Nov. 24, 2012
By: Nick Carner
When you think about Tennessee football, it's many traditions come to mind.
The Vol Walk, Smokey and "Rocky Top" are all synonymous with football in Knoxville.
Well, the Bartholomew family has its own tradition: Playing fullback at the University of Tennessee.
"My grandfather played here and played on the 1938 National Championship team," Ben Bartholomew said. "My brother played on the 1998 National Championship team, so I'm kind of like a third generation Vol, even though I'm really just a second generation Vol. We definitely have some family ties to Tennessee."
Family ties, indeed.
Ben Bartholomew's grandfather, Sam, was a blocking back and captain for the undefeated 1938 team. Will, his brother, played fullback and was a captain for the undefeated 1998 team.
Although there's been no undefeated seasons during Bartholomew's tenure at Tennessee, he's still been counted on for leadership, just like his grandfather and brother.
He's the team's starting fullback but also doubles as a backup tight end. As one of nine fifth-year seniors, he displays a maturity level uncommon for someone who's 23 years old. Bartholomew said the ups and downs he's met with over the last five years has helped make him into the man he is today.
"Everybody in my class has had to endure a lot," Bartholomew said. "It's really helped, actually. All the different coaches have given me a lot of different experiences. It's taught me how to work through adversity. I think it really defines who you are as a person when you can remain constant while everything around you is going in different directions."
It's not just on the field where Bartholomew was pulled in different directions. Off the gridiron, he has his hands full with a multitude of responsibilities. He said his faith enables him to juggle his various commitments.
"I do a lot of praying," Bartholomew said, with a grin. "I have a pregnant wife at home, football and school. People would think it's a lot [of responsibility], but I have amazing people surrounding me. I'm really blessed with the situation I'm in, and I wouldn't trade it for a thing."
While playing, Bartholomew said he lets his faith show through the passion he displays on the field.
"Loving the lord and being a man of faith, I come out everyday and play for Him. If I can come out and have passion, bring some guys some energy and maybe they can see Christ's light through me. Then, everything's worth it."
Bartholomew says he's following God's path for him, which could lead to playing football professionally.
"I'm gonna try out for the NFL, and hopefully that takes me somewhere," Bartholomew said.
If the NFL doesn't work out, the marketing major has a backup plan. He intends to put his degree to work.
"I'll get into the business world, hopefully in Nashville, since that's where all of my family is."
In the meantime, Bartholomew is doing his part to ensure the family tradition continues. Tennessee fans could be watching another Bartholomew on Shield-Watkins field in around 18 years, as Ben and his wife Sarah are expecting a baby boy in February.
Bartholomew says he will continue the family tradition and raise another Tennessee Volunteer.