Engineering senior and Vanderbilt football walk-on Marc Panu surprised with full scholarship

A routine team meeting last week turned out to be anything but for senior chemical engineering major Marc Panu.

After praising fullback Panu for his effort in practice the day before, Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin stunned his fourth-year walk-on by awarding him a full scholarship on Wednesday, Aug. 8.

Immediately, the packed auditorium erupted into cheers as Panu’s teammates rose to congratulate him in a moment that was caught on tape and posted on Vanderbilt’s athletic website Friday, Aug. 10.

In the video Franklin talks to a silent, packed audience of Commodores.

“You want to watch a guy who is trying to find a role on this team?” Franklin asks his team before unloading the news. “You’re talking about a guy who keeps his mouth shut and loves being a part of this team. Watch him here (as Panu delivers a block) — finding a way to bring value to the team.

“That’s why I’m so proud to let Marc Panu know that he’s got a full scholarship.”

The announcement shocked Panu, a senior, who dropped his head into his hands and slouched back into his chair in disbelief. The 21-year-old then slowly made his way down to the front of the stage, receiving congratulatory pats on the back from teammates before embracing Franklin.

A former All-State linebacker from Mableton, Georgia, Panu came to Vanderbilt in 2009 as a linebacker/defensive end, and was the defensive scout team MVP in his first season. He played in 11 of 12 games as a redshirt freshman, mostly on special teams, in 2010.

Franklin arrived at Vanderbilt and switched Panu to fullback. Panu accepted the challenge and has developed into a solid blocking back, especially in goal line situations.

Offseason knee surgery hasn’t stopped him either. Franklin says Panu, whose parents are from the Congo and Trinidad and Tobago, still comes to work every day with his lunch pail and never says much.

Off the field, Panu works just as hard, and is closing in on an engineering undergraduate degree. He’s set to graduate in May 2013.