On this fifth day of April we're celebrating the birthday of baseball's David Houser!
Houser is a junior catcher for the Diamond Vols and has appeared in 21 games this season. So far in 2015, he is hitting a career-best .281 with three doubles and three RBIs to his credit. Houser is a native of Columbia, South Carolina, and is 21 years old today.
On April 2 we are wishing a very happy Big Orange birthday to rowing's Kaitlan Aries!
A senior from Chuluota, Florida, Aries is in the midst of her third season with the varsity squad. She has competed in five races this season, including a spot in the first varsity eight that narrowly finished in fourth in 6:58.38 at the 42nd Annual San Diego Crew Classic. She also rowed in the bow seat in the varsity eight at the Oak Ridge Cardinal Invitational that placed third in three races. Last year, Aries picked up a handful of academic awards. She was named to the 2014 SEC Spring Honor Roll, the 2013-14 C-USA Honor Roll, and received the C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal -- an honor given to student-athletes maintaining a 3.75 GPA or better. Aries is a kinesiology major.
It's a brand new month and we are wishing a very happy Big Orange birthday to football defensive coordinator John Jancek!
Coach Jancek will be entering his third season at defensive coordinator for UT in 2015. He has coached in eight bowl games, including last season's TaxSlayer Bowl and has helped his teams to five conference championships and one national championship. Last year he coached two All-SEC selections in Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt, the former of whom was named a consensus Freshman All-American.
It's the last day of March and we are celebrating the birthday of baseball's Benito Santiago!
A freshman from Pembroke Pines, Florida, Santiago is in the midst of his true freshman season for Vol Baseball and head coach Dave Serrano. Already this year, Santiago has appeared in 14 ballgames, including nine starts behind the plate at the catcher position. He recorded his first collegiate hit during a 4-1 victory at Belmont back on Feb. 25.
Rocky Top has got two birthdays to celebrate on this March 28. We're sending some 'happy birthday' wishes to football's Thomas Edwards and some more to men's basketball VFL Jordan McRae!
After redshirting his true freshman season, Edwards saw his first collegiate action with the Volunteers during the 2014 season. He appeared in two games, making his debut on homecoming against Chattanooga. A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Edwards played prep football at Dobyns-Bennett High School where he was named first team All-Big Eight Conference. He is 20 years old today.
A four-year letterwinner for Vol Basketball, McRae donned the Orange and White from 2010-14. As a senior in 2014, he started all 32 games and averaged a career-best 18.7 points per contest. He shot 43.6 percent from the field, including a 35.1 mark from beyond the arc. He closed out his career ranked 16th on Tennessee's all-time scoring list (1,521 points) and seventh on the all-time list for 3-pointers made (179). He was selected in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs and was traded to Philadelphia later that night. After a stint in Australia with Melbourne United, McRae returned to the U.S. after being acquired by the Delaware 87ers of the D-League. Just last week, he recorded career-highs with 39 points and 13 boards against the Oklahoma City Blue.
During his first season with the Tennessee men's tennis program, Jones holds a singles record of 8-7 and a doubles mark of 2-2. The Warner Robins, Georgia, native opened his collegiate career with a ranked victory when he defeated No. 94 Alex Arovin of Tennessee Tech (6-1, 6-2) in the opening round of the Southern Intercollegiate Championships. Jones turns 19 years old today.
A five-star wide receiver from Hampton, Georgia, Williams became one of the newest members of Team 119 back on National Signing Day in February. He played his prep career at Lovejoy High School, where he was named first team All-State and earned an invitation to the 2015 Under Armour All-Star Game. He had 43 catches for 916 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior despite missing a portion of the year with a knee injury. Williams is 18 years old today.
From one of our newest Vols to one of our newest VFLs, defensive back Coleman wrapped up his UT career last fall with 157 career tackles and five career interceptions. Coleman was recently invited to the 2015 NFL Combine, where he recorded the fastest 3-cone drill time of any participant (6.61). He was also third among cornerbacks in both the bench press (20 reps) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.21). Today Coleman celebrates his 22nd birthday.
A defensive back for Vol football from 2002-06, Wade also starred on the track and field team, making his mark in the outdoor relays. His 4x100-meter relay team in 2003 recorded the program's second-fastest time in the event all-time. On the football field, he earned All-SEC honors in 2006 after leading Tennessee in pass deflections and interceptions. Wade was the 84th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, taken by the St. Louis Rams. He is 31 years old today.
One of Tennessee Basketball's all-time greats, Lofton was the 2007 SEC Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring at 20.8 points per game. That year, he led the Volunteers to the Sweet 16 and was named a second team All-American. As a senior in 2007-08, Lofton passed Allan Houston to become UT's career-leader in three-pointers made, and not long after that, passed Pat Bradley of Arkansas to capture the record for most career treys all-time in the SEC. Following his collegiate career, Lofton went on to play professionally in Turkey, Spain, and Russia. He is currently under contract with Besiktas -- a Turkish team based out of Istanbul.
Happy birthday Jess, Preston, Justin, Jonathan, and Chris!
It's March 26 and we've got some 'happy birthday' wishes to a pair of UT freshman: David Heron of swimming and diving and Igor Smelyanski of men's tennis!
