NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The time has finally arrived: The Commodores head to Hawai’i on Sunday.
After a little more than two weeks of preseason practice and three days of beginning to game plan for the opponent, Vanderbilt will board a charter flight Sunday at Nashville International Airport and fly approximately 10 hours to Honolulu. Vandy will then spend the next five days adjusting their bodies and their minds toward the task at hand.
“It’s something you don’t get to really experience a whole lot. We’re excited to go out there,” Vanderbilt quarterback Mike Wright said. “But we take it game-by-game. We focus on every game and ours just happens to be all the way across America. I know the guys are excited.
“We’ll go out there a week early, get acclimated. It’s still a (football) trip. As crazy as it sounds we’re going to go out there to play football and we’re going to get on the flight and come back home.”
Wright, named Friday one of eight captains for the 2022 season, will be looked upon to lead the Commodores into the season, the second for the program under head coach Clark Lea. Vandy’s practice Friday was its final full workout of the preseason ahead of a walk-through Saturday morning.
The Dores are scheduled to depart campus Sunday morning and arrive in Hawai’i at 5 p.m. Hawaiian time Sunday.
“We talked (Friday) morning, we have to narrow our focus here, focus on less. Right now we have to focus on this trip on Sunday and beating the trip, then we have to beat the week,” Lea said. “We’re going to have activities, we’re going to do community service, we’re going to do things that build into us, but we also can’t allow them to serve as distractions.
“We have to beat the preparation meaning we have to maintain a level of focus through the week. Then it will be about beating the environment which it will be harsh environment. Then it will be about making sure our team has self-mastery. All that lines up to then say we can focus our attention on Hawai’i and unleashing our preparation that way. We can’t skip steps this week. Our team is going to have to be mature and handle it the right way and I’m trusting them to do that.”
Lea said he has been pleased with the energy and enthusiasm within his team since student-athletes returned to campus July 28. Vandy has also been fortunate not to have too many serious injuries to key contributors to this point.
The former Vandy fullback wanted to see his squad establish an identity, a level of toughness and a play with total effort for the past few weeks. Now Lea is ready to see exactly what he has under the lights.
“I’m excited. I think any time you’re excited about something there’s an element of the unknown,” Lea said. “We have a young team, a team that has new members that are now acclimated, but we’ve yet to be tested in a game. That’s the nature of college football.
“We’re going to learn a lot about where we are a week from (Saturday), but I’m pleased with the work the guys have put in. I think our players have worked really hard to make this a great camp for us. I think our coaches have worked really hard. Now it’s time for us to dial in to our game plan and shift to a level of focus that allows us to find success.”
Vanderbilt is scheduled to practice each morning Monday-Thursday and will hold an afternoon workout Friday. The team will also take part in a community service event, visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and enjoy other team activities.
Then, at 9:30 p.m. CT Aug. 27, Team 2 makes its debut.
“It’s not so much a showing for everybody else, it’s a showing for ourselves. We’re excited to go out there, we’ve had tremendous practices and we’ve grown so much,” Wright said. “Still, we’re not complacent. We know we can take another step and know we can reach another level. It’s important for us to play at our highest level. That’s what we want to do – and that’s what we are going to do. I’m excited for it.”
The Eight for 2022
On Friday, after practice, Lea publicly announced and congratulated the eight Commodores who were voted and selected as captains for the 2022 season.
Along with Wright, Lea asked junior linebacker Ethan Barr, fifth-year senior tight end Ben Bresnahan, senior defensive tackler Daevion Davis, fifth-year senior defensive lineman Elijah McAllister, senior linebacker Anfernee Orji, fifth-year senior tight end Gavin Schoenwald and senior defensive back Jaylen Mahoney to all stand to be recognized by their teammates.
The Commodores voted on team captains during a team meeting Wednesday and Lea ultimately chose to bestow the honor upon those eight student-athletes.
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt Athletics for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.