The Commodores' finale vs. Tennessee on Nov. 23 is technically Vanderbilt's final home game of 2002, but that game has been moved to Nashville's downtown Coliseum, home of the Tennessee Titans.
Among a large and diverse class of seniors, many of whom have been at Vanderbilt for five years, May currently tops the team's consecutive-starts list with 38. The Florida game will be May's 43rd total as a Commodore.
"The good Lord's really blessed me with the ability to stay healthy," said the 6-4, 302-pound senior from Lilburn, Ga. "I've just been really fortunate to avoid injury, and to play as well as I have."
Besides May, four other seniors-- Hunter Hillenmeyer, Mike Martin, Aaron McWhorter and Tom Simone-- have played in every game of their varsity career. For those seniors, says May, putting on the uniform for the last time at Dudley Field will be bittersweet.
"It's going to be a fun atmosphere," said May. "I've been here so long, I almost don't know anything else right now.
"But it's almost time to move on... either get paid for this, or do something else," he joked. A fifth-year player who already holds an undergraduate degree, May has aspirations of playing in the National Football League after leaving Vanderbilt.
Other seniors scheduled to participate in the ceremonies are fullback Mike Adam, defensive tackle Brett Beard, center Jamie Byrum, fullback Bara Cola, receiver Ryan Cuffee, kicker Chuck Folino, receiver M. J. Garrett, safety Justin Giboney, kicker Greg Gulinson, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, receiver Markessus House, cornerback Rushen Jones, defensive end Chuck Losey, safety Mike Martin, holder Howdy MacPherson, cornerback Aaron McWhorter, fullback Juan Rojas, safety Jonathan Shaub, tight end Tom Simone, receiver Dan Stricker, and linebacker Brandon Walthour.
Three non-active players-- Wes Gunter, Chris Mitacek, and Jason Tant-- also will take part in the ceremonies. Fans should plan to arrive early, as the seniors and their families will be honored a few minutes prior to kickoff.
Saturday's game is the first meeting between two first-year coaches, Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson and Florida's Ron Zook. Zook's Gators remain in the picture for an SEC East championship, although they must have help in the form of a Georgia loss in order to overtake the division-leading Bulldogs. Bobby Johnson isn't buying into the theory that Zook's Gators might come to Nashville a little flat after a surprising 20-13 win over Georgia last week in Jacksonville.
"I think they'll be sky-high, because nobody picked them to beat Georgia," said Johnson. "What concerns us is their athletic matchups. We're pretty banged up right now. Good, experienced athletes vs. lesser, inexperienced athletes doesn't add up very well."
Though the Gators have looked uncharacteristically vulnerable in losses to Miami, Ole Miss and LSU, Jim May says the Florida team is still powerful, and probably underrated.
"The Gators being down is like us being the best we can possibly be," said May. "We've just got to go out there and do what we know to do. We can't try to reinvent the wheel. I think that's what teams do a lot of times when they face superior talent. They go out and try to do more than they need to, and you just end up faltering.
"We just need to show up and play the game we know how to play. Offensively, defensively... if we show up and have two good games, we're a real good team. If we get all three phases of the game going, we could be a real spoiler to some teams."
The Commodores have lost 14 consecutive SEC games, dating back to a Nov. 11, 2000 road