He sounds the foghorn

Alden "Skip" Smith, a senior Physics and Philosophy major from Sangerville, Maine, is the Naval ROTC student responsible for blowing "The Foghorn" after Vanderbilt scores a touchdown. Over time, Commodore fans have come to associate the sound with feelings of giddiness and exuberant joy.

When quarterback Jay Cutler scored Vanderbilt's first touchdown of the game last Saturday against Chattanooga, an unseen Naval ROTC student high atop the stadium pressbox turned a key. That key sounded a long, low blast on a foghorn, almost loud enough to eclipse the crowd's thundering cheers.

The west stands shook with the deafening blast.

The fingers of that ROTC student, Alden "Skip" Smith, would get quite a workout before the evening was over. The Commodores would score six more touchdowns and a field goal on the Mocs, and go on to win the game, 51-6.

"The Foghorn" may not yet be considered on of college football's grandest traditions, but for Vanderbilt football players and their diehard fans, it is pretty darn near the sweetest sound on earth. Smith is instructed to sound the horn after every touchdown, at the beginning of the game when the Commodores take the field, and as time expires at the end of a win. Over time, fans have come to associate the sound with feelings of giddiness and exuberant joy.

"We always get excited when we see touchdowns," Smith said.

Smith, a senior Physics and Philosophy major from Sangerville, Maine, is in his fourth year of foghorn detail. He can also be seen at the beginning of the game as part of the four-man color guard that marches out the flag for the national anthem-- but shortly afterwards he takes the elevator to the top floor of the pressbox level, where he monitors the football game for Commodore scores.

Vanderbilt's Naval ROTC program provides support for all the football events. Besides blowing the horn, the unit shuttles passengers back and forth between the stadium and the parking areas, does color guard, and mans the skybox.

"We have a full complement (of Navy ROTC members) down in the skybox, and lots of times most of them come up [to the top of the press box] as well," said Smith.

One might think that you'd have to work your way to the top in ROTC to earn the job of sounding the foghorn, but Smith says that's not the case.

"A lot of these positions actually get manned by underclassmen," he said. "Usually the seniors take their seniority to go enjoy the game in the stands."

But Smith gets a charge out of turning the crank that sounds the horn that makes the stadium vibrate.

"I do. I enjoy performing-- any chance I can get to get out on the field, or perform with the color guard."

How did Vanderbilt end up with a foghorn from an actual battleship as a noisemaker? The story dates back to the early 1990's when Gerry Dinardo was head football coach, said Rod Williamson, Vanderbilt's Associate AD for Communications.

"It came off a battleship," said Williamson. "A Vanderbilt alumnus was the highest-ranking officer for this ship, and the ship was going to be mothballed."

The horn was salvaged, thanks to the efforts of the naval officer. As far as Commodore fans are concerned, it's been recycled nicely.

It's somehow oddly appropriate that the Naval ROTC squad would be assigned the job of blowing the horn.

"When I graduate, I go out to the fleet," says Smith. "Hopefully I will be accepted into the Nuclear Power program and go to sub school."

If submarines have foghorns, Smith's experiences could come in handy.


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