The Story

Luke Wyatt, Harold Gregory and James Arendall

Harold Gregory (July 1, 1938 – December 31, 2019)

(1975-2017) Harold Gregory was the elder statesmen at VU.  He was a car dealer for the coaches for many years and providing for the athletic department.  For 40 plus years, he volunteered and flew with the team as a friend and helper to Woody Widenhoffer.  Soon after, he became an Equipment Assistant.  Harold loved carrying headsets for many of the coaches and was the life of the party.  Unfortunately, he passed this past New Year’s Eve (2019) and was layed to rest in a Vanderbilt casket.  He and his family were as of big of Vanderbilt football supporters as there has ever been.

4/17/2020 James received his Check Your Game package that included this shirt and a personalized note.  He says, “Thank you for the shirt, and kind words. It means a lot to me. I have looked at your site and like it a lot.”

(1998-2017) James Arendall was a retired metro policeman with over 20 years of service.  Before the equipment crew had buses for travel, he would drive a 16 passenger van full of volunteers many miles all over this country giving up time with his family as well!  James took care of the coaches on the road and they loved his fun loving jokes and pleasant demeanor.  One of his favorite stories is having to run balls in a game at Ole Miss and the official told him, “you are the largest and oldest ball boy I have ever seen!”

Coach Widenhoffer, Bobby Russell and James Arendall

(1979-2017)  Bobby Russell gave 40 plus years of service as he actually began driving for Athletics Director Pete Naylor to road games in the early 70’s. He then began driving the equipment truck in 1979 as well as working his full time job as Assistant Police Chief in Nashville. Bobby helped under several athletic directors and 11 football coaches. He was a huge supporter of the athlete’s and always loved hearing their families backgrounds and stories. Thank You Bobby for your support to Vandy Athletics

Chief Bobby Russell, Billy Smith, Watson Brown & Danny Gentry

Billy Smith with HC Woody Widenhoffer

4/15/2020, Billy received his Check Your Game package which included a shirt and personalized note. After being asked if he was surprised, he said, “I had no earthly idea. I got it today and asked Kathy if it was something she ordered. Kind of got choked up after opening it up and reading the card. You guys have made my day, not to mention how much each and everyone of you mean to me. Thanks to all of you involved. I truly love each and everyone of you.”

 

(1979-2017) Billy Smith gave 38 years of service to VU Athletics and also was a Metro Policeman.  All of these men would arrive on a Thursday before road trips to load the truck and travel to destinations all over.  They then would wake up early to head to the stadium on Friday so the team could be ready for walkthroughs.  Then on Saturdays, they headed to the stadium and set up for the game which included the locker room, coaches room, training room and field equipment and trunks.  As soon as games were over, they then would pack up immediately and head back to the McGugin Center to unload before finally heading home!  Billy is a Vietnam Vet and was very detailed in helping with the locker setup.  He loved VU and all the athletes he came in contact with.

Billy’s favorite trip was when we played Army.  I was able to obtain an Army helmet for him as that is the branch of armed services he served.  He was brought to tears!

Julie, Dan Leben, Luke, Sam Leben

4/18/2020 Sam receives his Check Your Game package that included a t-shirt and personalized note. Sam says, “Thank you very much. Luke and Chris and Gary never left any doubt how much we were appreciated. It is nice to know the time we put in was appreciated by some former players as well!”

 

4/15/20  Dan Leben received Check Your Game package that included a shirt and a personalized note.  He responded by saying, “Thank you.  I truly appreciate the recognition.  Like I told Luke & Julie, I have gained much more from the enduring friendships with the road crew than I ever could have imagined.  We have a wonderful Vanderbilt family.

(1995-2017) Dan Leben was a Vanderbilt graduate and was a walk on player in the 90’s before becoming a manager.  He was from El Dorado, Kansas.  He had 20 plus years of being a player, manager and roadie for the Equipment staff.  Dan was a Wall Street man for many years and would sacrifice his weekends by traveling with the road crew.  Dan and his Father traveled the most miles of the crew.

(1995-2017) Sam Leben also was a 20 plus year volunteer from Kansas.  Sam was as loyal as anyone to the Commodores.  He was father to fellow volunteer Dan Leben.  His favorite moments were the road victories seeing the locker room celebrations and knowing, he in a small way, contributed to the Dores!  Sam is a salesman back in El Dorado, Kansas.

Gary Veach

(1997-Present) Gary Veach is still an employee at VU in Olympic Sports.  He served over 20 years as a volunteer Equipment assistant and 1 year as Head Football Manager.  He was in charge over organizing the truck logistics and setting up the sidelines for games.  He was one of the most dedicated and dependable employees and volunteer for years.  He always enjoyed VU sports and to this day, has contact with many former football players.  He and his family are from White Bluff.  Gary still holds the High-School record of returning a kickoff at Dudley Field while playing at Hillwood HS for 100 yards.

Christy (wife) and Paul Allen England

Paul said he grew up 100 miles west of Nashville in the small town of Decaturville. His great grandfather played baseball for VU and his grandad went to law school at VU and he grew up in the only family of Vanderbilt fans in our county. Many of the guys that commented on Luke and the Keystone Cops and several of the other stories on this website were heroes of mine growing up and my dad and brother have enjoyed reading those as much as I have. I have also had the pleasure of meeting several of these people because of Luke. Thanks to you and to Luke, Paul Allen

(1999-2017) Paul Allen England was a Vanderbilt Graduate Student manager and volunteer for 20 years.  Paul Allen is a lawyer in Decaturville, TN.  He loved working with the offensive line at practice and ran balls on the road and worked with the kickers/punters for many years.  One of his favorite moments was getting a game ball after beating UT in Knoxville in 2005.

Here are pics of how this operation looked so you can get a taste as to all that was involved:

Here is Luke hanging up on of the 8 shirts that were screenprinted with 5 Stars on top of the words Check Your Game.

Here are 8 letters that were written individually that said congrats as well as what the letters in THANK meant: The T is for Teamwork as all of you were a part of ours. The H for Humility because it takes a humble person to do what you did. The A is for Action and no words are necessary. The N is for Needed because you all were Needed by us. And finally, the K is for Kind! So the shirt reads THANK and in the words underneath, Check Your Game, the letter U is also high-lighted so it says THANK U. These 8 volunteers deserved recognition and I just tried to show them that with the help of so many of you out there that shared your comments and resources to make this all possible.

Each package was wrapped beautifully by Luke’s wife, Julie. Her expertise is probably because at her store in Hendersonville, Initial This, she wraps many gifts. Check out her link (she did not ask me to share but I am) www.initialthis.com Thanks Julie for making this look so pretty!

 

and finally, here the packages that are ready to be shipped off for an over night delivery (most were delivered on 4/15/2020).

The last step which was most important is that so many of you participated with your comments and some with a financial gift! Your comments were all so thoughtful and we appreciate everyone that shared or will share at a later time. The financial gift was much appreciated and allowed us to do a little extra for this group! You know who you are and Luke, Julie and myself are thankful for you sharing your resources. Thanks again to all! Anchor Down Vandy!

Luke, who nominated the 8 men also received a letter and a one of a kind shirt from Check Your Game. As you can read from many of the comments, there are so many that loved Luke Wyatt and his TEAM of employees and volunteers. Thanks Luke again from all of us. Your shirt looks great on you!

