Aug. 11, 2013
Rain showers popped up throughout Nashville Sunday afternoon, but they did not disrupt Vanderbilt's annual fan day - Dore Jam presented by Gary Force Acura.
By the time the event began at 3 p.m., the rain had cleared out of the area and any lingering storms in the metropolitan area did not appear to hinder attendance, which was at an all-time high.
In excess of 5,000 Vanderbilt fans poured into the John Rich Practice Complex Sunday looking to meet their favorite players and coaches, hoping to snag an autograph and a photo while they were at it.
Kyle Jones, a 12-year old from Smyrna, Tenn., was in line early and had already gotten autographs from all the offensive linemen, defensive backs, quarterbacks and Coach James Franklin within the first hour.
"The best part has been being able to meet all the players and get their autographs," Jones said. "It has been really fun."
Decked out in his Vanderbilt gear, Jones was trying to beat the heat by heading to the concession area on Natchez Trace to refuel. The afternoon rain, made for extremely muggy conditions, which only intensified after the sun came out.
"It's hot out here, but I'm glad I came," added Jones. "So far my favorite autographs are from Jordan Matthews and Patton Robinette."
Dore Jam first began in 2002, but thanks in part to the program's recent success, there has never been a larger crowd than there was on Sunday. Before the gates to the practice field opened, the line of fans stretched down Natchez Trace past the Vanderbilt Track Complex.
Fans came to Dore Jam from all parts of Tennessee and throughout the country. Senior defensive end Walker May, who was participating in his final Dore Jam, had met people from as far away as Chicago and North Carolina, and was blown away by the support.
"It has been a great crowd that has shown up and it really shows the support the community has and even the fans from out of state that have come in," May remarked. "It is very cool to see the people that support you and want to be here and help you out."
Glenn Barker drove in from Dunlap, Tenn., and was attending his first Dore Jam, in support of his grandson, Gaither Barker, a freshman snapper on Vanderbilt's roster. He was floored by how many people flocked to the event.
"I didn't know what exactly to expect, but the crowd is definitely bigger than I had imagined," Barker said. "With an event like this, it really shows what winning can really do. This is a great experience."
Redshirt junior defensive end Kyle Woestmann was attending his fourth Dore Jam, but the 2013 edition was different from any other year.
"It has definitely been the most fans we have had in my time here," Woestmann said. "Just the amount of people here just telling us how much they support us and appreciate us is unbelievable compared to any other year at Dore Jam."
The attendance boom at Dore Jam came after back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history. Additionally, the Commodores won nine games in 2012 for the first time since 1915. All the success has boosted Vanderbilt's following and has given other longtime fans more reasons to get involved.
Early Henry graduated from Vanderbilt with a business degree in 1967. A Nashville native, Henry has been going to Vanderbilt games since he was 8-years old, but Sunday was the first time he had attended the fan event. So, why now?
"I felt like the team has never been as deserving for support as it is right now," Henry said. "I'm excited about the season and I want to be in the thick of it."
After the gates opened onto the field, lines quickly began forming for the players and Coach Franklin. Each position group was seated together and each had separate lines for fans waiting to get autographs.
The longest line was for Coach Franklin, who was stationed in the south end zone of the practice field. The line held steady between 80 and 90 yards long throughout the entire two hours the event was scheduled. And by the time 5 p.m. came around, the line was still 80 yards long. By 5:30 p.m., the line was down to 50 yards. Finally, by 5:48, Franklin had signed the last autograph of the day.
"The turnout is incredible," said Henry as he surveyed the crowd. "The line to get an autograph or picture with James Franklin looks like it is going to take an hour, but I am so glad that there are this many Vanderbilt supporters out here.
"I will know next year to get here at 2:30 to start getting autographs."