Life in the SEC is hard enough.
You have some of the most talented players in the country who know they can’t rely on their talent alone. The best of the best get better by working harder and longer in the offseason.
They push themselves through two-a-days, wind sprints, suicides and more. They bleed, sweat, and puke until they collapse, then they get up and do it again.
All of this is done in hopes that when the ball is in their hands in the fourth quarter they may have a half a step more than the defender chasing them.
In addition, they have some of the most decorated coaches in the nation game planning and scheming to find a way to put this warrior in the best position to make a play.
They come to work at six AM and leave at midnight, studying film, studying tendencies, studying practice tape.
They look to exploit your weaknesses, hide their own deficiencies, and make the right play call at just the right time. They poke and prod and tweak like a mechanic on an old car in the garage, trying to get it to run as smoothly as possible.
Sometimes the team’s strengths cancel each other out. In many cases the talent level is near the same. In this conference especially, there is so much on the line that even the desire and drive of both teams clash like the horns of two rams with no immediate apparent winner.
In a conference like the SEC where the best of the best play every week, often times the margin of difference in the winner and loser can be as sheer as the fog that drapes the players on six AM laps around the field.
It is then that home field advantage must take over.
Like a fort that sits on the Tennessee River, Neyland Stadium must fight to protect those that call the field their home. After all, this is their home.
The Volunteer players wear the grass stains from the field, bruises from the blocking sleds, and blood stains from the hits like badges of honor. They fight to defend their turf as if it was the very home they laid their head at night.
For some it might as well be.
The fine line between winning and losing in this league can come down to simply who wants it more.
But that doesn’t just go for the players.
For Tennessee to return to prominence, the crowd must be more than just the 12th man. They must become the 106,873rd man.
If Tennessee fans want to see their coaches work tirelessly to recruit, then they must match that effort. If they want to see their players leave everything on the field, then they must stand up themselves.
The dominant program that Tennessee was in the past was more than just slightly due to the deafening crowd that awaited visiting teams.
It should be impossible for an Auburn Tiger quarterback to hear themselves in that stadium, but recently it has been an all too comforting place for away teams to play.
For Tennessee, that has to change.
Tennessee fans are passionate, they are proud, and they are hungry for what they know this program can become. They want the team on the field to be winners.
The team on the field wants the crowd to be deafening.
Each one can beget the other.
It’s obvious that any team can be a catalyst for the crowd, but in Tennessee the crowd must not only return the favor, it could stand to pay it forward as well.