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Even though I have thanked these great people for their service, I didn't think they got the recognition that they deserve and so this is why I'm trying to honor them on this platform. I want to thank them all again for all the years, hard work, miles traveled, time given to VU and let every former player know how much they loved you guys and all the coaches and staff from our time together until 2017. So in closing, I want to again say from the bottom of my heart to all that represented the Black & Gold, you have all been a value to everyone associated with Vanderbilt Athletics and I hope that you feel appreciated! Thanks again! Luke Wyatt

Comments

"I am honored and humbled by the dedication of all of you who shared your time, talent and heart to Vanderbilt Athletics. As I've gotten older, I've realized just how many people from my past who have helped. This list is long and includes coaches, administrators, teachers, teammates, students and all 8 of you who helped Luke! Though Bobby, Billy and James were the ones that were a part of the group during my time from '89 - '92, I really do appreciate everyone from this list of Great People! Vanderbilt Athletics couldn't have given the experience that all of us athletes have gotten without you! Thank you again! You are all appreciated and deserving to be a part of this Check Your Game Community with the way you've lived your life and made the choice to give back to Vanderbilt! I hope you are encouraged not just by one person like myself, but will continue to read on with the comments from many, many others. Know that you are appreciated from lots of us!" Gary Rogers- Founder of Check Your Game

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Jean Rogers says:

Thank you Gary for giving this tribute to the team of good men who volunteered to serve and be a part of the Vanderbilt family. An honor that is well deserved.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Mom for your response. These 8 men are very good men and deserving to be honored. This is the least that players, employee’s and others could do to acknowledge all 8 men and show our appreciation. I also know that Dad would’ve appreciated these men too. You both supported Vanderbilt Football and want to say thank-you for all that you both have done for me!

Lara Moses-Whitaker says:

What an incredible tribute you are giving to these outstanding individuals. Their dedication and service in the name of Vanderbilt Athletics is one to be highly commended. So much goes on behind the scenes that truly make a team. No job is too small and these men carried their positions with integrity. They deserve the recognition and honor.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Lara for your comments. There was so much that went behind the scenes that was always taken for granted that as I look back, have a much deeper appreciation for now.

Norm Fong says:

As a former Eq.Mgr. for a professional football team I can truly appreciate the dedication shown by these gentlemen.I know that without the help these volunteers provide there would have been no way I could have had a 30 plus year career. I salute all the volunteers who donate their time to all football programs as your help is extremely appreciated.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Norm for your comments. You totally get what’s going on as you were in the same industry for over 30 years. You can appreciate and understand that what these men did during their time of service should be treasured and acknowledged. Thanks again for sharing.

Michael Reed says:

This totally reinforces what Check your Game is all about. It is about commitment to a cause greater than yourself. All of these people dedicated their time and energy to help others. I will be forever grateful to Bobby, Billy and Harold for the time they spent with us and the lessons I learned from them.

God Bless all of you and thank you for the encouragement you gave to me.

Gary Rogers says:

Michael, you are right! Check Your Game many times is not just thinking about how we can help ourselves more, but it’s thinking of the greater good. For these 8 men to think of others with their time and talents is a lot of what Check Your Game stands for. Thanks again for sharing.

Joe Peebles says:

I was part of the Vanderbilt teams from ‘89-‘92 in the Brown/Dinardo era. All of my workout, chill and walking around campus gear was “Kelly-wear” names after the great Bill Kelly. Mr. Kelly was a good man and knew how to stretch a box of soap powder! Then came my favorite, the “Mellow Luke-Luke”. That was my nickname for my man Luke Wyatt who always kept a scrub like me in the best gear. Seriously, Luke (and Eric) took care of us at all time and we always had clean gear ready to roll. I appreciate you fellas!! For all your volunteers who helped Vandy Football, I want to say thanks for all your time and effort, but especially Billy Smith who I remember vividly, and even today we remember our times together.

Gary Rogers says:

Hey Joe “Wodies” Peebles, Luke and Eric loved everyone, didn’t they? No matter if you were a starter or not, they took care of us. I’m glad you had some memories of Billy as well. The things the volunteers did for everyone was simply amazing. Most of the time, we never saw their work, but now that I’m older, I am getting a better understanding as to all that they did to help our team! Thanks for your comments Joe.

Carlos says:

MAN! These guys were ALWAYS there for us no matter the outcome of the game!

Gary Rogers says:

Carlos, yes! These guys were always there for us no matter the outcome! They gave their time over a very long span totaling over 225 years of combined volunteering! Thanks for sharing!

Jimmy LaBarbara says:

Gary-

What a wonderful tribute Gary! Reading this made me pause and think about some of the great “fundamental piece individuals” that I played for and with at Depauw University. This past November I went back to our Rivalry Football Game, with a group of about 60 Alumni and got to thank, laugh, and reminisce with a few of our Bobby and Billys’ and the 6 others you mentioned. 20 + years have gone by and most of them are still there doing what they love. Behind the scenes players in any organization will never get the credit that they deserve. I love what you are doing.

Thx Gary!

Gary Rogers says:

Hey Jimmy, thanks for your comments. I’m glad this post has helped you to see those Bobby and Billy’s back at DePauw where you were a part of athletics to reminisce and to have an appreciation for those that were on many occasions, a behind the scenes type of teammate! On a team, it’s not just the quarterback and running backs that deserve the praise, but the men and women in the front office (who are taking calls, setting up meetings), coaches who work tirelessly weeks on end, Equipment managers and educational support as well as teachers. It’s the “Magic’s” in the kitchen making sure all athlete’s are eating properly and it’s the volunteers who aren’t even getting paid who also deserve the praise and recognition when us athletes take to the courts, tracks, pools, alleys or fields of play! Thank you Jimmy for your comments.

John DeWitt says:

I remember Luke Wyatt was ALWAYS smiling! Quick with a joke (usually at Hype’s expense). He was keenly aware of when jokes were not appropriate as well. A bad practice, a UT beating… whatever Luke felt was needed, he would provide. I was lucky to have him in charge of the equipment.

Gary Rogers says:

John, Luke and his team always did things with a smile even if the outcome wasn’t the best. As I have gotten older, I always thought that having a win was the bottom line or the only result to make me happy! Well that’s kind of true. A win or playing a good game made me happy, but happy doesn’t last. As I got older, I figured out that it’s knowing I was doing my best that should be the goal and no matter the score or how well I played, didn’t have to dictate on whether or not I held up my head or not! I think Luke and his team, including all the volunteer equipment guys were able to hold their heads up high and give us smiles, not just because of the outcome of the game, but because they did their very best they could. Doing one’s best is the key and I’m thankful you and I and many others had great experiences with all these men. Thanks for sharing.

Louis E. Wooldridge says:

I played at Vandy from 87-91 and one of the things that I appreciate the most are the relationships that I have developed with several individuals who either worked or volunteered in the athletic department at Vanderbilt University. Luke and his team was no exception, they worked tirelessly to provide the athletic teams at VU with everything that we would need to workout, practice and play our games. Long hours worked and long distances traveled, always providing the absolute best support possible. There is no amount of appreciation that I could show that would properly thank them for their commitment to supporting us!!! My only wish would be to have been more successful on the field so that these guys could share in the enjoyment of victory just as much as they shared the pain of our loses! We are all family in the VU athletic dept. Thank you Luke & Team for all of your hard-work and dedication to the Vanderbilt University Athletic Dept!!! Also, thank you Gary for providing a platform for us to recognize these great individuals!

