Surgers' Own Salute to Service

Vanderbilt defensive lineman plays for Navy veteran father, Fort Campbell soldier

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt’s Lorenza Surgers knows all about playing with discipline. He knows about playing for something bigger than himself.

At 11 a.m. CT Saturday, he’ll showcase his understanding of both of those mindsets during the Commodores’ annual Salute to Service game.

“My view on it is this game is really special because it’s giving attention to all the people that we don’t really talk about a lot,” Surgers said. “They sacrifice their freedom so we can go do the things that we want to do and live free.

“It makes this game a lot more special.”

Surgers was born in Houston, Texas, to Sherri and Aubrey Surgers. Aubrey Surgers was a Petty Officer 3rd Class and information technologist in the United States Navy.

A native Texan, Aubrey enlisted in the Navy to help pay for his education and and to lay the foundation for his professional life. His service ended when son Lorenza was too young to even know his father wore a uniform and before the family moved to Cary, North Carolina.

It was there that Lorenza grew up with his parents and two brothers.

“He is actually pretty laid back for what people might think a military father might be – but he always kept us in check,” Lorenza said of his father. “If we ever disrespected him or did anything out of order than he would be sure to discipline us and punish us. But he really is the reason why I have so much discipline in everything I do now days.”

After becoming a standout for Panther Creek High School, Surgers committed to play football at Connecticut in January of 2018. Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason and his staff, however, stayed in touch and offered Surgers a chance to be a Commodore.

It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

The 6-foot-5, 258-pound defensive lineman said he has come to cherish the strong bonds he and his teammates have developed and how the friends he has made on West End will continue for a lifetime. And this past week, Surgers and the Commodores formed new and unexpected bonds.

Each Vanderbilt football student-athlete has been partnered with a Fort Campbell soldier to learn about where they are from and their time in the U.S. Army and Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division.

Surgers got to learn about 1st Lt. Adrian Sanchez, a Company Executive Officer and Signals Analyst who coaches basketball in his spare time – a note which brought a smile to Surgers face given he himself loves basketball.

Sanchez and Surgers won’t likely have a chance to meet, but the Commodore would want the serviceman to know that he and his Vandy teammates will be playing for something more Saturday against the No. 6-ranked Florida Gators.

“I appreciate his service,” Surgers said. “I think that we should, as whole country, learn to appreciate people that do what he does more often.”

Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for Follow him @MrChadBishop.