The family of Pat Brunner, junior linebacker from Cincinnati, sets the standard among Vanderbilt fans. With their highly-customized, ultra-luxurious, 30-foot gold-and-black Zephyr motor home, the Brunner family is never far from the comforts of home.
We're talking a virtual manor house on wheels here. The Zephyr, also known affectionately as the "VandyMobile," features a full kitchen, beds for up to eight, a china cabinet, and an air horn that's only slightly softer than the stadium foghorn that blows after touchdowns.
With a Vandy helmet placed conspicuously in the cab, an American flag and Vandy flag hoisted on the stern, and a personalized "Vandy-44" license plate (44 is Brunner's number), the VandyMobile is never hard to spot.
Typically before a home game, you'll find the VandyMobile docked in the Holiday Inn Vanderbilt parking lot. The canopy is extended, the portable chairs are set up, the grill is fired up, and the drinks are on ice in a cooler roughly the same size as a casket. A crowd of people swarms around the Zephyr, which draws people like a magnet.
The Brunners are old hands at tailgating, dating back to Pat's playing days at Bishop Elder High School in Cincinnati.
"It started when Pat was back in high school," says Pat's father, Patrick Brunner. "We had a motor home back then, and had so much fun, we just followed through with the college thing."
For the Brunners, a Vanderbilt home game typically means a nearly-600-mile road trip from Cincinnati and back-- and the trip can be much longer if the destination is somewhere like Gainesville or Auburn. But the Brunners are not dissuaded. For them, any Commodore football game means an opportunity to take the Vandymobile on the road.
"If it's a long trip, I'll take off work on Fridays and make it a three-day weekend," says Patrick.
The Brunners are one of a large number of player parents who never miss a game, home or away. Through the years, the Brunners have formed warm friendships with a number of the other player parents who travel long distances to see their sons play.
"The Brancheaus [parents of tight end Curtis] have a motor home also," Patrick says. "They come up from Texas and make most of the games. The Lyles [family of safety Nick] make it to most of them too. There are quite a few of us."
Though the Brunners opted to fly to Fort Worth last weekend rather than drive-- that one would have been a 2,000-mile round trip-- they will faithfully make it to all twelve games this year. Plus the SEC Championship and the bowl game, they add, optimistically.
"We're there," says Patrick.
Photos by Brent Wiseman, copyright 2003 for VandyMania.