Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vanderbilt football players encouraged to get out of the weight room and go overseas

When 300-pound offensive tackle Mylon Brown signed with the Commodores a couple months ago, he told reporters how tough he knew it would be, but he was excited about the challenge of competing at such a high level.

He wasn't talking about playing in the SEC. He was talking about Vanderbilt's academics.

Coach Bobby Johnson knows he can't compete with Tennessee for guys like Bryce Brown, who are already thinking about which five luxury cars they're gonna buy when they sign an NFL contract in three years.

No, Johnson's looking for scholar-athletes. Guys like Gaston Miller and Joel Caldwell, who are in Greece right now taking a Maymester class called "Uncovering Greek Religion: Cults, Sanctuaries & Festivals in the Ancient World."

Miller's sending web postcards to the official Vanderbilt athletic site. Click here to read the first one.

Miller, a rising junior running back, and Caldwell, a rising senior safety, arrived in Greece on Tuesday. Miller said airport security was scanning body temperatures in an effort to detect swine flu.

For Miller, who hails from Murfreesboro, Tenn., it's his first trip overseas. He immediately noticed the small cars, the reckless drivers and the lack of open land.

Of course, Miller and Caldwell could be working out on campus right now instead of eating baklava.

That doesn't bother Johnson. "They can come back and still get in good shape by working out in June and July," he told the Commodores site. "I think it is fantastic, and I believe our players will be diligent enough to stay in shape when they are somewhere, and they won't be gone that long, so it is hard to get too out of shape."

In fact, Johnson thinks it may help him attract the kind of student-athletes he's looking for. "I think Gaston and Joel will have some good stories to tell and interest guys into looking at places all over the world that are available. We've already started talking to some recruits about it. A lot of regular college students across the country are studying abroad, and we want to make that available for our athletes."

If you had sons who were major college prospects — and had a head on their shoulders — wouldn't you want them to play for Bobby Johnson? I sure would.

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