April 12, 2014
By Alex Cate KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- Tennessee football and head coach Butch Jones welcomed fans into Neyland Stadium prior to Saturday's DISH Orange and White game for the annual Fan Day.
For the second year in a row and estimated 25,000 fans were in attendance to meet and get autographs from the Volunteers. Jones' autograph line snaked from the back of the North end zone all the way to the 40 yard-line.
Also on hand were the Tennessee cheerleaders, dance team and mascot Smokey who paused for pictures. Tennessee Volunteer fan dedication was clearly on display. Some fans started lining up as early as 4 a.m. in order be the first through the gate.
One line to get into Fan Appreciation Day stretched down Phillip Fulmer Way and all the way to Thompson Boling Arena.
Several Vol fans also made long drives to experience the fan day tradition. Paul Pietrowski left his home in Corbin, Ky. at 8 a.m. this morning and arrived in Knoxville at 9:30 a.m. just to meet Jones and get a first glimpse at Team 118.
"It's such a festive, party atmosphere," said Pietrowski who is a 1984 UT graduate. "[Jones] gets people involved, I mean look at these lines! You wouldn't have seen that in years past and now you see it."
"Just the atmosphere he brings and how he gets people excited. It's brick by brick just like [Jones] says."
Players lined the edges of the field by position and lines for autographs reached hundreds deep.
It was a special day for the players as well who were busy shaking hands and signing Tennessee memorabilia.
"It's an amazing experience to see Vol nation in action," said sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs. "Just to see so many fans come out and support us just for our spring game is amazing. We have the best fans in the nation that's for sure."
Dobbs said that amongst the footballs, jerseys and posters he signed, the most unique thing he autographed was a Butch Jones foam finger.
Senior linebacker Curt Maggitt was one of the most sought after players during the event. He said that it was great to see all of the fans come out for the DISH Orange and White game and that he was looking forward to showing his appreciation for the fans on the field later.
"It's crazy excitement and I'm just ready to go out there and have fun and play," said Maggitt. "Show the fans how much we appreciate them."