Gary Rogers says:

Louis, thanks so much for sharing your comments with Luke, his team of employees and volunteers. They did work tirelessly! I don’t think I was able to understand that when I was an 18 year old. Now that I’m much older, I totally get all the hard work they did. I also understand that you wanted to give them more wins. That makes sense, but I really do think that they all loved us so much and getting a win didn’t take away anything as to how they truly cared…and I think that’s all of them in that same boat. I’m glad I have this resource Louis to not just share stories like yourself, but also to recognize others like these 8. It took many years and a good humbling for me to even be interested in thinking of more than just myself, but I’m glad it finally happened in 1996 so that I can shine a light in others lives to be able to encourage and give guidance to those who might be struggling like I know I once was! Thanks again Louis.

Kenneth Pulce Jr says:

What a great idea to recognize these amazing individuals who provided an Amazing Service in support of Vanderbilt Athletics. Not only did these great people support Vanderbilt, but many of them played vital roles in shaping the professional careers of the student/athletes. For example, during my playing days at Vanderbilt (1986-1990), retired Nashville Metropolitan Police Department, Assistant Chief Bobby Russell and Sgt. Billy Smith protected and served the greater Nashville community, as well as the Vanderbilt community. They took care of football players as if each player were their own sons. Chief Russell and Sgt. Billy Smith went as far as to recruit me for a career in law enforcement. With their encouragement and help, two months after I graduated Vanderbilt, I was working full time with the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department. For the last 29 years, I’ve worked in the arena of Local, State, and Federal Law Enforcement; and have enjoyed my career and traveled the world. If it had not been for the selfless volunteer work being performed by Chief Russell and Sgt. Billy Smith, and their constant interactions with all Vanderbilt athletes, I would have never met them and would not been encouraged to pursue a career in law enforcement. With their undying help and guidance, they paved the way for me to pursue a career that has provided great joy, experiences, and resources to provide for my family and friends. Thank you Chief Russell and Sgt. Billy Smith. I LOVE YOU GUYS AND I APPRECIATED ALL YOU DID For Vanderbilt and Me!!!! Kenny Pulce- 1991 B.S. Human Resource Development.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Kenny for sharing! It’s amazing how life works and you just never know who we touch when we’re in a position to help others like Bobby and Billy in not just helping with our equipment, but also in our lives! I’m so thankful that they both helped you in your career and this gives me even more reason to acknowledge them for their many years serving in multiple ways! Thanks for your comments Kenny.

June Jake's (JJ) says:

When I think of this group of men I immediately think of the ones we called “The Keystone Cops”. They were always there to help in any way they could no matter how small the task was. They never acted as if it was beneath them. They knew how important the small things were. They were helping a group of approximately 150 people move from city to city. My all time favorite memory was when we traveled to Newark, NJ to play Rutgers. Part of my duties were to help Coach Holloway organize the team and staff travel. Once Coach Campy got hurt and Van Holloway had to go back on the field to coach and Coach Brown asked him who would handle the travel and he said JJ can. She knows what we do. That week this girl who grew up in tiny Joelton, Tennessee got on Delta Airlines and flew to New York City, rented a car and drove to Newark. I was driving on the freeway and do I need to remind you that I had a Mapquest paper directions (where was my GPS…oh it had not been invented yet). Did I say I was SCARED OUT OF MY MIND? I think I was supposed to get off at the next exit at the Sheraton where the team was staying, but being in a strange city, I wasn’t sure until I looked over to my left and spotted a big yellow Ryder Truck with a WE MOVE THE COMMODORES sign. I walk into the lobby and there sat the most beautiful sight for me…..The Keystones. We got to go into NY City that night and since I had the rental car, I was blessed to have three Metro Policemen as an escort. There were many more adventures shared with these guys. We shared the highs and lows with the ‘Dores. We laughed, shouted, cheered, cried and yes we were the Commodore family. I will always cherish my 22 years with the Vanderbilt Commodores and the friends I made there.

Gary Rogers says:

JJ, what a cool story. You were put in a situation where you understood how tough a job it was to get to places (especially with the lack of technology) back then. I could imagine how thrilled you were to see the “Keystone Cops” in the lobby! What a relief you probably felt. I love it that you also are probably one of the very few people who get an escort by 3 policeman and aren’t in trouble at the same time! Thanks JJ for all that you did while at Vandy too! You were a bright star at Vandy as well and I’m glad that I got to know you. Thanks again for sharing a story about our volunteers! This is the kind of stuff that needs recognized and you’re helping us do just that. Thanks again.

JOHNNY CLARK says:

Luke, Bobby and Billy…the Keystone Cops! (I know Luke wasn’t a cop but I think they gave him a badge and a gun anyway!) When people ask if I miss football, I tell them not really. But I ABSOLUTELY miss all the people and Luke and his staff were the best. They loved us through a bunch. Luke…Bobby…Billy…thanks just isn’t enough but from the bottom of my heart, “THANK YOU!” You guys are winners and some of the most loyal men I have ever known. God bless you! And Anchor Down!

Gary Rogers says:

Johnny, thanks for sharing. It’s so true! Relationships are what’s most important and I think like you, it takes sometimes many years to go by until we can finally understand that better. These guys were great men who gave their time to us young “know it all” kids (at least I was one of them) all for free! They are so, so deserving to hear people like yourself tell them they are worthy and good guys! Thanks again for sharing.

Greg Smith says:

The Keystone Cops. They were such a huge part of our program and I’m excited that we are taking a moment to show some appreciation for all they did for us. After every game, Billy was always there to help me get my shoulder pads off. To most that may not seem like much, but after a game most times I couldn’t lift my arms over my head. There was Billy right there to help me with whatever I needed. I was just some kid. He was a grown man who was there to help and most nights what they got in return was a box of chicken. All of the Keystones are an example of how we should all be in our lives today; selfless. I can go on and on about what these guys did for me but what better way to honor them is to go out and do something for someone else in a selfless act like these men did for so many years. Thanks for helping out a kid like me when I literally just needed a helping hand.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Greg for sharing! Your story brought back vivid memories of you offensive lineman and how tight your jersey was over your pads so it would be harder to hold you, pull you or grab on! I bet you gave Billy a good workout each time he helped take off your pads. That is not an easy thing to do. I love that you are encouraging us to be like these volunteers did and to help others too! What a great legacy they can have if we all did our part and were reminded of their years of volunteering to help others. Thanks for sharing Greg.

Grady Rogers says:

Gary – Thanks for building this platform to honor these individuals. I had never been a volunteer of a sports program until these last few years with UC track. Wow it has been a lot of time and work! I can’t say enough how much we owe gratitude towards these individuals. Volunteers across the board are often overshadowed yet are the ones that humbly do the behind scenes work. Not only that, but they establish relationships with the kids which is so vital to any program. What incredible stories and tenure these individuals had at Vandy!

