The 6-foot-6, 275-pound redshirt sophomore offensive tackle and his teammates will reap the fruit of their efforts as the Commodores play North Carolina State at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., Monday.
It will be the second bowl game for Bridges, whose Vanderbilt squad lost to Cincinnati 31-24 in the 2011 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.
For Vanderbilt, it also marks the first time in the football program’s history that it has earned a bowl game berth for a second consecutive year – a fact that Bridges is proud of.
“It’s fun playing in these bowl games and it’s great to be a part of history at Vanderbilt,” he said. “I have never played this late in the year, playing on New Year’s Eve, so that will be a fun experience.”
It has been a successful season for Bridges, who overcame MCL sprains in both knees to help lead Vanderbilt to an 8-4 record – its best mark in years.
He has played in 11 of the Commodores’ 12 games in 2012, starting in nine of them.
“We’ve had a great year and we’re getting better and better,” Bridges said.
Bridges redshirted his freshman year in Vanderbilt in 2010, a season in which the Commodores struggled to a 2-10 record.
However, with James Franklin stepping in as coach and Bridges assuming a starting role on the offensive line, the Commodores improved to 6-7 as they earned their first bowl bid since 2008.
Bridges spent his redshirt season in ’10 bulking up and getting stronger with intense work in the weight room.
The effort has paid off in a big way as he gained nearly 40 pounds.
“The big thing for me is my size – I’m still working on that,” he said. “I needed to gain size and strength to play SEC football and I’ve been doing that.”
Westminster assistant coach Joe Sturniolo certainly noticed the difference as he watched his former player in a game against Georgia in Athens earlier this season.
“When he played for us, he was 225, 230, 235 maybe,” Sturniolo said. “Now, he’s 270 and he’s big and strong. When Vanderbilt was playing Georgia, I saw him perform and he was a monster, starting at right tackle. He really has come a long way since he was at Westminster.”
Now, Bridges and his Vanderbilt teammates are wrapping up their preparations for the Music City Bowl as they face a N.C. State team that comes into the contest with a 7-5 record.
“Everything has gone great,” he said. “We started practice a few weeks ago and we’re progressing and developing well. Now, we’re focusing on N.C. State and preparing specifically for them. We’re excited about the game and we can’t wait to play.”