Bradley Vierling's best-known talent to Vanderbilt fans is his ability to snap a football through his legs as the starting center and quickly ready himself to block a 300-pound defensive tackle hoping to run him over like a steamroller. It is a rare talent and Vierling is one of the best in the Southeastern Conference at it. Something else Vierling is one of the best at in the SEC is public speaking.
On Wednesday, Vierling showed off his keen ability to address an audience at the gauntlet of all media sessions -- SEC media days at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. Considered the start to the college football season by many, media days began with representatives from Arkansas and Vanderbilt on Wednesday and will conclude with LSU and Tennessee on Friday afternoon. To understand the magnitude of SEC Media Days, one mustn't look further than the more than 1,000 media members credentialed for the event. Joining Vierling in Hoover were head coach Bobby Johnson and defensive back Myron Lewis.
For some, sitting in front of a camera or microphone is much more excruciating than catching a blindsided block on the field. Not Vierling though. Question after question, room after room, Vierling navigated his way through the questions thrown at him like a veteran captain navigating the high seas.
"Talking in front of people has always come easily to me," Vierling said. "I'd rather talk in front of people than write a paper. I guess it is my personality, but I don't have any problem being in front of people. I stay calm, I don't get nervous. I don't see how I can get too nervous when I play in front of 100,000 people. It has always come easy."
The ease in which Vierling handles questions is something he credits his father, Ron, with.
"I think it comes from my father," Vierling said. "He has always been a really good public speaker. He had his own business growing up and I would sit in on a lot of his meetings and watch him handle himself. He kind of groomed me for this kind of atmosphere."
In total, each player and coach had 10 scheduled interview sessions in addition to interviews on radio row with stations across the Southeast. Each of the 10 sessions are done in separate ballrooms on the second level of the hotel. Vierling's journey began with an interview with Dave Archer at noon and ended with a live segment on Nasvhille's 104.5 The Zone at 4 p.m. The total time frame was four hours from start to finish and the opportunities to relax and breath were few and far between.
For media members, a quote machine like Vierling is a rare occurrence. Just listening to Vierling throughout the day, you would get the impression that he honed his skills in public speaking classes growing up or was making his second or even third trip to media days, but not his first.
"I always did a lot of presentations in high school, but I never took any sort of speech class until I got to Vanderbilt," Vierling said. "I took the class at Vanderbilt because I figured I'd be good and get a good grade in it, which I did. I never really had a speaking class in high school, but always had a lot of presentations and did a lot of speaking in front of the class. It helped me when I was younger and now I speak in front of people all the time."
He may be comfortable speaking in front of audiences these days, but that was not always the case for the Warminster, Pa., native.
"When I was younger, I'd definitely get butterflies," Vierling said. "Maybe in middle school, but not so much in high school. I don't get jitters at all now. I'll get nervous before a game, but that is playing football, that isn't talking."
Being able to speak comfortably in any situation has also carried over to football for Vierling, who is in his second year as a captain.
"I think it helps because I can portray what the guys are feeling, what the guys are saying and what the mood of the team is like by speaking with them."
Over the course of the day, Vierling had a multitude of questions flung his way, but none came his direction more often than questions about the quarterback situation and expectations for the 2009 season after winning a bowl game.
Vierling handles most every question like a pro, but if there are any questions that slowed him down it was those not directly related to football. One question in particular that snagged Vierling came in the midst of a plethora of pop culture questions by ESPN's Joe Schad, who asked Vierling who his favorite band or musician was. Vierling hesitated for a second before saying Jimi Hendrix.
Immediately after the interview was complete, Vierling was still confused. "I don't know why I said Jimi Hendrix because he's not my favorite. I guess I did because he is the first person I listen to on gameday. Football questions are what I'm best at."
Like most players, Vierling has hopes to play at the next level, but once his playing days are over, the ease in which he handles the media makes him seem like a natural fit for a career in broadcasting.
"I've thought about it, but not too seriously," Vierling said. "I figured I could do it because I am a pretty good public speaker and I can think on my feet. I have thought about it. Could I ever do it? I think if I set my mind to it, I could do it."
Judging by his performance at media days, there is little doubt he would be successful.
"Today was a lot of fun," he said. "I like doing interviews and telling the media how things actually are and portraying the truth because some people don't always know what the truth is. I don't know how players usually react, but this was awesome."