Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Meet Vanderbilt's James Franklin, the SEC football coach who calls random fans in the middle of the night

January 11, 2013 

If you're like me, nothing gets your heart racing like a 1 a.m. phone call, and I hear it'll only get worse when the kids leave home for college.

But Tuesday night my family was under one roof and I was fast asleep.

Earlier that day, Alabama had been officially crowned national champions in both football polls.

More importantly to me, the Vanderbilt Commodores had made both polls for the first time since Truman's first term as president. They did this by winning nine games for the first time since the Wilson administration.

Sometimes history is all you've got.

But it's always nice to move on. Which brings us to 1 a.m., when my wife shook me awake and handed me the phone.

The person on the other end of the line was awfully excited.

"Wake up!" he shouted. "Sleep is for the dead!"

Huh?

"You should be out spreading the word about Vanderbilt football!"

It was James Franklin, Vandy's coach.

I'm not kidding. The head football coach at the SEC university I'd graduated from 22 years ago, and whom I'd never met, was calling me in the middle of the night.

Turns out my brother had just met him at some coaching convention. He told him I was a proud Vandy alumnus and Franklin suggested they call me right away. (Only later would he learn I had a Vandy football blog called "Moral Victory!")

On the phone, Franklin thanked me for supporting the Dores and made me promise to bring the whole family to next season's opener against Ole Miss in Nashville. On a Thursday night at the start of the school year.

I could hear my wife groan.

"Anchor Down!" Franklin said when he signed off.

"Anchor Down!" I said.

I've never uttered "Anchor Down!" in my life. It seems like the correct nautical metaphor in the SEC, where success depends so heavily on speed and explosiveness, would be "Full sails ahead!" or maybe "Harpoon the Vols!"

Maybe you have to anchor down before you can harpoon a Vol. I don't know; I was in the Army.

All I knew is that while I'd already believed in Franklin, I suddenly believed in his slogan, too.

The guy's been making believers since he got to Nashville. He's said himself that he'd make balloon animals at birthday parties to build Vandy's fan base.

This season, he went to the dorms to get students pumped up for the upcoming game with Tennessee. Many students told him they already had airline tickets home for fall break, so Franklin spent part of the day calling parents and getting them to change their children's flights.

No wonder the guy is putting together a recruiting class that's ranked among the best in the nation.

And I think the last time that happened at Vandy was during the Jefferson administration.

Anchor down, indeed.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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