Interview with John Markham

John Markham was a solid kicker for Vanderbilt for four years and went on to kick in the National Football League. GFP talked to Markham about his time at Vandy and in his days in the NFL.

GFP: What have you been up to?
John Markham: I work over here at Bank of America that keeps me busy. I make it over to Vandy games on Saturday and I do a little coaching at MBA.

GFP: How excited are you for the bowl game?
JM: I'm fired up. I felt like we'd make it at some point. I thought we'd get there Cutler's senior year but I'm fired up and I'll go wherever we go.

GFP: How exciting was it to be drafted back in 2001?
JM: It was probably the most exciting day of my life. It was a little unexpected and it made it that much better. I'd be lying if I had said that I'd get drafted that day. It was an unbelievable experience with the draft and whole other experience getting up they're and experiencing that lifestyle and meeting all the people I met, and playing in Giants Stadium was an unbelievable experience.

GFP: Where you in New York on 9-11?
JM: No, I actually got cut the week before it happened but I remember you could see the Trade Center from the practice field. The final cut down day was the week before it happened so I was back in Nashville that day.

GFP: What was your most memorable experience in the NFL?
JM: Probably the draft but the most memorable experience I had was in Atlanta. I kicked really well down there and we were playing the Green Bay in a preseason game and I kicked off and made the tackle and absolutely pancaked the guy.

GFP: It's kind of embarrassing getting laid out by the kicker.
JM: They ran a different kick off scheme. Usually the kicker is the safety but I was right in there in the mix. I can't recall the guys name but he broke through I think I was a little bigger than he was and I put my arms around him and took him down. It was really cool.

GFP: Why did you choose Vanderbilt?
JM: I wasn't heavily recruited coming out of high school. I knew I had a good leg and I really enjoyed it. I was very familiar with Vanderbilt. I grew up here in the south and I was a huge SEC football fan. I was looking for a place where I could get an education and when Vandy came calling it gave me the opportunity to have a great education and play SEC football in some big stadiums. When I got the offer I accepted to Coach Woody right on the spot.

GFP: I heard that Coach Woody wore his Super Bowl rings when he recruited is that true?
JM: It's true. He had at least two of them on. I think he had one on each hand. He definitely alluded to them when he was sitting in the MBA's coaches office. They were noticeable. And I absolutely believed when I first met him we were going to win some games and go to a bowl.

GFP: When an opposing coach calls a timeout to ice the kicker what goes through your mind?
JM: As a kicker I try to think of as little as when I'm out on the field kicking. I would work on everything in practice and try to clear my mind when kicking on the field during games. In that situation I would have a routine I would go through before I came on the field. If a team called a timeout I would go to the sideline and go through my routine all over again.

GFP: Do you think it works?
JM: I think it can. For me as long as you get in our routine it doesn't change much.

GFP: I guess your most infamous moment was the 30 yard extra point against LSU. What do you recall about that game?
JM: There are certain moments that stick out and you always remember and that's one of them. It was an odd, odd situation. A 30-yard kick isn't a long kick. I should've made the kick. It was just an odd situation. I could've been different if we hadn't gone for two. It's one of those moments as a Vandy fan you think we have to be cursed.

GFP: Do you think we went for two because we playing against DiNardo?
JM: They were Top Ten in the country and we struggled a little and wanted to get the win right there. Maybe we would've got the win in overtime, maybe we wouldn't. Coach Woody wanted to go for it there.

GFP: How disappointing was it to lose a close one to Peyton Manning in Knoxville later that year?
JM: That was extremely disappointing. It was my first time in Neyland Stadium and being able to play there in front of all those people and have a chance to win was awesome. We fell a little short and it would've been cool to beat Peyton his senior year.

GFP: It was funny how he struggled against us and a few weeks later lost the Heisman trophy. Exactly, he never really did well against our defense when I was there.

GFP: What do you remember about the overtime loss to LaDainian Tomlinson and TCU on the road your sophomore year? You had some big kicks that night.
JM: It had been raining a bunch and I felt great. I was kicking the ball really well. I missed a 54-yard field goal right before halftime. I pulled it a little to the left. I made a 49 and a 42 in another one. I felt good. It felt good when Woody called for the field goal in the first overtime. It was another situation where it just didn't work out for ur. I hit a 47 yarder in the second overtime. I didn't know who LaDainian Tomlinson was at the time but he had a good game against us. I would've been cool to get a win over a big name like him.

GFP: When did you realize you played against him?
JM: When he got drafted. I kind of put two and two together. I never was too involved in what was going on but I did hear them say they had a good tailback.

GFP: Aaron McWhorter told me the Northern Illinois game was the most exciting game he's ever been apart of. What are your thoughts from rallying from 25 down to win at home?
JM: It was absolutely one of the most exciting games I ever played in. I would put the win at Oxford slightly ahead of it though. Being down 31-3 and coming back and winning it. That year we had the feeling we going go to a bowl game. Especially in part of what we did in that game. I had been in many games where the ball never bounced our way and with Jimmy returning that punt it was awesome. It was absolutely unbelievable.

GFP: How special was the win in Oxford in overtime?
JM: That was the most special win I was ever part of at Vanderbilt. Going on the road and getting the win was special. We played them close my freshman year down there but to go there and win in overtime was unbelievable. It felt different early in that season. We were making our own breaks and it was fun to play in.

GFP: What do you think happened in the Miss. St game that year? We had won 3 straight and there was lot of talk about being ranked had we won that game at home.
JM: I don't think I kicked much that game. They had a good team that year. They had James Johnson in the backfield and it was Jackie Sherrill's heyday there. We didn't match up well against them. I remember before the game everyone was excited and it was one of those standoffs at the 50 yard line and there was a lot of emotion in the air. It all fell apart after that.

GFP: How fun was it beating Citadel 58-0 in the rain? Your leg must have been worn out.
JM: That one was fun. Everyone got to play. My leg was definitely worn out. It was disappointing because it was rainy and not many people got to see it. It's always fun when you win 58-0. I didn't experience too many of those while I was there.

GFP: What did you think when Coach Widenhofer called for the fake punt in our own territory against Georgia?
JM: Truthfully I was shocked at that call. We had a lot of things go right for us early in the game but momentum was turning in their favor so I didn't understand what he was doing. In hindsight we should've called it off. I wish we would've because I got crushed on that play. Who knows what would've happened if we called it off. But I'll never forget getting that ball from Shaub and getting crushed by that wall of Georgia defenders. I didn't get hit much and that was the hardest I ever got hit.

GFP: Could you have called that play off?
JM: I couldn't have called it off. It depends on what you see and what was there. Had it been on another place in the field, who knows what could've happened. There was an option to call it off if we would've wanted to.

GFP: In his defense he would've been labeled a genius.
JM: Exactly, I don't fault him for it. He was just trying to win a football game and sometimes you have to take chances. We ran a faked punt against Mississippi State and it worked. We ran a fake field goal on Duke and it worked and we went on to when that game but against Georgia it didn't work out.

GFP: The game in the Swamp that year is a classic. How exciting was it to be on CBS across the country in a game like that?
JM: We dominated them in every stat and every aspect of the game except the score. It was a lot of fun. I remember I made some kicks and Tavarus had a huge catch on the sidelines late in the game. The Swamp is unlike any other place. It's so loud because the fans are right on top of you and the student section was right beside my kicking net. They were merciless. Playing on CBS and having a chance to beat them in the Swamp was awesome.

GFP: What was the week like before the Kentucky game on ESPN?
JM: We were really optimistic. We started out hot and had cooled off. We were excited because going to a bowl game was something we hadn't experienced. Everybody felt good because we felt we could beat Kentucky and we were going to be on television.

GFP: What did you think when you saw the fumble?
JM: You get that feeling again that you are cursed. Rodney is sure handed and you start to wonder when is this ever going to go our way?

GFP: Were you upset with Rodney?
JM: No, not at all. It was one of those things. I missed plenty of field goals when I was there. Stuff happens. If you play long enough eventually something like that happens.

GFP: Do you think the disappointment carried over to the UT game?
JM: I think so. Any time you play for a chance at a bowl game on TV and it doesn't work out it will have some kind of effect on you.

GFP: Do you feel the suspension on Winborn and Jimmy Williams hurt the team in getting off to a good start that year? We missed them against Miami of Ohio.
JM: Yeah, they are two great players. It hurt the team. Who knows the outcome if they play in those games. Missing those two guys definitely hurt. We didn't get off on the right foot because of that.

GFP: Later that year we went to Lexington and beat the Wildcats at their place. Was that win payback for the year before?
JM: It was one of those games were we controlled the game. It was close but I felt we were going to win. It was a little bittersweet. We would've liked to get them the year before. Any SEC road win is a big win.

GFP: What do you remember about your last game as a Commodore at Adelphia Coliseum. I still think if we had a few more minutes we would've won that game.
JM: I do to. It was a novelty to play at Adelphia. It was a great experience. To be as close as we were and have a chance to win and maybe we should've won but it was fun. It was bittersweet. It was very surreal. It didn't sink in that it was my last game until a week or two later that I wouldn't be playing anymore.

GFP: Zolman and Garrett was like Montana and Rice in the second half.
JM: Absolutely, they were putting on a show.

GFP: What did you think when you heard about Coach Widenhofer getting fired?
JM: Coach Woody was the only coach I ever played for. I really enjoyed my four years there. I think that he had been there 5 years and we had gotten close to a bowl game but things didn't appear to be headed in the right direction. I hated it because I had got to know the staff. I wasn't shocked but I was disappointed for them.

GFP: Did you call Bryant Hahnfeldt after he broke your record for all time leading scorer a few weeks ago?
JM: I did. I didn't get to see the kick. I was there for the first three quarters and I saw him tie my record but I had a friend getting married so I had to sneak out and ride over to the reception which was at the University Club and I heard on the radio he had broken it. I called him and left him a message and I finally spoke to him on Sunday after the game. He's a great kicker. He's had ups and downs and he's made big kicks like the one at Georgia. I think he'll have a chance to do something.

GFP: What are your thoughts on this year's team?
JM: It's a lot of fun to watch. At the beginning of the year it was a ton of fun and had a different feel to it. We caught a lot of breaks and I thought we could've won every game. I have got to know the coaching staff and I have a lot of respect for them. The second half of our schedule it always loaded with Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. But to get these guys to a bowl game is a credit to the players and the coaches. The second half has been a roller coaster for sure but I'm looking forward to the bowl game.

GFP: Do you still feel we are cursed?
JM: No, not entirely. At the beginning of the year we had a few things go our way like the fumble off of the guys leg against South Carolina and a things like that. Stuff like that never goes our way. If the curse isn't broken it's starting to break.

GFP: Anything else you want to say to the fans?
JM: Support our guys…'s our first bowl game in 26 years it's important we cheer them on the in bowl game.

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