When you played football for Vandy I was there almost every game – the staff was always great to me, the University and players were always class acts, and the campus was always beautiful.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Grady (Gary’s younger brother) for sharing. Isn’t it something how many times it’s not until we get in someone else’s shoes for us to understand what they went through. Grady, you have been volunteering for a few years. Collectively, these guys have volunteered for over 225 years! Isn’t that something! I’m glad you got a chance to see that Vanderbilt was a class act in how we all did things and we really do owe a lot of this to those who served us daily who were on staff, as well as those who served us but were just doing it for free. Of course we did give them opportunities to perfect their driving skills (over 1200 miles on a weekend to Gainesville or a 1700 mile round trip to Syracuse). This volunteer job also gave the guys an opportunity to learn about sleeping on the floors where our equipment room was just in case someone didn’t break in to steal it! I know there were some good moments, but these guys were a big reason why Vanderbilt was a Class Act! Thanks for sharing Grady

Gary Shephard says:

Coached at Vanderbilt with Watson, ’86-’90. Bill Kelly, Luke Wyatt, Bobby Russell, Billy Smith and Danny Gentry were as fine a group of equipment people in the country. Spent a few Friday nights getting our game face on at a watering hole at or close to the hotel. I simply can’t believe that Vanderbilt has not recognized the countless hours these men have given driving loaded trucks with equipment everywhere VU played! I tip my hat to all of these great guys. Coach Shep

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Coach Shep for sharing about some of the moments you had wit some of these guys! They all did so much work and gave so much time and though they may not have been recognized by others at Vandy, we are giving them the recognition from players, coaches and some of the administration. All these guys were good guys. Thanks again for sharing.

Paul Morgan says:

Thank you for some great memories and for making a young man live up the big time.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks for sharing Paul about your appreciation for the volunteers. Some go on with stories and comments but your comments are short, sweet and really all they ever really needed from others, and that is acknowledgement that they were good guys! Thanks for sharing.

Alan S Young says:

We all know how hard it has been to be a Vanderbilt fan through the years. These guys gave their time and support, religiously. I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t see them around McGugin or after a game. Rarely were they thanked an I don’t ever remember them being recognized. They gave and gave because they loved being around the program. There is no way to thank them for all that they have done for the countless players that have come through the program and for all of the love that they showed each of us.

Gary Rogers says:

Alan, there is a way to thank each and every one of them and that is something you just did! Thanks for sharing your comments. They were always around and are so deserving for all their years of service. Thanks again for sharing and appreciating all their hard work as well as friendships too!

Ryan Bell says:

My man Luke and his team! (Eric, Danny, Billy, and Bobby). What can I say – but thank you from the bottom of my heart! Many days sitting, chatting, listening, and learning. Your ability to comfort young athletes mostly a long way from home. The games, the practices, the highs and the lows. Some great times in Nashville, we will never forget! Being more than a manager, to us all, being a friend! Thank you and God Bless You All.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Ryan for sharing. Yes, the equipment staff, both paid and unpaid, were friends to us kids! These guys were all appreciated by so many of us. Thanks for giving them your support and acknowledging that all that they did wasn’t for nothing! All of us are right there with you! Thanks again for sharing.

Bryan josey 91-95 says:

It’s the people that make the Vanderbilt program great. Coaches and directors come and go, but these guys are the very fabric of the Commodore experience. Thank you all for your time, the laughs, and encouragement. It meant a great deal to me! God bless

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Big Josey! You are right! It is the people that make Vanderbilt great and these men who worked alongside with the Equipment Room Team were no exception. They were a part of the very fabric that Vanderbilt was made out of. I appreciate you sharing some truths!

Rod Keith says:

I’ve always enjoyed catching up and talking about old times with Luke and the Keystone Cops. Thanks guys for being there and helping all of us over the many years of your service.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Rod Keith for sharing your appreciation of Luke, his team of equipment guys and the Keystone Cops. I know they’ll appreciate you sharing! Their years of service will not be forgotten!

Brian Diggs says:

I was a part of Vandy Football from 90-93 and have fond memories of Luke and Eric. Great guys who kept a smile on my face through some of most stressful times in my life.

Thank you Gary for doing this as this is a well deserved honor for all the equipment managers and volunteers for Vanderbilt Football.

Gary Rogers says:

Big Diggs, thank-you for sharing your appreciation of Luke, Eric and the volunteers that helped for many, many years! This group of men did so much for us players and I’m glad we have a chance to thank and appreciate them. Thanks again for sharing.

Steve Fauer says:

During my time at Vanderbilt as one of two strength coaches for the football team, I know how important all of these volunteers were to the program. I’m sure most of the athletes didn’t realize that we had two guys in the weight room who volunteered – John Janecek and Murray Harbour. Both were there everyday and were vital in helping us run our program – I couldn’t imagine having to manage 60 athletes without their help. Both John and Murray were young, educated, experienced and motivated. Kelvin and I appreciated them very much.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Steve for sharing! You know what it’s like to try to work with a lot of athletes like you did and truly appreciate all that the volunteers did for us both in your weight room as well as the locker room. It takes so many people to put on a production that took place over the years and it’s very special to be one of those volunteers to be a part of this production, especially when they aren’t getting paid. Thanks again for sharing.

Kenny Simon says:

Wow – glad you are pulling this together Hype. Luke and Eric were the “main” guys when I was there from 92-95. I remember a few instances when they went above and beyond for me, personally. I recall them making special chest plates for all of the QBs after Marcus Wilson inured his sternum the year prior to me arriving. I recall him working with me to swap out various face masks, pants and helmets as I changed positions. Skill position guys are always picky about how they look, and Luke and Eric always made sure we had whatever we needed. One game (Wake Forest), my chin was cut and I bled onto my jersey. So I could continue to play, Luke immediately replaced my face mask (with one covering more of my chin) and gave me Jason Ellerbe’s jersey to wear for the rest of the game. I didn’t miss a series! Every year I would come back for a game, I’d have to stop in and speak to the guys – and they always remembered all of our names. They were like older brothers to us. You didn’t know it but some of that Vandy gear was critical to my wardrobe because I didn’t have much.

I also wanted to talk about several volunteers who were around when I played- Billy, Bobby and Harold come to mind- always ready to give you grief for any reason at all! I look back on those years with fondness. “Chief” was the coolest of the crew!

Thank you for all you did for me/us.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Kenny for sharing your interesting story with the Equipment team. Luke and Eric would really do anything to make things better or easier for us players, especially for the skilled guys! Ha ha! Yes, they truly were remarkable….the equipment staff and especially those who help Luke’s staff for free! Thanks for sharing your appreciation of everyone!

Gerald Collins says:

Great tribute to these people who gave their all for the athletes at VU! Everyone sees the finished product on game day but don’t realize the amount of behind the scenes work and attention that’s involved. Without the unselfish contribution of this group, it wouldn’t be possible. Thank you to all the volunteers that gave of themselves to see to it that teams of young men and women could go out and perform each and everyday! Outstanding job!

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Gerald for recognizing all these men who were selfless and did this work for so many years. They were an instrumental part of our team and though most didn’t know or see what they did, they did a lot! Thanks for sharing!

Man, if we didn’t have Kelly-wear we didn’t have anything to wear at all. Now that I’m almost 50, I recognize the many many things I took for granted. With sons playing college football, the gear they bring home brings back so many memories. I’m truly thankful for Bill, Luke, Eric and all the volunteers behind the cage that helped keep my wardrobe crisp and clean. When we needed extra or another there was never a problem. They operated with excellence dealing with 107+ teenagers wanting more and more. Very grateful!

Gary Rogers says:

Hey D O C, thanks for sharing! You were absolutely right! These men always took care of us all the time. The reminder of all these guys I think brings back great memories for more than just you and I! I know everyone has been so appreciative of these guys whether they were on salary or a volunteer. Thanks for sharing as I’m reminiscing myself about what a GREAT group of all these guys were!

Much much LOVE and a GRAND SALUTE to all of the guys and girls who made up our equipment team. Hours upon hours and miles upon miles were spent by each of you on an annual basis. I personally commend you on a job well done and know that we as athletes couldn’t have functioned without your part of the TEAM EFFORT!!!! Love you all and I pray that GOD continues to shine upon you!!!

