VandyMania Interview: Jefferson-Pilot's Dave Neal

Jefferson-Pilot TV's <b>Dave Neal</b> returns for his sixth season as play-by-play announcer for the SEC Game of the Week. The 2004 season opens Saturday in Nashville with <b>South Carolina at Vanderbilt</b> (kickoff 11:30 am CT). We asked Neal to look ahead at the season in SEC football, and to tell us what's special about visiting Nashville and Vanderbilt.


VandyMania: Dave, you and the Jefferson-Pilot crew end up broadcasting several Vanderbilt games every year as part of your Southeastern Conference Game of the Week package. Will there be any changes in your role for this year?

Dave Neal: No, we're all back. Dave Rowe will be the color analyst, Dave Baker will be down on the sidelines, and I'll be handling the play-by-play. It's pretty much the same crew outside in the truck as well, so we're excited about getting the season started. It'll be my sixth year at Jefferson-Pilot, and Dave Rowe's eleventh year. So like Vanderbilt, we have some experience coming back!

VandyMania: You'll be opening up the season in Nashville for the South Carolina-Vanderbilt game, and then two weeks later you'll have another Vanderbilt game, down in Oxford against Ole Miss. So you'll get to see the Commodores twice in the first three weeks of the season.

Dave Neal: Yeah, and I'm very excited about that. I'm really thinking this Vanderbilt football team is going to be a difference-maker in the conference this year. I did an interview last week, and somebody asked me who's the most overrated team in the league this year and the most underrated team, and I said the most underrated team in this league this year is Vanderbilt. Now, I'm not saying that the Commodores will win the SEC East title, but they really have a chance to do some nice things this year. They can cause a lot of problems for some teams.

I just like the makeup. They've got some decent skill players coming back. The biggest question with Vanderbilt is always depth, but I think they have enough coming back under Bobby Johnson's tutelage to really make a difference in how the league plays out this year.

VandyMania: We know you're a big fan of Jay Cutler... what are your thoughts on him as a quarterback?

Dave Neal: I just think Jay is a tremendous talent. I know his freshman year he did a lot more than just throw the football, a lot more movement. Last year they tried to get him to throw it a little more than run. I think they're going to find a happy medium for Jay. He had some receivers drop a few balls for him last year. You have a healthy backfield coming back too. You've got Norval McKenzie and Kwane Doster coming back-- those are two of my favorite running backs in the league. They need to have some guys step up at the wide receiver position, but if they can find one or two guys who can make some plays out there, this is an offense that can do pretty well in the SEC.

VandyMania: You have what some would probably consider a dream job... you get to travel around to all the different cities in the SEC. Vanderbilt is a little different from a lot of these huge stadiums you go to... but what's special to you about coming to Nashville and Vanderbilt?

Dave Neal: The most special thing for me is that my brother is an undergraduate at Vanderbilt. So he's always on me to make sure I take care of the Commodores! So when the Commodores put on a good show, I feel somewhat responsible.

But it's always fun to go up to Nashville. I know a lot of folks up there. First of all, it's an unbelievable city. If I didn't live in Atlanta, which is my home town, Nashville would be the next place I would go. Also, I just like the people around the university. There are some really solid individuals, people that you like to spend time with and converse with. The other thing I like about it is that the true Vanderbilt fans are Vanderbilt fans, win or lose. The expectations in football for the last 20 years say that the chances of winning aren't that great. But the fans still show up. They care about the Commodores, and they care about the players. They don't jump off the bandwagon. Many other schools have a much larger fan base, but I don't know that there are more loyal fans in the SEC than at Vanderbilt.

Sideline analyst Dave Baker broadcasts live from Vanderbilt Stadium before last year's Vanderbilt-Ole Miss telecast.


What: South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt
When: Saturday, 11:30 a.m. CT
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium
TV: Jefferson-Pilot (regional telecast)
Radio: 104.5 The Zone

Photos by Brent Wiseman, Copyright 2004 for Top Stories