A redshirt freshman from Mission Viejo, California, Heron already ranks second all-time at UT in both the 1000-yard freestyle (9:04.34) and the 1650. In just his very first race of the 2014-15 season, he broke UNC Wilmington's 19-year-old-pool record by swimming a 9:11.21 in the 1000 Free. Heron is slated to compete this week in the 500 Free and 1650 Free at the NCAA Men's Swimming & Diving Championships in Iowa City, Iowa. His 500 prelim begins today (Thursday) at 12 p.m. ET with finals slated for tonight beginning at 8 p.m. Today is Heron's 20th birthday.
Smelyanski, a native of Beer Yaaqov, Israel, is in the midst of his true freshman season with the men's tennis program at UT. Thus far he owns a singles record of 10-8 and a doubles mark of 10-5 -- a record that includes the 2014 Southern Intercollegiate Championship with teammate Andrew Dromsky. Before arriving on Rocky Top, Smelyanski achieved a career-high ATP ranking of 721 in singles and 808 in doubles. Those marks gave the Vols three active players with a tour ranking inside the top 900 to begin the year. He is 20 years old today.
It's March 24 and we've got four Big Orange birthdays to celebrate today on Rocky Top. Today we're sending 'happy birthday wishes' to incoming football freshman Darrell Taylor and sophomore wide receiver Josh Smith. We're also celebrating with a couple of Tennessee legends in recently graduated softball standout Raven Chavanne and the iconic Peyton Manning.
Taylor, a defensive lineman, committed to Tennessee football last February out of Waverly, Virginia. He was rated a four-star recruit after earning second team all-state honors as a senior defensive end at Hopewell High School in 2014. He recorded 60 tackles, including 19.0 tackles for loss and 11 sacks during his senior campaign, not to mention two blocked field goals, three forced fumbles, and six passes defended. Taylor turns 18 years old today.
A Knoxville native, Smith played only three games in 2014 before undergoing season-ending ankle surgery. He notched 10 catches for 135 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown reception at No. 4 Oklahoma in mid-September. Born this day in 1994, Smith is 21 years old today.
Chavanne wrapped up a stellar four-year playing career with Tennessee softball in 2013. A four-time All-American, Chavanne racked up 355 hits, 13 home runs, and 107 RBIs over three seasons on Rocky Top. She also notched 143 career stolen bases on 156 attempts. The Thousand Oaks, California, native closed her career as UT's all-time leader in batting average (.442), runs (244), stolen bases (143), and on-base percentage (.508).
Finally, today is the 39th birthday of Tennessee's most iconic figure in the legendary Peyton Manning. He finished his illustrious career in the Orange and White holding 42 NCAA, SEC, and Tennessee records while having won the Maxwell Award, the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Player of the Year honors after his senior season. Since then, he has become one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history and a face of the league.
After a 2014 season that included a TaxSlayer Bowl win over Iowa, senior defensive lineman Williams concluded his career on Rocky Top. He started all 13 games during his final season, registering 27 tackles (four for loss) with two sacks and four pass break-ups. He had a career-high six tackles, including a sack, on Senior Night vs. No. 19 Missouri. He finishes his career with 66 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss. Williams was also a member of the 2013 and 2014 SEC Academic Honor Roll.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Bonds redshirted the 2014-15 men's basketball season. The 6-1 guard played prep ball at Christ Presbyterian Academy under head coach Drew Maddux. He helped lead the team to a pair of state championships in 2012 and 2013 and was rated the No. 8 overall prospect in the state of Tennessee. During his senior season, he averaged 15.3 points and 7.8 assists per contest. Nephew of former MLB slugger Barry Bonds, Braxton Bonds turns 20 years old today.
Allen was a redshirt sophomore for Tennessee soccer this past fall, appearing in 16 matches for UT at defender. She notched one goal and two assists on the year -- scoring on a free kick during her first start against Tulsa in early September. She also successfully converted a penalty in a shootout against No. 8 Florida in the SEC Tournament. In all, Allen logged 833 minutes of action last season. Born this day in 1993, Allen turns 22 years old today.
VFL Pickens played wideout at UT from 1989-91, amassing 1,875 career receiving yards over those three seasons. As a junior in 1991, he caught 49 balls for 877 yards and five touchdowns, earning All-America recognition after leading the SEC in yards per game at 79.73. As a freshman, Pickens played both ways and had four interceptions in four games at free safety. He was even named the Defensive MVP of the 1990 Cotton Bowl. He opted to bypass his senior season on Rocky Top to enter the NFL Draft where was picked 31st overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1992 and in 1995 set the Bengals single-season record for receptions (99) and touchdown receptions (17).
Creighton is a native of Haverhill, Florida, and recently completed her true freshman season with the Tennessee women's soccer program in 2014. She appeared in 16 matches on the season, logging three goals and one assist. Her first career goal came in the 40th minute of a home match against Mississippi State in late September. She is an elementary education major and turns 18 years old today.
Metz is a junior coxswain with the rowing program and is a native of Fayetteville, New York. This season she placed fourth at the Chattanooga Head Race in Women's College 4+ with a time of 18:52.3. The political science major began her collegiate rowing career at SMU before transferring to Rocky Top. She is 21 years old today.
Williams played varsity tennis for his hometown University of Tennessee from 2009-11, piecing together two of the best seasons in program history in 2010 and 2011. During those years, he captured consecutive All-America honors and earned the ITA's No. 1 ranking in 2011 en route to reaching the NCAA Singles Championships. He finished his career with a singles record of 83-17 and a doubles mark of 66-14. Williams now competes on the ATP World Tour.