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks DP! You are so right! Our team was dependent these guys who did so much for us all. Thanks for acknowledging the entire equipment staff and the thousands of hours and miles they gave back to serve others.

John Norwig 85-91 says:

I joined the commodores in 1985 as the head athletic trainer. Bobby, Billy and Danny made a northern boy from Penn State University feel welcome in Nashville. They were always there to help Bill Kelly and Luke Wyatt. Lord knows Bill and Luke needed the help as there weren’t a lot of student assistants. They also helped the training room as well. No task was too small. I appreciate the work they did not only for the equipment room for but for the training room as well. Those guys were allies. In fact, when the Pittsburgh Steelers played their first game in Nashville, Bobby Russell helped organize a police escort from the airport to the hotel and from the stadium back to the airport. I appreciate all the unsung heroes of the equipment room. Folks just don’t realize the effort that they did to put a football team on the field. Vanderbilt was good to me and it was made even better by the great people that I interacted with in that equipment room.

Gary Rogers says:

Hey Wig, thanks for sharing your memories of some of these guys. You knew exactly what it took to get us players out on the field and are appreciative of those that sacrificed their time and talents. I know you too were one of the positives at Vandy and ones that us players enjoyed being around. My memories of the training room was really good and I know others felt the same. Thanks again for your recognition of these volunteers. I know everyone will appreciate your words. We all see you regularly on the field as we watch the Steelers be a competitive force in the NFL. Great job in all of your achievements with your team! BTW…Pittsburgh is where I was born and all my family came from and I have some great memories of that city!

Corey Harris says:

I don’t know where to start. The fact that it took me so long to leave a comment is in no way indicative of what this crew did for me or means to me. I dare not single out any of this crew as it’s impossible for me to reminisce about one without seeing at least 2 or 3 other faces.

A thanksless job it must’ve been at times serving a bunch of spoiled ass student athletes, yet you were there for us for decades. In 1988 we began to forge a bond with these men and it didn’t take long to realize they truly loved Vanderbilt, cared about us and didn’t take any crap. They definitely had tough skin.

I surely don’t have all the words to show my appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness for the blessings you have all been! You all for many years were the bridge and umbilical cord that kept former players connected to our great alma mater and I just want to say I love you all I thank you all for your sacrifices you and your families made over the years all in the name of servitude, humility, excellence and the TEAM! You are the ultimate team players and as I wish it wasn’t so long ago, just know you will NEVER be forgotten whether they put you guys in the Vanderbilt Athletic HOF or not.

Much Love,

Corey Harris aka Snake
1988 -1992
Da Fellaz, 3G & Doc

And y’all fools can keep hella secrets!

Gary Rogers says:

Hey Corey the “Snake” Harris, you couldn’t have said it better! The Vanderbilt Equipment Staff was an amazing group of people. Not only the paid staff, but also the volunteers that worked with them. They were a part of our team in all senses and I’m so glad you’ve been able to recognize all. This group of men were a part of the glue that helped stick us players together over the years and I too am appreciative. Thanks for sharing.

Darryl L Griffin says:

I was part of the Vanderbilt teams from ‘91-‘95; recruited by Watson Brown, but played for Gerry Dinardo. All of my workout, chill and walking around campus gear was “Kelly-wear” names after the great Bill Kelly. Luke and Eric took care of us and always showed us love, especially at Bell Buckle.

The two of them, along with Chief Russell, provided me with some of my fondest memories from Vanderbilt. I appreciate you fellas so much!

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped make Vandy 🏈 a great experience for me and my teammates, even though we didn’t always get the results we wanted. I truly appreciate all your effort and commitment.

Darryl “D.Griff” Griffin

Gary Rogers says:

D. Griff, I appreciate you sharing some of your experiences and memories. Like many of the others have shared, anyone who was a part of the Equipment Staff always took care of us young men. Between conversation and giving us another pair of Grays/Greys, they never stopped loving us all. So glad you could share a bit to recognize Luke, his staff, Chief Russell and the others. I appreciate you and it was great that I still have the opportunity to stay in touch with you and the many others over the years. Vanderbilt was our team and that included ANYONE who had ANYTHING to do with the program, including those who volunteered. Thanks again, G (Hype).

Wilbert Pryor says:

What a great idea by Gary. And I thank Bernard Nomberg for his forum as well. And these biographies are treasures. You guys were always supportive , always friendly, through the ups and downs of our times at Vanderbilt. We realize that the athletic department left a lot to be desired in their treatment of you guys, the players, the staff, and athletics in general. And Luke’s “retirement” is a travesty. He was the glue of the Vanderbilt athletic program and I love that man. But I want to thank all you guys from his crew for all you did to support us and the program. Well deserved. I will never forget three years ago when I saw the Vandy equipment bus here in Shreveport for the Independence Bowl and saw many of you guys again.
Best wishes always,
“Chicken Wing”

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks “Chicken Wing” for sharing about everyone that Luke has nominated. You are right. These guys in the Equipment Room were always so supportive to the program and Luke….he was the glue, wasn’t he! Thanks Wing for sharing.

Bryon Koepke 91-95 says:

So many great stories shared on this board and yet so many more still untold. What an awesome group of guys starting with Luke and Eric, followed by Chief, Billy and the other guys that helped keep the equipment room running. Being a young player, I didn’t appreciate at the time all of the effort, dedication and sacrifice that it took for our equipment guys to support the team. From the minute that we stepped into locker room, everything was put together for us, everything that we needed to complete. Whether we were preparing for practice, a lift, or getting ready for a game, Luke and his guys were always there for us – organized well in advance and always ready to accommodate a special request if needed. One of my greatest memories wasn’t so much a conversation or a story, although there were many that I could tell, but rather the feeling that I had whenever I walked into the locker room on the first day of training camp or the morning of a game when Luke and the guys had already spent hours prepped everything for the team ahead of time so we could walk in and take care of our business – we were cared for in every way because Luke, Eric and the rest of the equipment team had already been working for hours to get us ready for the day. Whether or not they realized it at the time, they set the tone and always delivered for us in terms of teaching us dependability, loyalty, sacrifice, and persistence. Having a family of my own now, I’m amazed by the amount of time that those guys spent supporting the program despite the personal sacrifice that it required – all of that time spent away from their families traveling all over the country in moving trucks and sleeping in hotels to help support the program. And they were all great guys too who would spend time talking to you and getting to know you and offer words of wisdom when you needed them. The era in which I played, the DiNardo era, was filled with its share of successes and failures both on the field and off, but when it came to the players (my brothers on the field) and our teammates in the equipment room (Luke, Eric, Chief, Billy) and coaches in the weight room (Kelvin, Steve and Murray), those guys all earned my respect and I will forever remember them for all of the greatness that they brought every day to the program. Thank you guys for some of the best memories and for being friends when we needed you the most! And thanks Hype for pulling all of this together after all of these years – well done!

Gary Rogers says:

Bryon, thanks so much for your comments. I know this will mean the world to everyone that stepped foot around the equipment room as well as the weight room too! My memories are similar to what you say and I can so much appreciate all that everyone did for us before we showed up in the locker room or before a game. So much was done and it’s great that we all can share our thanks and appreciation with everyone now. Thank-you for sharing.

