Fans roar. The band plays. Smoke billows. The team and coaches run out of the blow up helmet and through the chaos to the sidelines, Bo Cramer among the pack. He rushes down the field and takes up his place along the sideline, pumped up for the battle ahead. However instead of a helmet, he places a pair of headphones over his ears, surveying the battleground ready to get to work.
Bo Cramer, a former Vanderbilt football player turned student manager, brings enthusiasm, energy and humor to a team of which he is still very much a part.
Cramer came to Vanderbilt, a fresh-faced eighteen-year-old eager to take on the stiff competition of the SEC. The North Carolina native was ready and willing to do anything he could to fulfill his dream and play college football. However, his collegiate athletic career went in a different direction.
Since high school, Cramer has struggled with hip injuries, ultimately resulting in two surgeries, one in high school and one this past April, which removed close to 50% of his natural hip, effectively ending his football career.
"He wants to be able to do things like play with his kids and be healthy when he grows up," says teammate and close friend TJ Greenstone. "He's really concentrating on rehabbing it and making sure that he'll be able to do all the things he wants to do when he grows up. He realizes that football isn't everything in life."
Though faced with the arduous task of rehabilitating what was left of his hip, he rarely complained and he took pride in every minute step further on his road to recovery, determined to keep a positive outlook and trust that he was going to get through this trial.
"One thing that surprised me about his rehab was that he was mostly upbeat about it," says defensive lineman Adam Smotherman, another close friend. "He trusted in God that this was God's plan for him and whatever happens is for the best."
While Cramer still works with Head Trainer Tom Bossung to regain strength and range of motion in his hip, now most of Cramer's work is on his own. He has begun a 7 a.m. swimming regimen, started lifting weights, and using the elliptical and jogging to try to stay in shape and keep his body healthy.
"I really can't say enough about how everyone has worked with me to make the best of the situation," says Cramer. "It really shows the family atmosphere that exists in the football program here, something that's special at Vanderbilt."
The injury hasn't been able to keep him away from the football field or from his team. With the full support of his parents and the athletic department, Bo transitioned into a new role on the team, that of a student manager. He works with the defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler and defensive line coach Rick Logo to come up with play calls, as well as serving as both a dummy and live play caller on game day. When not on the field, Cramer can be found in the equipment room making sure the team has everything they need for practice. His responsibilities range from setting up equipment to organizing gear.
To the football team, Bo Cramer is just one of the guys.
"We still consider him a good friend and a teammate," says Smotherman. "He's out there at practice with us every day and travels with us on every trip. Sometimes, during the game, he'll be the person that we look to for our signals instead of being the decoy, and we give him just as much of a hard time as we would a teammate on the field."
At first glance, one might think that two hip surgeries would be career-ending for any athlete, but Bo Cramer's big heart, loyalty and perseverance has allowed him to remain an integral member of the team he loves.
Brinkley Meyers is a junior at Vanderbilt University