If you are a long-time Tennessee fan like me, you probably have multiple reasons for loving it.
How could you not?
From the first time they saw Smokey running onto the field, to listening to John Ward’s play-by-play call of an all-important SEC battle, Tennessee fans have a wide variety of memories etched into their minds that they can call their reason for falling in love with the orange and white-clad Volunteers.
The University of Tennessee is crawling with traditions dating all the way back to the 19th century. It’s no wonder so many different answers come out when you ask UT fans what made them a “Vol for life.”
If you are looking for the best, look no further. I’m here to power rank what I believe to be the top five reasons 100,000 strong pour into Neyland Stadium every Saturday each fall.
Ah, who can forget the first time they heard "Rocky Top"?
The song many SEC schools love to hate, Tennessee fans have made their own.
Felice and Boudleaux Bryant famously wrote the song in only 10 minutes at the Gatlinburg Inn in 1967. It was first performed at halftime of the 1972 Tennessee-Alabama game and it has been playing ever since. While it is not the Vols' official fight song, it was adopted as the unofficial state song back in 1982.
It causes headache and annoyance to opposing teams, but there is nothing Tennessee fans would rather hear.
In 1953, Reverend Bill Brooks entered his prize-winning Bluetick Coonhound in a contest held by the Pep Club at UT. The Pep Club was looking for a live mascot for the school and famously wrote in the newspaper: "This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn' Dog' in the best sense of the word."
As the story goes, "Brooks’ Blue Smokey” was just what the students were looking for. During halftime of the Mississippi State game that season, the club lined up all of the dogs entered in the contest and the fans were to cheer for their favorite. Blue Smokey was the last introduced over the speaker and as soon as he was announced, he barked. The fans cheered and when Blue Smokey heard that he threw his head back and barked again.
This sent the fans into a frenzy and Smokey has been on the UT sidelines ever since. Rev. Brooks supplied all of the Smokeys until his death in 1986, but his family still carries on his legacy. Smokey can be seen every pre-game as he leads Tennessee in running through the T.
Currently, Smokey IX is reigning as the beloved mascot as he took over during the 2004 Peach Bowl. No Tennessee fan can deny their love for the FIRST live dog to roam the SEC East sidelines as an official mascot (Georgia’s Uga wasn’t introduced until 1956).
Every team has school colors.
Some have the classic red and blue, some have a unique combination of purple and yellow, or maybe a mix of blue and maize. These are all great colors that fans love.
But no one has Tennessee’s Orange and White.
Charles Moore, a member of the very first UT football squad, selected the colors in 1891. Moore was said to have picked these colors due to profuse amount of American daisies growing on The Hill, the central area of the school.
While they have been the official colors since 1891, the UT football team did not sport the colors until a match up with Emory and Henry in 1922. In its first game of wearing orange jerseys, Tennessee trounced the opposition 50-0.
Since then, Tennessee has worn orange and white uniforms every game (with one exception, of course). Although many teams have school colors, Tennessee fans sport theirs with great pride, knowing what the colors stand for.
As the saying goes, “…Around here, it's life. And life is Orange and White.”
UT fans have prided themselves on having one of the best stadiums in the country for a while now. There are many things that make this great arena for football special to so many Vol fans.
It’s the place “Neyland built” and dominated from the 1920s to 1950s. It’s the same magnificent building where you took your kids to see their first Tennessee game just like your dad took you to see your first.
It’s the home of the orange and white checkerboard end zones that Doug Dickey made famous. It’s the only place you can see more than 100,000 people decked out in orange and white singing "Rocky Top" in unison.
Neyland stadium is the melting pot where all the Tennessee traditions combine for a beautiful sight on any crisp fall afternoon in Knoxville.
Neyland Stadium is the place where it all comes together for Tennessee fans. To us, it's the best view in America and there's no place we would rather be.
This one will always have a special place in the hearts of Vol fans.
It signifies the start of a new game. It personifies what being a Tennessee fan is and what it means to be a Vol. There is certainly nothing that gets a crowd of 100,000 on its feet faster than the football team being led out of a beautifully formed “T."
In 1965, head coach Doug Dickey decided he wanted his team to enter the stadium just before kickoff and he wanted them to do it in fashion. He said he would have his team run through a giant “T” formed by the Pride of the Southland band.
The new entrance was an immediate hit with the fans and has been a crucial part of Tennessee football since.
There is almost no way to describe the feeling we get as fans when we see that “T” open up and the team running out on the field.
It’s something you must see in person.