Chris Cohron says:

Great job Gary! A well-deserved tribute to great men doing a thankless job! I was always amazed at the amount of time and effort so many individuals put in to support the program no matter how difficult the circumstances. I will always smile when I think about the time spent with guys like Bill, Luke, Eric, and so many others. Those guys were always there for everyone at Vandy and understood the unique personalities of each and every person the came in contact with. I am so thankful for the relationships made during my time at Vanderbilt. For me it doesn’t matter if it someone you keep in contact with daily or someone you don’t see for years, you always will have that bond.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Chris for sharing your comments about a group of men that most of the time was doing a thankless job! Even though these guys weren’t thanked in the past as much as they should’ve, I’m glad we’re able to thank them now from a group of people that were a part of Vandy whether it was 4 or 5 years, 30 years and even people who didn’t even know them. You are right, Vanderbilt helped create a bond with all involved and I’m glad you, I and others are able to appreciate that bond and it’s because of ALL that were involved with Vandy Athletics. Thanks again Chris for sharing!

Tony Cates says:

Coming from a another program, Luke Wyatt, Eric, Gaylon, Billy Smith and Chief Russell were the guys that I remember making the transition to Vanderbilt so much fun. These were/are the kind of guys that made you feel as if you were the most important person in the room, and I’m really grateful for their everyday charm of making an outsider part of the family. I’ll never forget Bill McDermond bringing a replacement letterman’s jacket to me after securing it from Luke and the gang. My house had burned the fall after graduation and that gesture is something I’ll appreciate for a lifetime! Thanks to all the volunteers for showing true love by laying down your life for us. I just hope we made you feel as appreciated as you did us.

Gary Rogers says:

Tony, I don’t know if these guys felt appreciated while they were serving us for so many years, but I’m hoping they get that feeling now! There are so many of us that love that whole group. Your story about McD is awesome. I just sent him a text letting him know. I’m glad he and Luke and the team did that for you! That’s awesome and something I know they would do even today if anyone had a need. Thanks for sharing your comments.

Nabil Elsheshai says:

Thanks for organizing this great tribute to the the most consistent team at Vanderbilt football. No matter the outcome of the game we were always ready to go thank the team in the equipment room. Thank you soo much, it is always remembered.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Nabil for sharing about these guys. They were always consistent during our time at Vandy and we will NEVER forget all that were a part of this group!

Kevin Dowling says:

Playing from 1985-1989, I saw many people come and go – players and coaches. The one thing that remained constant, however, was the people that worked behind the fence, so to speak, and served all in our realm with grit and grace. Great relationships, great people, always getting you what you needed (with a little good-natured ribbing along with it!). Thank you to Bill, Luke, Billy, and all who served in many ways to help many developing young men learn the value of hard work and service.

Gary Rogers says:

Kevin, it’s so true. This group of men were always around even with so many changes that you and even I saw too some years after you. They worked hard and it’s so true that they were and are role models to us back then and even today. Thanks for sharing.

OJ Fleming says:

Luke, “Chief”, Billy et al.,

Thank you for your dedication and years of service! You helped form my solid belief that the foundation of whatever you do must begin with the relationship between you and others! I am blessed and honored to call you my friends!

Love you guys!
OJ

Gary Rogers says:

OJ, thanks for sharing. So important about relationships and this group of guys knew all about them! I know they’ll appreciate your words…Thanks again.

Jody Jones says:

A good portion of my childhood was spent around the equipment room. My mom would bring me to work in the summers, stuck Luke with the job of keeping me out of everybody’s way. My brother worked in the equipment room for Bill and Luke during his four years at Vanderbilt. The equipment room was my favorite place at Vanderbilt as a kid, player, and an alumni. Luke and the equipment guys loved all of us whether you were the best player on the roster or the worst. Luke, Bobby, Billy, Danny ,Rolo, Harold, Chris, Gary were not just the equipment guys, they were our friends and for four years, our family. I wanted to win more for those guys than I did coaches. They had no agenda. You show them respect and you got it back ten fold. I love all those guys and want to thank you for all you did, but most of all, thanks for life long friendships. Go Dores!

Gary Rogers says:

Jody, your comments are great. These guys were all our family and they loved us like family too. This group of men were always there for us and I know you and so many others appreciate them more than what words we say about them. Thanks Jody for sharing your appreciation of everyone.

All good men. Chief USED TO KEEP US OUT OF TROUBLE and I’m eternally grateful for these men and their influence on my life. The level of friendship displayed daily by these guys was awesome. They were all so friendly and welcoming.

Gary Rogers says:

Alphonso, thanks for sharing and I too can appreciate the friendships you made like most of us young men. Friendly and welcoming are so true too! Thanks for sharing your appreciation to all.

Jason Ellerbe '91 - '94 says:

To consider that these guys orchestrated over 200 years of behind the scene Commodore support between just 8 men is beyond impressive. Thank you so much for everything you did, and thank you Gary and Luke for honoring these fine men.

Gary Rogers says:

Jason, it is amazing that they volunteered over 200 years. Thanks for sharing your message and appreciation for this group of men.

Walter Woodrick says:

Behind every good man is a …. dedicated volunteer equipment manager! Luke and Gary stand out in my memory and knowledge of their roles as guys who could have made a TON of money doing something else with their time but, instead, they gave their time to help others and enjoy the process of giving. King Solomon said the best thing a man can do is love the Lord and love his work. Thank you!!

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Walter. You know these guys loved their work and I believe it was the relationships they formed and still have to this day that made it worth while! Appreciate your words, especially loving the Lord! Thanks again for sharing.

I was lucky enough to work with these guys for my time as a student manager for football for 1984-1988 and I continued to travel to road games for three more years. The Keystone Cops as we lovingly and respectfully called them were amazing men all where active duty Metro Nashville Police Officers. Sgt Billy Smith, Sgt Danny Russell and Chief Bobby Russell. They used their work vacation days to help us pack and deliver all the necessary equipment for a football team on road trips everything from helmets to shoe strings and chewing gum. We would start Wednesday night painting and decals for helmets. Checking stings on shoulder pads and cleats and chin strap hardware on helmets. Thursday right after practice every players equipment was bagged and loaded into carts the onto the UHaul truck also trunks for headsets communication warm and cold weather trunks and coaches clothes and last in was the uniforms. Once it was loaded, the Keystone Cops drove the equipment to whatever city the game was played I and student managers Luke Wyatt and Kelly followed in a Van. Once we got to the city late Thursday night or early Friday morning we would check in the hotel, catch a few hours sleep, then be at the stadium by 8:00 or 9:00 am to set up the locker room for Friday walk through. As soon as walk through was over, we set the players and coaches lockers up for game day except helmets and uniforms so they didn’t get stolen. On Friday night we would all go to dinner, then back to hotel for some sleep. Then we loaded up Saturday to be at stadium for game day 4 hours before team arrived to set out helmets, recheck helmet hardware and place jerseys on the shoulder pads and finish setting up the coaches lockers. Once that was done, we went out to field to set up all the headsets for each coach on the sidelines and press box. We then set up the field for kickers, punters and quarterbacks. Last thing before team arrived was to bag the game balls to go to the officials locker room for inspection. Once players arrived, we’d help them get dressed and go out with kickers and punters to field balls. Then there was team warm ups and we’d have the equipment trunks and headset trunks open and ready for kickoff.
Game starts and we were each assigned a coach to follow and keep their wires tangle free and be ready for broken equipment and two guys on each sideline to run football’s for officials. On rainy games we’d help keep balls wiped down and dry. After the game, field trunks would be rolled in the locker room, cleaned up and loaded in the truck to return home. The van followed the truck home and we’d drive straight home to unload and wash all laundry to be ready for coaches and players. We’d have to be ready for film and possible practice.
During the week, the equipment staff Bill and Luke (my freshman year was Luke’s first year) he and I put together sleds and tackling dummies. We would get to the practice field about 1:00 and got practice scripts so we knew how and what to set up for practice. We had 3 student managers compared to the state schools which had 15-20, so we divided up on who took offense, defense and one with the kickers and also helping with filming practice. After practice was over, we’d clean up practice field and head to equipment room to start laundry for 100 players and coaches. So usually, we finished just in time to be the last in line for dinner at Branscomb dining hall. We then would go to the dorm room to study and play a few hands of spades and then get ready to do it all over the next day. I loved all of it being a part of the team, working with coaches and making some of the best friends I still have today. I was as or more passionate about winning than the players so I did everything the players or coaches needed every day to help make our team better.
I loved the sidelines in both practice or games and hated sitting in the stands for college or high school games. I want to be as close to the field as I can! It’s in my blood and I still get nervous for kickoff at every game I go to whether high school or college.
Luke Wyatt and the Keystone Cops all are still close friends even though we don’t travel with the team anymore, but the brotherhood we share is the same as what the players in the huddle feel!

