Aug. 10, 2012
It's Wednesday afternoon and a week into preseason camp.
The new auditorium is packed and silent as the Commodores listen to their head coach address the room.
|by Brandon Barca (Archive)
"You want to watch a guy who is trying to find a role on this team?" James Franklin asks.
That guy is Marc Panu, a fourth-year walk-on fullback prospect. And Panu had no clue what was about to happen. ( Watch)
Franklin continues to praise the fullback, showing a series on Panu's impressive blocks from practice the previous day. Then, in what feels like a scene straight out of a movie, Franklin holds a piece of paper over his head, exclaiming, "That's why I'm so proud to let Marc Panu know that he's got a full scholarship."
Panu is stunned. All he can do is put his face in his hands in disbelief.
Panu momentarily falls out of sight as his entire Commodore family jumps out of their seats and roars with approval for the walk-on.
The standing ovation continues, with the decibel level getting louder and louder, as Panu gets out of his chair and walks to the front of the room to accept his scholarship.
Panu and Franklin embrace, a moment signifying that perseverance does pay off.
He earned it.
Panu came to Vanderbilt in 2009 as a linebacker/defensive end, and was the defensive scout team MVP in his first season. He played in 11 of 12 games as a redshirt freshman, mostly on special teams, in 2010.
Then Franklin and his staff moved to town and switched the Mableton, Ga., native to fullback. Panu accepted the challenge and has developed into a solid blocking back, especially in goal line situations.
Offseason knee surgery hasn't stopped him either. Franklin says Panu still comes to work every day with his lunch pail and never says much.
Off the field, Panu works just as hard, and is closing in on an engineering undergraduate degree.
Panu might not stand out in the crowd on game day. But he does in the film room.
"I want you to focus on Panu," Franklin tells his team, as highlights continue to roll on the big screen. "Not who he's hitting, but I want you to watch how he's blocking."
Another clip runs. "Really watch him here," an excited Franklin shouts.
On the play, Panu does his job once again, running in motion and sealing the edge to give his tailback a chance at the glory of hitting paydirt. "Finding a way to bring value to the team," the head coach adds.
"He's a great example to everybody in this room. If you have a great attitude and compete in everything you do; if you're willing to sacrifice for others, good things happen," Franklin concludes.
Ever wonder if the Rudy's of the world win? Just look at Panu.
For more football news, visit the Commodores' preseason blog.