Aug. 1, 2011
Promised only with a tour of the newly renovated locker room, a small group of fans arrived at Vanderbilt's McGugin Center shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday evening, and left with memories that will last long after the myriad of photos taken begin to fade.
The group of 11 individuals was formed through a combination of Vanderbilt's ticket sales academy and a Facebook fan contest where fans were asked to comment on why they should receive a tour of the locker room in 25 words or less.
Led by Director of Football Operations Michael Hazel, the tour commenced in the McGugin Center lobby, stopped outside the Stratton Academic Center and then went inside the Olympic Weight Room before heading down the Corridor of Captains where they were able to pick up Vanderbilt posters, bag tags, koozies, schedule cards and enter a raffle to receive an autographed jersey signed by Head Coach James Franklin before being ushered into the locker room.
What came next was a surprise that no one on the tour expected, including Vanderbilt athletic staffers. As the door swung open to the locker room, everyone who entered did a double take at what they saw next. Greeting each individual with a handshake as they entered the plush new quarters was none other than Coach Franklin. Watch video here.
"To walk in the locker room door and just see him standing there greeting everybody and being so happy to see everybody was awesome," Commodore fan Darrell Palmore said. "It is what you see on TV but to see it in person was just unreal."
As fans gathered around the center of the locker room, still in awe of their surroundings and the presence of Coach Franklin, they were introduced to a group of players who had just finished working out and were relaxing in the locker room.
Franklin then spent the next 20 minutes talking to the group about the locker room, the program and its future before opening it up for questions and posing for photos with the fans until having to leave for another meeting.
"It was great," Commodore fan Fernando Murphy said. "The tour allowed me to see aspects of the football program that I've never been able to see before.
"I got to meet Coach Franklin and I've been wanting to meet him ever since he got here. Just a great guy, an excellent football mind and it shows in everything that he does and says."
After Franklin departed, fans took turns having their photo taken with the anchor and next to the lockers. It was then off to the football weight room and a walk through the second floor hallway where the football offices are located.
The tour concluded with the drawing for an autographed jersey signed by Coach Franklin. As each fan left, they received Vanderbilt pitchers filled with shakers and other items.
"You hear a lot of talk about changing the culture of things around here and I definitely see that happening," Murphy said. "We are on our way there."