Gary Rogers says:

Dewayne, what an amazing and detailed description of what it was like to be a part of the Equipment Team. You guys did so much for all of us that I don’t think was ever appreciated as much as it is now. I am so appreciative! Actually, I am even much more appreciative of what you and all that was a part of the Team did for all of us. Many times, we never saw the things you did, but you worked so hard. Thanks for sharing all the information so others can have a better understanding to all that was involved and thanks for your acknowledgement of your group of guys! We love you all!

Tim Richards OT ‘88-‘91 says:

Reading these comments brings back so many memories about these Vanderbilt Men. Bill Kelly & Luke Wyatt did more with less than anyone I know and always, along with Rob & Eric, made sure we had what we needed. Even those of us who weren’t starters were treated like we were. What can you say about Bobby Russell, Danny Gentry, and Billy Smith that hasn’t already been said? They always took care of us and more than once or twice got several of us out of a real tight spot. I want to applaud Luke specifically for saying what needed to be said recently about the state of our athletic department. He loves Vanderbilt and wants our athletes to have the very best experience possible. ⚓️⬇️

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Tim for sharing. Absolutely, these guys were there for us! Always! There was a great foundation in the Equipment Room that needs to be duplicated everywhere else! How does Vanderbilt do that? Bring in Luke and ask questions and mirror what he did in order to develop relationships and care and love others. Thanks again Tim for sharing.

Gary Gerson says:

So many people do so many things behind the scenes and we barely got a glimpse of them, but I sure remember so many great hard-working people trying their best to make the Vanderbilt football machine look seamless. We know it was far from that… But what amazing people.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Gary for sharing. It’s interesting how many people are working behind the scenes. It’s great that you and I can now appreciate them and all they have done for us. Thanks so much for sharing.

Derrick Gragg says:

In a word, The Keystone Cops were and always will be legendary in my book. And we certainly can’t forget Bill Kelly, Luke Wyatt and Eric Chaffin. After my playing days (1988-91), I also had the pleasure of working with these men at the ol’ Alma Mater as a young administrator from 1993-95. The police escorts to the stadium are unforgettable and who can forget the “St Valentine’s Day Massacres” while donning the famous “Kelly Wear”? Now that I’ve worked in college athletics for nearly 3 decades, I understand how truly dedicated they all were to taking care of those who truly mattered more than anyone: the Student-Athletes. SALUTE!

Gary Rogers says:

Derrick, you do have a different and unique perspective as a player and as an AD at a Div 1 school and appreciate your kind words to this group of amazing men. Those escorts can never be forgotten! I remember the first time as a college player getting those escorts. I think I had goosebumps and felt special. Your words along with others hopefully will make these volunteers and everyone who was a part of the Equipment Room feel special too! Thanks again.

Shelton E. Quarles says:

Volunteers like you help make the world a better place. Honestly, I don’t think things would have run as smoothly without your help.

Thank you so much for helping the Vanderbilt Football program. I along with my teammates, appreciate your efforts throughout the years, allowing us to have success on the gridiron. Thank you for helping us out, we are truly grateful for all of you.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Q #31 at Vandy and #53 with the Bucs for sharing your appreciation for all these guys for all these years! Smooth wouldn’t be a word without all those who gave back to the Vanderbilt Program and I’m so glad you and others have shared your appreciation! Thanks again

Tom Bonhaus ('88 -'92) says:

Thanks to all who helped us during our years playing for Vanderbilt. We appreciate it!

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Tom for sharing your thanks. It will be appreciated by this special group!

Rob D says:

Luke and Eric were the dynamic duo. They always took care of me since my first day at Freshman camp. Whatever I needed, they made sure I had it. Luke and Eric truly represented Vanderbilt football on ensuring everyone was safe and secure. Always in a good mood and would welcome my friends and parents with open arms whenever they came by practice or the McGugin Center. Also, the volunteers which included Keystone Cops and others were always helpful and friendly as well! They ensured protection from madness before and after games all while having a smile on their face. These guys are appreciated much as they helped us also be in the right place that we needed to be. Thanks to all!

Gary Rogers says:

Rob D! Thanks so much for your words. Luke and Eric were so good to us weren’t they! Just like Luke and Eric were there for us, so were the volunteers and glad you had great experiences with them all. I can see many of their smiling faces as well. I hope all these comments bring even a bigger smile to them because they are appreciate so much! Thanks again for sharing

Edward DeMesa says:

As a former student athlete during the DiNardo and Dowhower era, my life at Vanderbilt would have been much harder without these guys. From workouts to games to uniforms to equipment needs, whatever I needed, these guys were always there. Luke, Eric and the rest of the crew always took care of us and made sure that we not only clean practice uniforms, but also the best gears. Whether they were sweatpants or practice jerseys and shorts, they had us looking good. On top of this, they are awesome people with great personalities. They were funny too and always made us laugh. They were easy to talk to and always treated us with the utmost respect. So to Luke, Eric, and all the volunteers of the Commodore family, I just want to say THANK YOU for all that you have done for us—for your time, your effort, and for always believing in us, even when our season wasn’t going so great. You guys never turned you back on us. Also, Gary—thank you for providing us the platform to express our thoughts and recognize these awesome individuals. I am truly honored and humbled to be a part of this.

Gary Rogers says:

Ed, thanks so much for taking the time to share your comments and acknowledgement with this great group of guys in the Equipment Room. I’ve always known that this group was a GREAT group of men, but I’m reading it more and more by people like yourself. I know these guys will appreciate all you said. Thanks again

I love these guys! One of the best things about coming back is being welcomed with a familiar Vandy face and unconditional appreciation. In times even when the athletic department or coaches were not always extending welcoming arms in person, there were many faces above on this list that made you feel right at home. For some guys, when we come back…we don’t know a soul personally that’s still working in athletic department, playing on the team or any coaches on staff. This group of men becomes the key connection point that brings back so many good VU memories thru the years. We love you all and appreciate everything you do. #GoDores

Gary Rogers says:

Kennard, your words are all so true! Coming back to Vandy and seeing a familiar face is something we all are looking for. The Equipment Team were those familiar faces that were consistent through the years and also loved us back, unconditionally! Thanks so much for sharing your appreciation of this group of AMAZING men!

