here,” Shurmur says.

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Shurmur enjoys a quick breakfast with Burks and Webb at Chick-fil-A before heading back to the team suite at the Wynfrey. The trio must await the arrival of head coach Derek Mason before continuing Vanderbilt’s schedule of interviews. In the meantime, the student-athletes put finishing touches on their outfits: Webb dons a bowtie with a baby-blue blazer while Burks shows off a pair of colorful socks to complete his ensemble.

Shurmur, on the other hand, decides his jacket needs a pocket square.

“Maybe I’ll grab a piece of toilet paper,” Shurmur jokes.

Just then, Mason enters the suite. Vanderbilt’s fourth-year head coach – never one to mute his fashion sense – stands out with a plaid grey sport coat. The group of Commodores can’t help but exchange high-fives as they snap pictures in their outfits.

“Man, we’ve already won the day!” Webb says.

9:20 a.m.
An overhead light shines on a seated Shurmur in an ESPN video room, where a producer peppers the quarterback with off-the-wall questions. Who is the fastest player in the SEC? How would you rate Coach Mason’s dance moves? What is your favorite emoji?

At one point, Shurmur is asked to recall his favorite Halloween costume. He cracks a smile.

“As a kid, I once dressed up as a billy goat,” he says. “My mom made the costume herself.”

Shurmur concludes the interview and exits the room.

“One down, 100 to go!” he jokes.

The quarterback makes his way to the television/internet room, where he faces his largest audience yet in a cavernous ballroom. Shurmur is cool, calm and collected as he assesses Vanderbilt’s expectations in 2017, its cast of returnees and his own leadership responsibilities as a starter. He also defers praise to his teammates where possible. On Webb, Shurmur says, “What people don’t see is what Ralph does behind the scenes, as a teammate and as a leader.”

Shurmur’s next stop is the CBS room, where he sits down with former Texas linebacker and CBS analyst Brian Jones. Jones grills Shurmur on a number of random topics, from his golf game to growing up with three sisters. Jones then asks Shurmur about the impact of his father, Pat, a longtime NFL coach. The elder Shurmur has coached for four different NFL franchises. So, Jones asks, how does Kyle Shurmur pick a favorite NFL team?

“Whichever team pays the bills,” Shurmur says with a smile.

10:30 a.m.
Rick Neuheisel begins his interview with Shurmur in the Sirius XM room with a history lesson. Neuheisel, a former college football and NFL coach, says Shurmur nearly spent the first few years of his life living in Colorado. That’s because Neuheisel once tried to lure Pat Shurmur to his staff at the University of Colorado, where Neuheisel served as head coach from 1995-98. That came as a revelation to Shurmur, who would have been just a toddler at the time.

Neuheisel, alongside cohost Chris Childers, then manages to make Shurmur blush with a change of subject.

“This guy could be a country music star in Nashville!” Neuheisel says. “You’ve got that Blake Shelton look!”

Shurmur assures the pair that his musical talents are limited. He then moves on to the next room, where Shurmur joins Burks in a Periscope chat with Vanderbilt fans. The quarterback follows with a second CBS interview before heading to his final obligation of the day: the main ballroom at SEC Media Days.

Burks and Webb converge with Shurmur in the ballroom, where the three student-athletes post up at tables in separate corners of the room. A gaggle of reporters surround Shurmur to inquire about his Vanderbilt team. The quarterback fields a fire hose of questions; one reporter even asks if Shurmur aspires to a career in reality television.

“Not a chance,” Shurmur says, laughing.

11:59 a.m.
Shurmur descends from an escalator into a sizable Winfrey lobby, one half-filled with SEC fans. Vanderbilt’s day at SEC Media Days has all but wrapped, and Shurmur and his contingent will soon return to their suite, grab their luggage and hit the road for Nashville.

But just before Shurmur reaches the elevator, a woman donning Vanderbilt gear calls out for an autograph. The quarterback graciously obliges.

The smiling Commodore fan then shakes Shurmur’s hand.

“We are so proud of you,” she says. “Anchor Down!”

Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics. Check out his story archive and follow him on Twitter here.


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