Photo Story: Veteran Commodores report

Thursday afternoon, sophomore, junior, and senior Commodore football players began checking into their Branscomb Dormitories. Unlike Wednesday, when coaches, media, and a few fans turned out to welcome the incoming freshmen, the returning players quickly carried their belonging to their dorms without much fanfare.

Not everything went off without a hitch. Some of the rooms had malfunctioning air conditioners that required immediate repairs. Among the players having to wait for cool air in the lobby was senior defensive end Chris Booker. "I guess I better go buy a fan," he said with a chuckle.

On the eve of the first football practice, some of the upperclassmen reflected on their experiences at Vanderbilt. Junior fullback Darnell Martemus is getting ready to start his fourth season in a black and gold uniform. "This is my fourth camp coming up, and now I know exactly what to expect from the coaches. Now that I am a little older, I have a set thing about getting a certain amount of rest and waking up at a certain time. Now I know how to better divide my time to get extra time after practice to run more and study film. I'm a lot more prepared this year than last year."

Missing out on a winning season and probably bowl bid by a handful of plays has weighed heavily on Martemus's mind in the past nine months. "Last year, we knew we could play with anybody in the country. We had a few breaks go against us. We put in extra time in the weight room and running to make a difference this year."

And what about replacing a first round NFL draft pick at quarterback? Martemus said, "We lost a real great player in Jay Cutler, but I'm confident in the players stepping in for him (Chris Nickson, Richard Kovalcheck, and MacKenzi Adams). Everyone coming back is real hungry, especially with the first game being in Ann Arbor.

For junior transfer quarterback Richard Kovalcheck, this is his second time at moving into a new dorm. After graduating from the University of Arizona, Kovalcheck has just completed his first session of graduate school at Owen School of Management. "It feels pretty similar (to moving into his dorm in Tucson); moving into the dorm and getting ready for camp is exciting." When asked whether his being a grad student made him feel like an older brother to some of the younger players, Kovalcheck thought for a second and replied, "I don't know. That's interesting. I feel like I have more experience, and I don't feel like a freshman." Having Kovalcheck on board is similar to the situation with many NFL teams desiring to acquire a veteran quarterback as an insurance policy if the younger and less experienced signal caller isn't ready to go or gets hurt.

The first practice of the season begins at 6:00 PM Friday on the artificial surface at the John Rich Athletic Complex behind McGugin Center. It is the first of four practices opened to the public. The team will not wear pads for these practices.

Brad Allen

Josh Allen

Brian Stamper

George Smith

Chris Booker

Chris Williams

Darnell Martemus

Hamilton Holliday

Jake Bradford

Jonathan Goff

Richard Kovalcheck

Steven Bright

Bryant Hahnfeldt

Photos by Howell Peiser for Top Stories