They call him 'Mr. Perfect'

Remember that kid back in high school that you always hated, because everything about him seemed perfect? His answers in class were always right... his teeth were perfect, his grades were perfect... he starred in sports, and was always a hit with the babes? <p> That's pretty much Andrew Pace.

NASHVILLE-- Remember that kid back in high school that you always hated, because everything about him seemed perfect? His answers in class were always right... his teeth were perfect, his grades were perfect... he starred in sports, and was always a hit with the babes?

That's pretty much a description of Andrew Pace.

Or maybe you don't remember that guy. Not every high school had one. Truth told, not too many kids in the whole world have as many things going for them as Vanderbilt's starting strong safety.

So perfectly does Pace do what his coaches ask, that his fellow defensive backs have come to think of him as a bit of a "teacher's pet." The DB's, notorious for hanging a nickname on every member of the unit, have anointed the junior from just outside Birmingham with the moniker of "Mr. Perfect."

Blessed with leading man good looks, Pace's curly, light brown locks and blue eyes must drive the girls in Biology batty. Off the field, he's a straight arrow, and president of the Vanderbilt chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In the classroom, he achieved Academic Honor Roll in 2003.

Pace stops Arliss Beach in last year's win over Kentucky. (VUAD / Neil Brake)
On the field, though not considered one of the team's marquee stars last season, he nonetheless demonstrated a knack for the big play, with two interceptions and a team-high three fumble recoveries. As a sophomore playing regularly for the first time, his 85 total tackles ranked fourth on the squad, and he became known for his solid, heady play.

Surely, somewhere, there must be a chink in his armor? Asked recently if he had any known flaws, Pace emitted a hearty laugh, followed by a shrug.

"I don't think I'm perfect in any sense of the word," he says. "I don't know, I think I acquired that nickname through my effort to exercise and do the fundamentals, the technique, and the responsibilities that we have at our position-- to do them as best as I can, and to do them exactly as they tell me to.

"I've found I'm able to do some good things on the football field, just by listening to my coaches and doing it as they tell me.

"And as the guys on the team see that, they just pick up on it, and they say, there goes Mr. Perfect, or Mr. Fundamentals, or whatever they call me. But all I do is just do what the coaches tell me to do, and try to do it the best of my ability."

Pace has learned to take his teammates' good-natured kidding in stride.

"I'm not perfect. I make mistakes, but I learn from them the best I can, and move on and try to become the best player I can be."

Despite the fact that Pace started every game last year, there's been plenty of speculation that the 6-1, 210 junior might be pushed for his job in camp by a couple of younger players. Redshirt freshman Marcus Buggs (5-11, 215) is making a bid for playing time, while Ben Koger (6-1, 219, junior) and Reshard Langford (6-1, 205) have made their cases thus far during fall drills.

Don't bet the farm on it, though. Pace's dedication to his craft, his uncanny knack for doing the right thing at the right time, has earned him a place in his coaches' hearts. After he completes a drill, it's common to hear a coach praise No. 35, while urging others to execute it with the same precision.

Strong safety is a position that requires an unusual combination of speed, strength... and brains. Naturally, "Mr. Perfect" is proficient at all three.

"There's a lot of things you've got to know and understand as a strong safety," Pace says. "I have a lot of responsibility, especially in the passing game, but in the running game too.

"If I mess up, it could be a big play. I feel like I've got to be wise, and be as perfect as I can be, in order to help my team win."

Pace prepped at Mountain Brook, a Birmingham power program that has produced a plethora of college prospects, including his cousin Grant Brigham. Like Pace, Brigham ended up signing with Vanderbilt in 2002, but transferred to Furman after sitting out a redshirt season.

"A lot of great players and athletes come out of Mountain Brook, and they have a great coaching staff. I still keep up with them," he says. "I go see the Mountain Brook coaches whenever I'm in Birmingham.

"It looks like they're going to have a really good team this year. I think we've already offered [a scholarship to] a safety from Mountain Brook named Thomas Twitty. I've talked with him and his parents about his maybe coming here."

To say that Pace is driven to succeed would be an understatement. Few players can match his diligence in film study, and his passion to carry out every assignment to the letter. But ask him what drives him as a person, and Pace is quick to point to his Christian faith as a big part of what makes him tick.

"A big part of my life is my relationship with Jesus Christ," he says. "I have a strong relationship with him, and I've devoted my life to serving the Lord." Besides serving as president of FCA, Pace is heavily involved in Reform University Fellowship, a campus ministry, and on-campus Bible studies. He enjoys volunteering his spare time at Nashville's homeless shelters and drug rehabilitation clinics.

College athletes have become notorious recently for their off-the-field problems, but on any given evening, you'd be more likely to find Pace in a Bible study somewhere than in some shady night spot.

"There are a lot of guys on this team that make time to come to FCA each week," he says with a grin. "During the summer we usually have Bible studies. There's a good showing of guys who make it every week. We have a good little sub-group of guys who are wanting to grow closer in their relationship with Christ, and spend time in his word."


Last year's Vanderbilt defense surrendered nearly 200 passing yards per game, a mark which will have to drop this season if the defense is to keep the team in games. The entire secondary returns almost intact, however, and a number of promising freshmen should provide depth.

"We're a lot more experienced," Pace says of the secondary. "Last year we had some young guys, new guys getting playing time, and now we have some experience back there, which is really crucial in games.

"Last year, from beginning to end, I learned so much in this defense, and I know that I can apply all I learned last year, and from last spring as well. Hopefully we're going to be a lot better." Top Stories