It’s a pleasant evening for football in Nashville. The South Carolina Gamecocks are in town for the Commodores home and SEC schedule opener. The fans are filling into the stadium. Kellie Pickler sang the national anthem. It’s time to sprint onto the field, but you’re not a football player.
The freshmen class has run onto the field to start the first home football game for the past five years, and tonight was no different as 1,500 students clad in black stormed the gridiron just prior to the Commodores pregame entrance onto Dudley Field.
Former chancellor Gordon Gee began the tradition to introduce the newcomers to VU athletics and ignite school spirit.
“I’m really excited about it,” Sherell Hicks said before the game. “I think it’ll be fun. I think it’ll be a good experience because I won’t be able to do it again.”
Bobby Falconer agreed. He ran with his class two years ago, and he’s wanted to do it again ever since.
“It’s one of my best memories at Vanderbilt,” Falconer, a junior economics and human and organizational development major, said. “I remember we were right up in the front. Everybody was cheering. There was so much school spirit, like no other time.”
The university also treated the freshmen to a tailgate two hours before the game, with free food and music. Then they marched down to the Star Walk tunnel, past the locker room into a blacked-out crowd of 36,850 led by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos.
“It’s a unique experience that I don’t think many other schools offer,” said Alison Bush, Champs Lifeskills coordinator and adviser to Vandy Fanatics. “With our small freshmen classes we can have them be part of the gameday experience, and have them down there in the tunnel with the guys before they run out.”
Freshman Matthew Taylor could barely contain his excitement minutes before the run.
“I’ve wanted to go here since I was 3 years old, and now I’m finally able to do this,” he said. “It’s spectacular.”
Before they left on their march to the field, Chancellor Zeppos left the new class with a few inspirational words.
“When you were moving in your boxes, when you were saying goodbye to your parents, when you were registering for classes, it was all building up to this,” he said.