Before starting school at the University of Tennessee, I knew everything about baseball, more than enough about basketball, just enough about soccer, and absolutely nothing about football. Luckily, I made the right friends who knew the basics, and thanks to them, I can now share some common knowledge with those struggling. You’ll have class with players, you’ll ride the bus with players, and I’m sure you’ll see them eating at Southern Kitchen for lunch. You may have no idea who they are until someone points them out, which is just fine. It’s okay if you didn’t know that you had been sitting by Alvin Kamara for a whole semester in Geology and didn’t realize it until you were at a game and thought, “That dude looks familiar.” So, here are some tips for being a Vol fan, even when you think you know nothing about football!
1. Here’s a quick “Crash Course” on UTK football:
Each college team is divided into a different league, and the Tennessee Volunteers are
in the SEC (South Eastern Conference), along with other schools like Missouri, Alabama, Florida, and Kentucky. When you hear fans in Neyland cheering, “THIRD DOWN FOR WHAT,” that means the other team has made it to their third down, and they only get four. A ‘down’ is how far the team has to get the ball, and each down is one less chance they get to keep the ball. The scoreboard is always a good place to look when you need to know how many more yards we have to go to get back to a first down.
So, after four downs, the other team goes from being on defense to offense. An easy way to remember it is if we DON’T have the ball, we are on DEFENSE. If we have the ball, we are on offense. There are eleven players for each team allowed on the field at a time, and if there are more than eleven for one team, they get a penalty. Penalties usually make no sense anyway, so I won’t go into detail about that and just let you be just as confused as everyone else in the crowd as to why the referee threw a yellow flag on the play. That’s basically it. Also, make sure not to cheer if the people in a color other than orange make a point. That’s a bit of a given, but better to be safe than sorry.
2. Saturdays are game days.
The first game is September 3rd in Neyland Stadium against Appalachian State! Make sure you set aside your weekends in the fall for football, because trust me, there’s nothing like being surrounded by 102,455 fellow Volunteers (and some confused fans that cheer for the other team) in Neyland Stadium. Nothing beats getting lost in a sea of orange and white, and absolutely NOTHING beats screaming at the top of your lungs alongside your friends, even if you have no idea what you’re cheering for. Even watching an away game on TV in the third floor lounge room is exciting when surrounded by the right people. Make sure to keep updated on game days and times through utsports.com, and as a student, BigOrangeTix.com is your bestfriend!
3. Your closet is going to be Orange. Just let it happen.
I had never owned an orange piece of clothing in my life. I just hadn’t seen any appeal to
the color. Now I can’t get the color out of my wardrobe. You’ll spend way too long in the Vol Shop, trying to pick out the perfect new shirt for the next game, or trying to convince yourself that you don’t ACTUALLY need a $75 framed painting of Smokey. Going to a normal clothing store turns into you seeing something orange and just buying it instinctively. Owning maroon makes everyone question whether you’re an Alabama fan in Vol territory, so wear it carefully. Make sure you have enough orange to last you at least until the day you die, because being a Tennessee Volunteer is a lifetime commitment.
4. Peyton Manning is kind of a big deal.
“Isn’t that the dude from the Papa John’s commercial?” Yes. Yes, it is. It’s also the dude
that played for the Indiana Colts, the dude that played for the Denver Broncos, the dude that was there to win two Super Bowl rings, and the dude that just retired from the NFL. Oh, and he also attended UTK and played football and led the team to the SEC Championship his senior year in 1997. It’s probably a good idea to study up on him, or at least know his name, because literally almost everything on campus is named after him.
5. Smokey is one of the cutest dogs. Ever.
Smokey is the perfect dog, and everyone loves this Bluetick Coonhound. He shows up to
all home football games to run out with the players, and even comes to watch basketball games with his caretakers. Smokey is one of our mascots and legend has it that if you get to pet him, you will be blessed for the rest of your life. Smokey is so popular that we have two people who dress as him for games, too. One portrays the older version of Smokey, while the other is “Junior Smokey.” Our other mascot is Davy Crockett, which we also have at football games. If you want a REAL college goal, see if you can snap a picture with all of them. It takes some patience and dedication, but hey, dream big.
6. Always show your Volunteer Pride!
Show up to as many things as you can, make friends with as many Vols as possible, and
make your Volunteer spirit contagious! Represent UT in a positive way, and just have fun being in Vol Nation. Sports can be hard to follow, and there can be so many names to memorize, but it all is worth it when you get to cheer your favorite team to victory. Happy Sporting!