Jan. 30, 2013
By Jason Yellin
UTSports.com NEW ORLEANS
NEW ORLEANS-- Being a Vol For Life is meaningful in so many ways. Being a Vol For Life in the Super Bowl takes on added significance. Morgan Cox of the Baltimore Ravens and Parys Haralson of the San Francisco 49ers are the two newest additions to a long legacy of Vols that will take part in sports' biggest stage.
For the 21st time in 22 years a former Vol is pursing the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans.
"It's means a lot to be a Vol For Life," said Haralson, who was a standout defensive end for the Orange & White from 2002-05. "The tradition of the school, the work and the dedication that all the guys put in means so much. Like they say, it's great to be a Tennessee Vol."
Haralson spent the 2012 season on injured reserve with an arm ailment, but having his team make it to the Superdome is sweet.
"It's my seventh year here and it's a once in a lifetime opportunity that you wait for," said Haralson. "Everybody wants to make it to the Super Bowl. We have accomplished getting here, now its just one more thing to accomplish."
On the other side of the field, Cox, who was the Vols' starting long snapper from 2007-09, knows what it means to represent his alma mater as well as his homestate.
"The T on the helmet signifies respect," said the native of Collierville, Tenn. "Our program is one that has been build on tradition - with Coach Fulmer and all the coaches before him - he taught us about the tradition of the program. The tradition of winning, the tradition of playing Tennessee football."
Cox has had a memorable season, his third with Baltimore as the team's starting snapper. He snapped the ball for Justin Tucker's game-winning field goal to lift the Ravens to their upset win over the No. 1-seeded Denver Broncos in double-overtime on Jan. 12.
"It's been awesome. It's still sinking in that I am here," said Cox, who snapped in 39 games with the Volunteers. "I have been following the @Vol_Football twitter account and they have been real supportive of me. It's really cool to have the support of the VFL."
Vivid memories of playing for the Vols run deep for both.
Haralson recalls pulling on his No. 98 orange jersey for the first time in 2002 like it was yesterday.
"The first time running out of the T. The first time running into Neyland Stadium. The first time you get into the locker room and you have your locker there," he said. "You built the relationships that you still have throughout, to this day."
Cox echoed Haralson's emotions.
"My time (at UT), developing relationships that I still have now and I still keep in touch with all football guys. I just love seeing the orange at Tennessee. It's great to feel the support and just be a part of the program.
"We have the best fans in the nation. They filled Neyland Stadium each and every week and supported the Vols. The love that they showed us, pulling for the team. 100,000 screaming fans every week, what else can you ask for?"
Tennessee set the tone for both players to go on NFL careers, although their paths were different. Haralson was a two-time All-SEC defensive end. Cox was a walk-on, who earned a starting job in his third year in the program in 2007.
"Coming out of Tennessee, I feel I was NFL ready as far as the physical part, but you had to get ready as far as the mental part of the game," said Haralson, who racked up 46 tackles for loss as a Vol. "Physically, I was ready because of the training that we did and the competition that we played against each and every week at Tennessee."
The duo carry the torch for another season as each one seeks to become the 39th Vol For Life to wear a Super Bowl championship ring dating to Bill Anderson of the Green Bay Packers, who won the first Super Bowl in 1967.
"Having a Vol in the Super Bowl in 21 of the last 22 years say a lot about our program," said Haralson. "The way that they trained us. Guys come from Tennessee and they are NFL ready because of what they went through at Tennessee."
That list of Super Bowl winners includes the likes of Jack `Hacksaw' Reynolds, Keith DeLong and Craig Puki, who won as member of the 49ers.
On the Baltimore end, Jamal Lewis and Marcus Nash picked up rings with the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV team in 2001.
Cox hopes to join that exclusive club of VFLs with the ring.
"Going back to Coach Fulmer and all the previous coaches, it's a testament to who they have recruited and how they developed players," said Cox. "I am just honored to be in that category, I am just blessed to be here at the Super Bowl.
"I look forward to hopefully taking a ring back there and meeting everybody."