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History of the Tennessee Volunteers

By Edited Jul 16, 2015 0 0

The volunteers are a college football team out of Knoxville, Tennessee.  They are part of the Southeastern conference, and played their first season in 1891.  They have won six national titles, with their last championship being in 1998.  The university was founded in 1794 and began as one two story house.  It quickly grew into a large campus.

The Vols play at Neyland Stadium, which holds a capacity of 102, 455 seats and and is the fourth largest stadium in the south.

The name volunteers came from the nickname that the state of TN earned during the War of 1812, when many soldiers from Tennessee volunteered for battle.

The teams colors are orange and white.  These colors were selected by Charles Moore in 1891.    The official team song is 'Down the field', but most everyone recognizes 'Rocky Top' as the team song.  Their mascot is Smokey, a blue tick hound who leads the team on the field at the beginning of games.  He was elected as the mascot in 1953 by a contest put on by the pep club.  Several dogs have been chosen as 'Smokey', with one being kidnapped and another suffered from heat exhaustion.  Smokey VIII was the most successful.  During his time the team had a record of 91-92, two SEC titles, and 1 National championship.

tennessee volunteers
Several traditions surround the team such as the Vol walk, the 'T', and checkerboard end zones.  The Vol walk was started in 1988 by coach Majors during the Auburn game.  Majors saw the Auburn tiger walk and decided to come up with one for Tennessee.  The 'T' was first placed on the side of helmets in 1964.  The marching band also forms a 'T' when on the field.  The checkerboard end zones first came about in the mid sixties, and reintroduced again in 1989. 

The Alma Mater

On a Hallowed hill in Tennessee

Like Beacon shining bright

The stately walls of old U.T.

 Rise glorious to the sight.

So here's to you old Tennessee,

Our Alma Mater true

 We pledge in love and harmony

 Our loyalty to you.

What torches kindled at that flame

Have passed from hand to hand

What hearts cemented in that name

Bind land to stranger land. 

O, ever as we strive to rise

On life's unresting stream

Dear Alma Mater, may our eyes

Be lifted to that gleam.

The Alma Mater was chosen from a contest in 1928.  Mary Fleming of Knoxville won the contest.

Down the Field

Here's to old Tennessee

Never we'll sever

We pledge our loyalty

Forever and ever

Backing our football team

Faltering never

Cheer and fight

with all of your might

For Tennessee.

Fight, Vols Fight

Fight, Vols fight with all your might,

For the Orange and White

Never falter, never yield

As we march on down the field

Keep Marching!

Let the Spirit of the Hill

Every Vol with courage fill

Your loyalty means our victory

So fight, Vols, fight!

Rocky Top

Wish that I was on ol'Rocky Top, down in the Tennessee hills;

Ain't no fog or smoke on Rocky Top; Ain't no telephone bills.

Once I had a girl on Rocky Top, half bear, other half cat;

Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop; I still dream about that.

Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me.

Good ol'Rocky Top; Rocky Top Tennessee.

Once two strangers climbed ol'Rocky Top, lookin' for a moonshine still;

Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top; Reckon they never will.

Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me.

Good ol'Rocky Top; Rocky Top Tennessee.

I've had years of cramped-up city life, trapped like a duck in a pen;

All I know is it's a pity life can't be simple again.

Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top; dirt's too rocky by far;

That's why all the folks on Rocky Top get their corn from a jar. 



Tennessee has retired several jersey numbers such as:

#16 Peyton Manning

#32 Billy Nowling

#49 Rudy Klarer

#61 Willis Tucker

#62 Clyde Fuson

#91 Doug Atkins

#92 Reggie White

In 1997 Manning won the Maxwell Award, the Davey O'Brien Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, and the Draddy trophy.  In 1964, Steve DeLong won the Outland trophy, followed by John Henderson in 2000.  Michael Munoz won the Draddy trophy in 2004.  The Jim Thorpe Award was won by Eric Berry in 2009.

Tennessee has had several head coaches since 1891.  Robert Neyland is known for having 173 victories during his 21 years.  Other coaches include John Barnhill, James DePree, Johnny Majors,  Phillip Fulmer, and Derek Dooley.

Coach Phillip Fulmer won the Home Depot Coach of the year award, and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the year award in 1998.  He also won the Robert R. Neyland award in 2009.  The Broyles Award was given to David Cutcliffe in 1998.  John Chavis won the American Football Coaches Association Award for assistant coach of the year in 2006. 

Several players have gone on to play in the NFL.  Eric Berry went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs.  Doug Atkins played for the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints.  Peyton Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts. 

Several rivalries exist in the south, including Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbuilt. One of my favorite items are the house divided memorabilia, because I'm a Tennessee fan and my husband is a Georgia fan.  It is the most looked forward to game of the year in our house, and usually occurs around his birthday so we always cook out with friends and watch the game.  We live in Georgia, which is a huge rivalry state, and one year someone actually ripped my Vols flag off at the grocery store while I was shopping!  Tension and tempers can flare during this game, but for us, it's a time spent together filled with fun.  Yes, we both want our teams to win, but in the end good times and good sportsman like manners hold out.




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  1. "Tennessee volunteers." wikipedia. 27/03/2012 <Web >
  2. "Volunteers." college football history. 27/03/2012 <Web >

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