- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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If there were such a thing as Mr. Vanderbilt, Chris Marve would be a runaway winner.
He’s been a model for what every coach hopes he’s getting when that coach signs a player out of high school.
Marve, who’s already earned his undergraduate degree, has produced in the classroom. He’s produced on the football field. He’s produced in the locker room, and he’s produced in the community.
Ten tackles away from 400 for his career, Marve is one of nine seniors on Vanderbilt’s team who will play in his second bowl game when the Commodores take on Cincinnati on Saturday in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. It’s the first senior class in Vanderbilt school history to make it to two bowl games.
Marve joins tight end Brandon Barden, offensive tackle Kyle Fischer, defensive end Tim Fugger, defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone, cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Sean Richardson, quarterback Larry Smith and receiver Udom Umoh in earning that distinction.
Having earned All-SEC honors every season he’s played at Vanderbilt, Marve took some time recently to reflect on his career, where this Vanderbilt program is headed under James Franklin and what it took to get to this point:
You’re ending your career in your hometown of Memphis. How special is that, and were you able to get enough tickets?
Chris Marve: I’m still looking for tickets. I got as many as I could. I think I’ll probably have 100 people there from a combination of family, friends, former coaches, their families and people I went to school with. I have a huge support system in Memphis.
Being part of the first senior class in school history to go to two bowl games, how much pride do you take in what you guys accomplished this season?
CM: We all take a lot of pride in this opportunity. We worked tirelessly to be in the position we’re in now. It’s a great feeling, but we’re not hanging our hat on just going to two bowl games. We’re hanging our hat on winning two bowl games.
What kind of statement would that be for the program?
CM: There’s no doubt in my mind that beating Cincinnati would be a huge statement for Vanderbilt football. We’re trying to change how Vanderbilt football is viewed. It hasn’t been easy, but that’s what makes it so special. We’ve worked for everything we’ve gotten.
You’ve been such a strong leader for the Commodores. How do you view your role as a leader?
CM: You do, and others follow. I’ve really tried hard to set an example for the younger guys, how it’s done and how hard you have to work if you’re going to make any progress in this league.
How do you want this senior class to be remembered?
CM: I want people to recognize my class, but I want them to recognize the entire 2011 Vanderbilt team even more. The seniors wouldn’t be where we are without everybody on this team. I think we’ll all look back on this team and how we changed the culture of Vanderbilt football.
How far away is Vanderbilt from being the kind of program that’s going to bowl games every year and contending for the East championship?
CM: Not far away at all. We’re going to keep working, and we’re going to get there. I know a lot of people think we never will, but we will, and there’s no doubt that coach Franklin is the man to get us there. For a sport that requires team cohesiveness, his coaching style is perfect. I don’t see anything but greatness for Vanderbilt football.
Does this season make the struggles of the last two seasons worth it all, and would you do anything differently if you could?
CM: I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. We say it all the time. Vanderbilt is the whole package. It’s great football, a great learning environment and a beautiful city to live in. It exposed me to a lot of things, and I’ll forever be grateful for my time here.
12hSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf