Expressing himself verbally comes naturally for Vanderbilt linebacker Marcus Buggs.
Before games, he pumps up his teammates with fiery pep talks. He trash-talks with opponents. He confronts underachieving teammates.
If it needs to be said, Buggs willingly says it.
“It comes from my upbringing,” he said. “My parents and my family, if they ever had anything to say to you, they’d go ahead and say it. There was no holding it back.”
Buggs has earned the right to speak his mind. The 5-foot-11, 225-pound senior has quietly been one of Vanderbilt’s best defensive players during the past two seasons.
Last week against Alabama, he harassed Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson all afternoon and finished eight tackles, including two for loss of yardage, and a quarterback sack.
Without that type of production, his verbal rants might fall on deaf ears.
“It’s definitely something you have to earn,” VU defensive tackle Theo Horrocks said. “If you’re not out there making big plays, you can’t start talking and getting in people’s faces.”
When Buggs speaks, Commodore teammates listen.
“If anybody’s down, he gets you up,” Horrocks said. “And he’s not afraid to tell you what you’re doing wrong. He’ll get after you a little bit if you make a mistake.
“He talks to the defense before every game and sort of gets the blood flowing. He just kind of says what’s on his mind before every game. He’s just a great leader.”
Buggs, a Nashville native and Goodpasture High graduate, had no idea his Vanderbilt career would be winding down this way when he arrived in 2003 as a safety.
Desperate for linebackers, VU coaches asked Buggs to make the move. Already possessing physical and aggressive traits, he made a seamless transition in the spring of 2005.
“He’s kind of grown into the position,” Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler said. “It hasn’t been a struggle for him at all.”
In 2006, Buggs emerged as a standout, tallying a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss of yardage and delivering many punishing hits.
At that point, everyone involved realized Buggs’ on-field production matched his intensity away from it.
“He’s just pretty much relentless with his attitude and his effort,” Fowler said. “Everything he’s done, he’s done with a tremendous attitude. He has the characteristics that we’d like to have from all of our defensive players.”
Buggs’ teammates still believe he’s overlooked due to the presence of All-Southeastern Conference linebacker Jonathan Goff.
“Marcus has definitely been playing in the shadow of Goff,” Horrocks said. “Nobody ever talks about him, but he’s such a weapon on defense. He’s an unbelievable athlete and flies around, and he’s one of the hardest hitters on our team. He plays with such intensity.”
While continuing to make a name for himself as a player, Buggs isn’t likely to stop talking.
“On Saturdays, I want to get everyone jacked up,” he said. “I love to see people have fun, and I love to have fun. That’s all I’m trying to do out there.
“I love to talk to my players and talk to the other players. I talk everybody out there. It’s just something I do, and it gets everyone fired up.
“I love to see that.”