“It’s close to home,” said the alumnus of Independence High School. “My family and friends can come out and see the game, just 30 minutes or 45 minutes from where I live, and not only are they in the Pac-12, and are a good football team in the Pac-12, but the degree that I can get from there will put me and my family in the best position for success, when I’m done with football and when I graduate from the school.”
Thanks to some hard work in the classroom, Vanderbilt – who had planned originally to sign with the Cougars, before discovering that a class would not transfer – will arrive on campus on July 6 to start Summer Bridge, with three years to play two.
“I’ve been talking to the coaches for a while now, and I’ve already signed,” Vanderbilt said. “I’ve been signed for a while, but I wanted to make sure everything went through, and nothing would change last-minute. I’ve been signed for about a week and a half, two weeks now.
“[The coaches] were happy; they’d known for a while, that I wanted to pull the trigger, when I could actually do it. They were happy, and I was just as happy.”
Vanderbilt will enter as a safety, a position that was woefully thin during spring practice, and will see a much-needed infusion of new talent come fall.
“We ran that same defense at my junior college, so the defense, I won’t have a problem,” says Vanderbilt. “It’s just the tempo of the game that will be the main thing I have to focus on. Other than that, I like the defense and coach [Greg] Burns a lot. Coach Burns, he’s a really good guy. He’s real straight-forward, keeps it real with me, and I like that in coaches. He doesn’t sugarcoat at all. He’ll tell you how it is, what you should fix, and pretty much everything you need to work on.”
Vanderbilt visited Cal when the Bears played BYU – to whom he originally committed on June 10 of last year – and at the time, was solid in his commitment, but one junior college class changed his intention to sign with the Cougars. The time frame in which he would have had to make up the class that didn’t transfer wouldn’t have worked, Vanderbilt says.
“Cal’s always been there,” Vanderbilt says. “They were the first school to come, but I was so far behind in my classes, that they stopped. So, I had to grind it out in my classroom, get all my transferrable classes, all my major classes that I needed to get done, and I finished with a 3.0 GPA, so I’m able to get into school. Since things didn’t work out with BYU, they came back as soon as they found out.”
Vanderbilt is more than excited to get up to Berkeley and start working out with the team, and to have the whole saga come to an end.
“It’s a lot of stress off my back,” Vanderbilt says. “Everyone knows where I’m going now, all the coaches know where I’m going now, and they’re all as happy as I am. My family’s happy for me, my mom is happy for me, my 13-year old brother is happy, I’m happy.”
Vanderbilt’s family will now be able to see him play, and they’re also planning some road trips for away games, a well.
“Just a 45-minute drive to watch me play, and they’re going to fly out to the UCLA game and the Oregon game,” Vanderbilt says.
Vanderbilt is a big safety at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, and he's quick (4.5-second 40 time), with an appetite for hitting. This past season, he tallied 82 tackles -- including 48 solo stops -- and led San Jose City with 9.1 tackles per game. He added 2.5 tackles for loss, two force d fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a team-leading three interceptions for a team-best 93 return yards and broke up four passes.