As Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers descended the escalator, he unleashed a well-kept secret.
Though the senior captain had known for several months about the white helmet with a black and gold stripe down the middle and the Star V on both sides, most of his teammates had not. And they boisterously showed their approval.
The all-white uniforms (helmets, jerseys and pants) received the loudest applause from Vanderbilt players, fans and alumni when coach James Franklin unveiled 10 new combinations on Wednesday night at the Barnes & Noble Vanderbilt Bookstore on West End.
“It is going to add a wrinkle. It’s going to add some excitement,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to look a little faster out there maybe.”
Rodgers was one of 16 seniors who served as models in front of an overflow crowd that filled up the first floor of the bookstore and lined the upstairs railing to get a peak. The uniforms were designed by the coaching staff, with little input from the players, as director of football operations Mike Hazel and equipment manager Luke Wyatt heading up the project.
Along with the traditional colors of black and gold, white was added to the uniforms made with high-tenacity Cordura knit fabric made by Nike.
The white helmets, a first at Vanderbilt since 1986, might have stolen the show but several new additions excited the crowd.
For the first time since 1994, “VANDERBILT” is stitched on the front of the jersey, above the numbers. On the neck of the jersey is a gold anchor emblem and inside the collar are the words “Anchor Down,” a phrase Franklin has embraced over the last year. Star V logos sit on each hip of the pants and the gold jersey features black shoulders, black letters and black numbers — a welcome change from the hard-to-see white numbers and letters.
“It’s different,” running back Zac Stacy said. “It definitely was surprise to us when we first saw them. Better material. We love them. We love the different combinations.”
Franklin said he wanted new uniforms last year, but it was “too late in the process” leading up to his first season as a head coach.
“Not only do you have to play with a certain aggression on the field and play an exciting brand of football, but you also have to be sexy,” Franklin said.
The first look at the uniforms in action will come Aug. 30 at Vanderbilt Stadium in the season opener against South Carolina — a game that will be televised in primetime by ESPN. In conjunction with the “Black Out” promotion encouraging fans to dress in all black, Franklin said the team will don the all-black uniforms. That includes the popular black helmets, which the Commodores wore last year for the first time in 21 years.
“For me, it is more of a confidence boost,” Stacy said. “The new uniforms gives us that [mentality that] sort of we’re hanging with the big dogs too. A lot of people forget we play in the SEC just like everybody else does.”