Nov. 19, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee seniors take the field at home for the final time Saturday, but just as their head coach emphasized Monday, the seniors are using the preparation to focus on playing with passion, rather than being distracted by the emotions of the moment.
The ability to be passionate instead of emotional is aided by the bond the senior class has formed in the face of adversity throughout their Tennessee careers. "It's going to be a great time, an emotional time he last time we run through the T together, last time playing in Neyland Stadium," linebacker Dontavis Sapp said.
"That's one of the things we've been working on, playing with passion, not emotion. Emotion roller coasters,it goes up and down. Passion stays steady throughout and even rises at times. We want to stay away from the ebb and flow of the game."
For redshirt senior Marlon Walls, the reminder that it's his last game at home is only a phone call away, but he wants to reflect after it it's over rather than looking ahead with anticipation.
"I'm just going to stay focused on the game, I'm sure it will hit me the next day," he said. "My mom has called and reminded me (about it) every day. But you don't want to play with emotions, you just want to go out there an win this game.
Staying away from the emotion is even more critical with the situations the Vols find themselves in, needing a win to preserve the opportunity to earn a bowl berth for the first time since 2010. Zach Fulton said the situation dictates the focus for the seniors as the leaders of the program.
"We just have to be focused before he game and make sure you do all the right things, stay in your routine," he said. "It helps gives us a little more passion, not that we need any more. It's going to be a great night, Senior Night, playing Vanderbilt for the last time."
Ja'Wuan James will approach the Vanderbilt game the same way he has for every other game in his career, as a starter on the offensive line. Providing he he starts as he has the previous 47 games, James will tie the Tennessee record for starts by an offensive lineman.
"I had no idea that was going to happen, that's just a blessing from God to be able to keep me healthy this long, to take care of my body," James said. "Coaches gave me opportunities when I was you and I kept working to be consistent.
James, Fulton and fellow senior lineman James Stone pulled out a little bit of old film in their preparation for their final home game, the 2010 Vanderbilt game. The film gave the three the greatest look at how far they had come in their time as Volunteers.
"We all watched our film from our freshman year and it looks terrible," James said with a warm laugh. "You know, back then you think you're doing pretty good, but it looked terrible. We've come a long way."