Responsibility for his teammates, meaningful relationships have been defining aspects of Bradley Ashmore’s Vanderbilt experience
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “[Bradley’s] the loudest guy in our room—both in actions and words,” junior offensive lineman Gage Pitchford said about teammate Bradley Ashmore.
Ashmore, who primarily plays right tackle, has returned to the field after undergoing surgery for a season-ending injury in 2022. The senior has started all eight games thus far this season and his execution on the field speaks for itself, loudly. At this point in the season, he leads the SEC and ranks second in FBS with a Pro Football Focus pass block grade of 86.7.
Aside from being a leader in on-field performance, Ashmore was selected by his peers to be a team captain. While being chosen as a captain is an honor, he doesn’t view it as any change in the responsibility he feels for his team.
“The ‘C’ on my jersey shouldn’t make me more or less of a leader,” he said. “It’s almost like an outward signal of something that’s been building over the years. I just pray that every day I do the right thing, and I’m able to lead the guys in the right direction and put my head on the pillow easy at night.”
That building began in January of 2020 for Ashmore. During his freshman season, he provided pass protection for quarterback Ken Seals, who broke the Vanderbilt freshman record with 1,928 passing yards.
Now in his fourth season with the Commodores, Ashmore said he has “seen the development of this team over the four years, [knows] the process we’ve put in place and the processes we’ve been working towards this whole time are going to lead to the results eventually.”
Having been a part of this team through so much growth and change, he knows how far he and this team has come.
“I just hope on the back end that I can look back and know that the work I put in helped us get there,” he said.
Heading into the 2023 season after recovering from his injury last season, Ashmore has shifted his perspective on the game, which has influenced how he plays and how he hopes to be a leader to his team.
“Being injured always brings you back to the thoughts and the knowledge that you never know what’s going to be your last snap,” he said. “Football can end at any moment, just like everything else in life, so just being appreciative every day when you wake up and every time you step on the field and playing every snap like it’s your last because you never know when it’s going to be.”
This year, Ashmore says he’s being more vocal in his leadership within his position group and throughout the team. Whether it has been talking in the locker room or in the huddle or leading by example on the field, has resonated with the younger offensive linemen. Pitchford, one of these younger teammates, started the season listed behind Ashmore on the Commodores’ depth chart but has transitioned to starting beside him at right guard.
“It actually means something,” Pitchford said. “It carries weight when [Ashmore] says [things], which means a lot for a young guy like me and the younger guys in our room to look up to him, not only in actions if you can’t hear him, but whenever you’re there with him in the game, he communicates a lot.”
“[Ashmore’s] a smart guy,” Pitchford continued. “Even when I was behind him on the depth chart, he would act like, ‘you know you could play this week if anything happens, so be ready.’ He would mentor me through that—how to be a starter and the way to carry yourself in the game and in practice so it replicates in the game.”
The bonds Ashmore has formed with others, both on the team and outside of football, at Vanderbilt are the things of which he is most proud. From all-you-can-eat dinners with the offensive line group every week to being the best man in his best friend’s wedding, he emphasized the importance of the memories he’s made with the people he has met at Vanderbilt.
“You remember the stuff on the field, but you’re always going to remember the stuff you did with your guys and the people you met along the way,” he said. “That will forever be the thing I’m most proud of, the people I’ve met and the people that have influenced me.”
Though Ashmore is proud of the relationships he has formed while at Vandy, “on the field, there’s still a lot more to be had.”
“Our goal for this season was postseason play,” he stated. “Obviously, that’s definitely still in the cards for us. We know that we can win every game we’ve got left on the schedule, so our goal is to go in… every game is a must-win to get to that goal that we’ve set. At the end of the day, our goal every time we step on the field is to play to the best of our ability and to come out with that W.”
The Commodores will return to the field after an open week Saturday in Oxford, Mississippi, when they take on No. 12/11 Ole Miss at 6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network.