Damien, what have you been up to lately?
I’m still in Nashville married with 3 little ones. I work full time in the ministry and in my spare time hit the “links” on occasion.
Why did you decide to come to Vanderbilt?
I’d say the perfect blend of academics and football. You can’t beat playing in one of the top conferences along with getting a great education. Also the year before I signed, they went 5-6 so I felt they were headed in the right direction.
Did you reconsider your decision after Coach Dinardo left for LSU?
No. By that time I was committed to the school and my teammates and my allegiance wasn’t to a coach but to the team.
What do you think the biggest difference in Coach Widenhofer and Coach Dowhower’s coaching styles?
Coach Woody was a great defensive strategist with a good staff around him. Coach Fewell did a great job coaching the DB’s up and Woody had the schemes to frustrate offenses. I call the Dowhower years, “The Lost Years”. He wasn’t a good coach at all (and I’m not exaggerating). He was not a good motivator of young men and we’ll just leave it at that.
Why do you think Coach Woody was so successful as a defensive coordinator but had little success as a head coach?
I think it comes down to discipline. He could get away with not having to have too much of it because he had a good defensive staff around him to help fill in the holes but after getting promoted to the head job, his lack of personal discipline caught up with him. Anytime you’re inconsistent with discipline with any player then it says more about who you are than it does the player you’re allowing to get away with some things.
What are you most proud of from your time at Vanderbilt?
My life long friendships and experiences I’ve gained from those years.
Where was the toughest place to play?
The loudest: LSU
The craziest: Florida
Most intense: UT
Which did you prefer, returning kicks or playing in the secondary?
I enjoyed them both. It was a rush covering guys like Jacques Green or Peerless Price in the slot as well as trying to see if I could return a punt back.
Your sophmore year we had the huge game at home on Thursday night against Notre Dame. What do you remember abou that game? I rememeber screaming when I saw Damian Allan hit Todd Yoder with that 50 yard bomb for a TD. It seemed we just couldn’t stop Edwards, their big running back late in the game.
That was the story of my years at Vandy, “We just couldn’t finish.”
Later that year we had a chance to tie UT late in the 4th qtr but the rain and UT’s defense was a little too much for us. The defense kept Peyton Manning in check for most of the game. What do you remember about that game?
See my previous answer.
Your junior year we beat Ladinian Tomlinson’s Texas Chrisitan Horned Frogs at home. What do you remember about that game. Did you think LT was going to be something special?
Honestly, you play against really good talent all the time so you think each back would be the next big thing. But I will tell you this, I knew Fred Taylor & Jamal Lewis would be good at the next level.
The game against LSU that year still haunts me. The defense played great but two huge penalties cost us the possible win. Under a minute to go you see the TD pass to Hogans what is going through your head?
Like all those moments I relieved over and over. “Will we finish?” was the question and you see how we answered it over and over during those years.
Your senior year we finally got the SEC monkey off of our back and beat South Carolina at home 17-14. How good did it feel to get that elusive SEC win.
It felt good but nothing earth shattering.
What did you think when we beat UT in Knoxville 2 years ago?
It was great to see Jay pull off the upset he didn’t get down in the Swamp that year. What I could say about Coach Johnson and what he’s teaching and taught them was to “Finish”.