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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Press Conference Notes: Clark Lea on spring practice, earning the Star V

Clark Lea on Wednesday addressed the media after his first practice as Vanderbilt head football coach.
Clark Lea at the first official spring practice of 2021. (Twitter/@VandyFootball)

The Clark Lea era is officially underway.

Vanderbilt’s first-year head football coach held his first official practice on Wednesday, and in a subsequent press conference he expressed lots of enthusiasm—but no complacency. 

“Obviously, I had a lot of fun today. That doesn’t mean it always went well,” the former Vanderbilt fullback said with a smile, “But it went. And it’s a great first step for us moving forward.”

Though the environment may have posed some challenges in his first practice—weather conditions forced the Commodores to move inside and Vanderbilt’s signature touchdown horn sounded when it wasn’t supposed to—Lea said he learned from the experience. As a former position coach and coordinator, his first practice as a head coach provided a change-of-pace.

“I knew this would be different. I knew it would feel different for me. I think when you’re responsible for a unit or position group, you have such a narrow focus when you take the practice field. There are very specific things you want to accomplish,” he said. “For me, this is about taking a really broad look at the program; how the program functions [and] how it transitions.”

Part of the transition from the previous coaching staff to Lea’s includes a familiar theme among Commodore programs. When the Vanderbilt football team took the practice field on Wednesday, they wore black or white shirts with “Vanderbilt” printed on the front, and their last name on the back. No student-athletes sported a Star V logo or uniform number.

The empty uniform is something head baseball coach Tim Corbin has used in early-season practices for years. Much like Corbin, Lea said the players must earn the privilege to wear them.

“We’re going to earn everything in this program,” he said. “Until we understand that we rent those [uniform] numbers, we don’t own them, until we’re ready to work within them, to leave them better for the next person to wear them—that’ll come. I don’t want to put a timeline on it.”

Similar to the uniform numbers, Lea believes the Star V is something that the players must earn. Not only is it a privilege, but he said it’s a representation of the program.

“No one is allowed to assign the value of being a part of this program except for those within it. No one can tell us what it means to be a Vanderbilt football player… We define that by what we’re willing to invest in this program and what we’ll sacrifice for this program,” he said. “We want to strengthen the Star V in everything that we do.”

The players will have to earn their uniforms. And while Lea seemed happy to be back on the practice field, he understood that they have a long way to go before they earn that right.

“This is the first practice that this team has had. Now, we’ve had training together, and I thought there was positive carryover from our training to the practice field, but it wasn’t perfect,” he said. “Meaning, I felt this team Saturday evening trained at a really, really high level. I don’t think we started [Wednesday’s] practice with an energy level that reflected that training.”

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About the Contributor
Simon Gibbs
Simon Gibbs, Former Sports Editor
Simon Gibbs (‘21) is the former Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He has been on staff since the first semester of his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Senior Writer and Deputy Sports Editor. Simon is also the host of VU Sports Wired on Vanderbilt Video Productions and The Hustler Sports 30 on VandyRadio. Simon has attended several events as credentialed media, including the 2019 NFL Draft, 2019 College Baseball World Series and the 2019 SEC Tournament. Outside of his Commodore coverage, Simon has had bylines published on and When he's not writing, you can find Simon watching his hometown New York Mets, waiting for that next ring. For tips, comments or concerns, please reach out to: [email protected]    
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Cole Sullivan
3 years ago

What do the players think about the new coach?