Safety Langford emerges as Vanderbilt's elder statesman

Monday, August 4, 2008 at 2:06am
Reshard Langford has turned into the Commodores' team leader. Courtesy Vanderbilt Athletics

Reshard Langford couldn’t help but ponder the irony of it all as he made the rounds at Southeastern Conference Football Media Days.

Representing Vanderbilt as a team captain and elder statesman of the program, the senior safety began to realize just how far he has come in five years. And with hundreds of media around, Langford had plenty of opportunities to tell his story.

“I didn’t think I would be in this position,” he said.

Langford arrived at Vanderbilt in 2004 as a lightly recruited defensive back out of Tanner, Ala., a tiny town situated along the Tennessee River just outside of Athens.

He packed his bags for Vanderbilt knowing only that the school was in an urban setting far from what he had known. The future would be left to fate.

Langford now is one of the SEC’s best safeties and is perhaps the most respected player at Vanderbilt. VU players elected three team captains this spring, but Langford might carry the most influence.

“Reshard is a big figure in the program,” wide receiver George Smith said. “He’s been there, played in big games and made those big hits. He’s stepped up for us when we needed big plays, and I think people look up to a person like that. I look up to him.”

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Langford first began to earn respect when took over as a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2005. He hasn’t left the lineup since and has started 35 consecutive games.

During that rookie season, Langford offered production and leveled more than one receiver who dared to cross the middle of the field. Nothing has changed since then.

Langford enters the 2008 season with eight career interceptions and was named to the coaches’ preseason All-SEC team this summer. Vanderbilt believes its defensive secondary ranks among the nation’s best, and Langford’s steadying presence is one of the primary reasons.

“He’s made big plays consistently throughout his career,” Commodores coach Bobby Johnson said. “He’s been extremely steady. Even if you don’t say a word, I think that sends a great message to your football team, your other players.

“Here’s a guy who’s played extremely well and has been recognized as an outstanding player. And he goes through all the little things to make himself better, all the things at practices that he does to make himself better that, obviously, everybody else can do it, too.”

Langford isn’t afraid to challenge his teammates verbally if need be.

He remembers his redshirt freshman season of 2004 when former VU defensive end Javon Haye, now in the NFL, had a candid conversation with the young safety.

“I guess he saw that I had the potential to be a good player,” Langford said. “A lot of guys got in my face.”

Now Langford does the confronting.

“I got comfortable doing that when coach Johnson came to me and said, ‘We need you to be a leader,’” said Langford, who hopes to pursue a career in medicine. “Having that responsibility made me comfortable in doing that. Also, the guys I’m playing with, I know they love football. So if I can say something to make him a better player, why not say something?”

Added Johnson: “He can back it up. He demands a lot out of his teammates. He can sit there and demand it on anybody on our team and they're going to respect him.”

With his Vanderbilt career nearing its twilight, Langford readily express a sense of satisfaction.

“It’s been great, coming from a small town and going to the city and a school like Vanderbilt,” he said. “I really like to share my story when people ask about it. I’ve had great experiences. I look forward to them continuing.”

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