Johnson sees brighter days to come for Commodores

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 3:50pm

HOOVER, Ala. – For Myron Lewis, the memory remains vivid nearly seven months later.

When the Vanderbilt cornerback got his hands on the ball and made an interception with 1:36 remaining in the Music City Bowl last New Year’s Eve, he ensured the Commodores’ victory.

“I think about it almost every day,” Lewis said. “I got beat for a touchdown on the previous series, so to come back and make a play was real good for me. A lot of people still ask about it and what the feeling was at that time.”

With the start of the 2009 season a little more than a month away, Lewis and the rest of the VU players and coaches hope to hang on to the good feelings and the momentum created by the program’s most successful season in more than a quarter century.

That was the consistent and sustained stance of Lewis, center Bradley Vierling and coach Bobby Johnson as they made the rounds of the Southeastern Conference’s football media days on Wednesday.

“We finally got to a bowl game last year, we got that feeling and we want more of it – we absolutely do,” Vierling said. “ … Guys want another bowl game. They got a taste of it. They want to show everybody that last year was not a fluke. … Everybody wants to go to another bowl game, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Johnson, in particular, fielded numerous questions in regard to the Commodores’ breakthough last fall following 25 consecutive losing seasons. He was quizzed in regard to the impact on offseason training, on his own sense of satisfaction and whether or not he has sensed an increased respect for himself and the Commodores.

“The repercussions of our season from last year, you know, obviously I think it was the next stage we had to take our program, which was to go to a bowl,” he said. “It was a bonus to win it. We're very pleased with that. I think it's helped the attitude of our players, our fans, our donors, our head coach, everybody. It was very enjoyable.

“I think hopefully our players know what it takes to get to that point. Hopefully we can continue to do that, work at the level that we need to work to make sure we have a chance to repeat.”

He added, though, that he does not believe a 7-6 record and a bowl victory was the peak of performance for Vanderbilt, which has not had back-to-back winning seasons since 1974-75.

“I think the sky’s the limit, to tell you the truth,” Johnson said. “When we prove we can win consistently, our recruiting will take a step up and we’ll have the same talent as the top-tier teams in the league.

“We expect to compete for championships, and we weren’t that far off last year.”