Dawn Gregory Kranz says:

Our family will never be able to put in words how much Vanderbilt meant to our Dad (Harold Gregory). He loved his VU family. You knew if you got married, had a baby or even Christmas if Vandy was playing he chose Vandy. We all shared many great memories at Vanderbilt and all the many road trips. He had not missed a home game in 64 years and away games 42. He could tell you plays from 50 years ago (every detail). These men that you honored are priceless. You will never be able to replace the love they had for Vanderbilt Football. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. Luke and Julie you have forever touched our heart.

Gary Rogers says:

Dawn, sharing these comments started getting me emotional. I can see that your Dad loved Vanderbilt so much and just want you and your family to know that we love HIM and appreciated his support for all the years he supported us! I wish your Dad was able to see the outpouring of comments and love for him and his group of volunteers, but am hoping that you and your family will know how much we all care. Thanks for sharing and please let us know if there’s anything we can do for any of you. I will help connect or whatever you need from my end and I know Julie and Luke will do the same from theirs too! Thanks again Dawn.

Jason says:

The equipment guys at Vandy were some of the first guys I got to to know when I got to Vandy. Sometimes McGugin could be a not so fun place. These guys were always good to talk to to. My late Father “Handsome” Willie Smith LOVED spending time with them when he came to town. This recognition is very much deserved. Thank you for all that you did!!

Gary Rogers says:

Jason, thanks so much for sharing! This Equipment Staff was always an amazing group of men and they did so much for us players, especially when we first were introduced to Vandy life. That’s an awesome story about your Dad with these guys and it totally makes sense! This group of guys are the LEADERS of Vandy and I hope others will learn more as to how they did it, although I think it’s pretty simple! Care and love others! Thanks again for sharing

Chandler says:

This is such a wonderful tribute to so many amazing people! Thank you all for everything you have done for the Black and Gold! Lastly, thank you to those who loved and put up with my poppy, Harold Gregory! He loved each and every one of you⭐️

Gary Rogers says:

Chandler, thanks for sharing your message with all of us. Your “Poppy” was loved so much. I have heard a lot about him lately as I’ve talked to Luke a bunch in the last 3 months! I just wanted to say you should be so proud of what Poppy has done for Vanderbilt and its athletics. It’s guys like him that are so Needed! Thanks for sharing and please let us know if there’s anything we can do for your family.

Gary Veach says:

Thank you Luke for the recognition, as you well know I have always been a huge Vanderbilt fan my whole life. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to volunteer for the first 2 or 3 years before it turned into a full-time job, my dream job. Although I’m still there it’s not quite the same as it used to be around there. I’m very honored to have worked for you and with you and all the guys that volunteered their time to travel to games and home games. It was more than a job it was a way of life for myself, Renea, Heather, Steven, and Brock my family. Everyone was an extension of my family players, most coaches, and most of the volunteers that helped out. Love you all…

John Newman (Jacksonville, FL) says:

Gary, thanks for providing the opportunity to reconnect and let these guys know how much we appreciated their time, energy and effort. As a member of the ’87-’90 teams, we faced some challenges but could always count on Bill, Luke and the boys taking care of us. We were fortunate to have them as a part of our family and they certainly deserved a few more W’s to celebrate. Their support and love of Vanderbilt football won’t be forgotten by the people who matter most…

Gary Rogers says:

Hey John, thanks so much for sharing your comments about this Great group of men. We all wish we could’ve given them more W’s but I think we’re giving them all a BIG W by celebrating them all right now. Thanks for your words

Robert Butler says:

Thanks to these men for working hard for the VU Commodores.

Gary Rogers says:

You sum it up Robert best! They all worked hard! Thanks for sharing

Derick Bossier ‘90-93 says:

Hype – Thank you for coordinating this forum. This recognition is long overdue. As Gerald stated in an earlier post, the efforts and services of the equipment staff are often overlooked. They are the unsung heroes.

I have not spoken with or seen many of you in nearly three decades, but we share a common bond that will withstand the test of time. I’m honored to be associated with such a great group of guys, fathers, husbands, leaders and friends.

Thank you for sharing your stories. They brought back old memories. “Big Guy’s Up”

Stay Safe!

Gary Rogers says:

Derick, you are right! The bonds that were formed over 3 decades ago and even ones that were longer will forever be there! I’m so appreciative of my Vanderbilt Family including those who served us which includes such a long list. Of course, some on that list are on this nomination! Thanks Derick for reaching out and sharing and I wasn’t in the “Big Guys Up” group, but I remember those words from DiNarado!

Bill McDermond says:

Hype– First, thanks for taking the time and effort to organize this tribute. I’ve had the pleasure of reading the posts and enjoyed all of them. Great to see so many friends and teammates joining in to recognize Luke and his team. I’m not sure there is much more that I could add that hasn’t already been said, but as I was reflecting on my experiences with this group- one word comes to mind… Passion. These guys were passionate about Vanderbilt Athletics, the athletes, one another… you name it. I always felt their passion, energy and positive attitude each and every time I entered the equipment room. Thanks to all of you for your selfless sacrifices to help us navigate life, sports, and academics during such an impressionable time in our lives. I have so many fond memories of Luke, Chief Russell (He’ll always be Chief to me…never Bobby) Billy Smith, Dewayne Jones.. and the whole crew. As we all grow older you realize our most precious commodity is our time; so it’s very cool to recognize such a cool group of humble guys who donated their time to us and our pursuits. I hope everyone here is staying safe and healthy. Bill McDermond (’91-’95)

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks McD for your comments. Passion is a great word to describe this group. This group of men loved what they did and also loved us too! I read so many posts about the same things over and over! I didn’t need to read these things to know them about everyone, but it really is putting a STAMP in my brain that these are the kinds of people Vanderbilt needs in place in all areas, not just the equipment room. We’ve had bits and tastes of it, but the foundation is what is most important and this ENTIRE GROUP, which includes THE CHIEF, Billy and the rest of the men who either worked for a free meal (assuming) or got paid, is a part of that foundation that can never be broken apart! It’s some very thick concrete with lots of rebar and will last a lifetime! Thanks Billy Mac for sharing!

Lynne Brantley says:

This is a great way to thank all of the Vanderbilt equipment volunteers for their countless hours of hard work! With these days of Covid-19, we can all reflect on what really matters— being kind to each other, giving our best and keeping the faith no matter what. These volunteers exemplified the Vanderbilt spirit.

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks for sharing Lynne. You are right! With all that’s going on, the one thing we can do is to be kind. These volunteers were the kindest, especially with the amount of years they gave back to all of us. Thanks again for sharing and you reminded by what the true Vanderbilt Spirit looks like! It’s looks like this group of men.

Jeff Brothers says:

Few people know how to truly serve unconditionally. All who worked so diligently with the equipment staff at Vanderbilt over the years deserve a long-overdue and heartfelt “thanks” from each of us who benefited from their service. Luke, Eric, Danny, Chief Russell and Billy had a tremendous impact on our experience at VU. No one worked harder to give us every opportunity for success, and no one was a bigger fan of each player than these guys. I know we all have plenty of stories to explain the laughter and the encouragement these guys provided. We’ll never be able to repay you guys!

Gary Rogers says:

Thanks Jeff “Brotherman” for sharing. This group of men finally have gotten a well deserved acknowledgement that was made up by you and others who have shared their THANKS to them all. We all have stories, but the main one, is that these guys were always around for so many years and that is amazing. They did love us all as well and we were almost like their kids in a sense. Thanks for sharing.