Aug 29, 2013
By Alex Cate
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- -- With no returning assistants on Butch Jones' staff, Saturday will be the first time many will experience Tennessee traditions like running through the `T' and the Vol Walk.
While the main focus stays on the field, there was a sense of excitement amongst the staff members who are in the minority of team personnel that haven't experienced some of Knoxville's game day traditions.
"Well the thing about my room, the only ones who haven't run through the `T' are the young guys," said linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen. "But everybody in my room has run through it, I guess (Jalen Reeves-Maybin) and I are the only two that haven't run through the big `T', the power `T' so yea I'm looking forward to it. It's a great tradition, probably the best tradition in football."
In a tradition rich program, Jones and his staff have embraced many already including General Robert Neyland's game maxims. They'll look to build on that on Saturday when they first experience their first Vol Walk and run through the `T' formed by the Pride of the Southland Band.
"I'm really excited about it. Coming to a place with storied traditions that everybody in the country knows about is going to be really exciting," said defensive line coach Steve Stripling. "It's been really interesting to be around our team because they take those traditions very seriously. Like the Vol Walk... They're dead serious about the Vol Walk. It's been fun to see the kids reaction and to actually learn from them."
Dating back to the 1965 game against Army, running through the `T' was started by former Vol head coach Doug Dickey and has continued ever since.
The Vol Walk officially began on Oct. 20, 1990 when the Volunteers, under the instruction of famed head coach Johnny Majors, took on the University of Alabama. Initially the players would walk from Bill Gibbs Dormitory to Neyland Stadium in 1989 but the fans grew so fond of it that it was finally publicized in 1990.
While the majority of Tennessee's coaches have been on the opponent's side in Knoxville, several said it will be refreshing to finally have the fans and traditions on their side this time.
"I'm really looking forward to it. I know what a great place Tennessee is and what traditions mean around here," said tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Mark Elder. "I'm looking forward to experiencing it firsthand. You see videos of it, you've watched it, read about it, heard about it and I'm excited to get the opportunity to do those things. I've played (at Neyland Stadium) before, so I know what it's like. I was on the other side of it, but I know that the atmosphere here is second to none. The only experience you can have that would be comparable is just being here."
As the prospect of enjoying these game day activities are in the back of their minds, they still recognize the importance of keeping their eye on the prize. Beating Austin Peay.
"Not everyone gets to do this, I realize that," said wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni. "Once the first whistle blows - all ball though. The traditions will be great. Hopefully sing rocky top after the game."