But Dinwiddie, now in his fourth year of school, has been hobbled for the past 12 months with a series of knee injuries. His appearance in Saturday's Ole Miss game was his first since a knee injury sidelined him in last year's Connecticut game; he sat out the final four games of 2002 and missed spring practice completely.
VandyMania talked recently with big No. 96 about his injury and what's kept him going through a lengthy period of rehabilitation. (Ed. Note: this interview took place before last Saturday's game.)
VandyMania: You've had such a long road back from a series of surgeries and procedures on your knee. Tell us what the last six months have been like for you, since the spring.
Robert Dinwiddie: Last spring was a pretty hard time for me, because I didn't get a chance to get in there and practice because of the knee surgery. They elected the captains, and I thought maybe, you know, if I had gotten a little more healthy, I might have been one of them-- but that didn't materialize. Over the summer it was still hurting me pretty bad. In June I had a partial lateral release done. Hopefully that's going to be the key to getting me back into the game this year.
VM: Do you expect to play mostly at end this year, or tackle?
Robert: Right now I'm at end. We've got some freshman depth at end now, but you can't always count on that. Those guys [Jonathan Loyte, Greg Jacobs] are going to be really good, and Chris Booker has stepped in this year. He did a great job of stepping in last year when we needed him. But whatever Coach decides to do with me, that's what I'm going to have to do. I'm going to fight for whatever job I can get, and hopefully make it a season I can be proud of.
VM: It's got to be incredibly hard to keep going after injuries-- that's got to be one of the hardest things an athlete has to deal with. What has kept you going and kept you focused during those times when it's really discouraging?
Robert: That's a really tough question. For a football player who's on scholarship here at Vanderbilt, football and sports are just basically your life. When you get an injury like this, it's like, you're missing out on your life. It's really hard to sit by and let your life go by without you. So, it's trying to keep that glimmer of hope alive that you're going to be healthy again one day, and you're going to be able to play with the guys you came in with, and to be a mentor to the guys who came in after you. That's probably what keeps anybody focused after an injury. That, and hopefully, whatever their faith may be. And if you've got a girlfriend, your girlfriend! Or if it's school, your schoolwork. You don't really have much time for anything else.
VM: So what is it for you?
Robert: Well, for me it's that glimmer of hope that one day I'm going to be healthy again (laugh).