So much has been accomplished already and so many things can still be achieved in what has been one of Vanderbilt's most exciting and successful football seasons in some time. But with each passing week, the reality of the end of the season draws closer.
Saturday will mark Vanderbilt's final regular season game of the 2012 season when the Commodores (7-4) play at Wake Forest (5-6) at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
For the freshmen, sophomores and juniors, there will be another year, but for many seniors, there are just two games remaining in their football careers. The finality of a season that began with workouts last winter comes quickly.
During the season, everything is a routine. Practices - for the most part - are the same days of the week and the same time each day. Meetings and media obligations are the same days and times. After a few weeks of repetition, everything feels natural. Week by week and game by game, coaches, players and staff seamlessly move from one task to another. But after this weekend, that weekly routine will abruptly end as the regular season concludes.
On Friday night, Head Coach James Franklin reminded the team of how few remaining opportunities they have to spend with one another, and encouraged the team to make the most of the time they do have.
"The clock is ticking on the 2012 team," Franklin said during the team meeting. "We only have so much time left together. There are some guys in this room as seniors that have very little time left and very little experiences left of playing football at Vanderbilt. Take advantage of every second you have. Take advantage of every play you have. Take advantage of every experience we have together as a family because it is going to go fast."
Vanderbilt celebrated Thanksgiving with their teammates and coaches on Thursday afternoon. Players not traveling with the team were able to depart campus for home Wednesday night, but those going with the team to Wake Forest practiced Thursday morning before enjoying their big meal in the afternoon.
For many players on the team, Thanksgiving is a time that evokes childhood memories. To capture some of those experiences, I spoke with a few of the Commodores about Thanksgiving.
Jared Morse, Defensive Tackle Favorite Dish: Usually I would go for the mashed potatoes first. I'm a big mashed potatoes guy, but my grandmother's creamed corn is something serious. My favorite would be my grandmother's creamed corn and my mom's garlic mashed potatoes.
Growing up, where did your family gather for Thanksgiving? We would got to my grandmother's in White Plains, Ala., which is 15 minutes from where I grew up. My grandmother would cook the turkey upside down to leave the moisture in there. I'm more of a dark meat turkey guy. We'd have potatoes and rolls. We would do the same thing on Christmas, too. There would be 12-14 of us at her house and she would already have everything cooked by the time we got there.
What is your favorite holiday? Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday because we would do the same thing on Christmas as we did on Thanksgiving, and there would be presents.
Favorite Dessert: Dessert is my thing. I really enjoy desserts. There was this one Thanksgiving that my uncle actually said that he messed up making his dessert and he just put a bunch of things in there and saw how it came out. It was one of the best desserts I've ever had in my life. It was like cake/pie/cheesecake. It was all this stuff jumbled together and he couldn't tell you how to make it again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime dessert that I will never have again. So there is no way that it can be topped because I'll never have it again.
Zac Stacy, Running Back Favorite Dish: Dressing with cranberry sauce and gravy. I usually go for the dressing first when I sit down at the table. Dressing is one of those things where if your mom cooks it, it must be holiday time. I love dressing with the cranberry sauce and gravy.
Growing up, where did your family gather for Thanksgiving? We have the family at my house. I have family from Montgomery that come up to Centreville (Ala.) and we watch football and eat. We have a pretty big family so we usually have 30-40 people.
My mom usually makes the dressing and the macaroni and cheese. My aunt would do the ham or turkey. In my family, we usually switch one year ham and one year turkey.
What was your job to prepare for hosting everyone at Thanksgiving? My mom may forget something the previous day and I'll have to go out and grab some cranberry sauce, green beans, etc. She pretty much goes out and does the cooking, while I go out and hunt for everything.
Favorite Dessert: Red velvet cake. My aunt Linda, who lives in Montgomery, makes the best red velvet cake. I remember this summer, I asked her to bake me a cake, she did and I picked it up. She has a famous red velvet cake.
Rob Lohr, Defensive Tackle Favorite Dish: It's kind of hard to pick just one. I like a full plate of everything that is good.
Growing up, where did your family gather for Thanksgiving? Usually, we would go to my aunt's house in Virginia, on my mom's side of the family. They live on a farm, so it is really nice. Usually 20 people would be there. They would have the adults at one table and the kids at the other. We'd end the night with board games. It was a lot of fun.
What is your favorite holiday? I would say Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. As far as food goes, it is the best day of the year. That's my indulging day.
Favorite Dessert: For desserts, my mom makes New York-style cheesecake and another thing called pumpkin rolls. Pumpkin rolls are my favorite dessert. It's amazing and I actually have some of it in my fridge right now. I've been eating it everyday.
Archibald Barnes, Linebacker Favorite Dish: My mom's mac 'n' cheese is the best. I even ask for it on my birthday. She'll bake it and bring it up.
Growing up, where did your family gather for Thanksgiving? I have a lot of family in New York and family in North Carolina. My dad's family is in North Carolina and my mom's is in New York. We'd go to Queens and Brooklyn, New York pretty much every Thanksgiving. But when I was younger we'd split it. We'd go to New York for one Thanksgiving and North Carolina for the next.
Did you have any duties on Thanksgiving? I got to chill and watch football with my brothers, for the most part. We help out by setting the table and cleaning up our share. But for the most part, we get to hang out. Lots of time to relax.
Favorite Dessert: Sweet potato pie. My mom makes the pie as well.
Friday Five Spot With junior defensive back Andre Hal
What did you enjoy most about being able to spend more time with your teammates during the holiday week?
We get more time just being together and growing as a team, getting to know each other better. We always enjoy hanging out in each other's room talking to each other and joking around. One thing we liked to do was play video games together.
What are the popular games with the team?
Either Madden, NCAA Football or Call of Duty. I'm not really into Call of Duty but that is what everybody else is into. I'm a Madden guy. I'm not the best on the team, but I"m probably second. I'll tip my cap to Kenny Ladler for being the best.
What is your favorite food?
I love red beans and rice, and fried chicken. I grew up eating it all the time in Louisiana.
Do you have a pregame routine that you do before each game?
I sit in the same seat on the bus every time. I always sit in the last seat by the bathroom. I've been doing that since I got to college. I just did it for the first game I ever went to and I've been doing it every since.
Which of your teammates is best suited for reality television?
It's hard because we have a lot of characters on our team. I'd say Karl Butler and Steven Clarke would be good on the Real World. Yeah, that would be a good show and everybody would watch it.