April 4, 2012
BY MATT MAGILL
Junior Taylor Patrick is no longer just the Tennessee Cheerleader.
Known throughout college tennis for his rooting abilities in the stands the past two seasons, Patrick has seen his fair share of time on court for the Vols this season and has started in the singles lineup a majority of matches.
This season has been a different one for Patrick. Now a junior, he is one of the oldest members of the team. He graduated early from Bearden High School and redshirted for the 2009 season. Only senior Bryan Swartz has been around longer, beating Patrick by only a semester.
Before the Vols (12-10, 4-4 SEC) head out on their final road trip of the regular season, Patrick sat down for the Q&A. This week's topics include the Grillmaster, his genetically enhanced feet and a teammate he was scared of.
Q: First of all, let's establish a nickname for you. Is it `Pizzle' or `T-Pain?'
A: I think the T-Pain nickname was when we had a different trainer, John Angus. He came up with it. That one has died off a little now. I think I prefer `Pizzle.' It's more these group of guys'.
Q: Vanderbilt had a player named `Sizzle.' That was pretty confusing for me.
A: Was it Vanderbilt? I think LSU has a guy named `Sizzle.' I don't remember who it was. That does get confusing.
(Brandon Fickey shouts over that "Grillmaster wants a name drop in there.")
I don't know if that's going to happen.
Q: What was that?
A: We're both from Knoxville so we hang out in the summer when no one is here. He came over to my house. He thinks he's the grillmaster. He cooked some steaks so he calls himself "The Grillmaster." It's an ongoing joke we have.
Q: You're one of the older guys on the team. What kind of role have you taken on with five freshmen?
A: It's definitely different than when I first came in. I was like a deer in the headlights. You don't know what's going on. You're waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Being here you learn what to do. Some of the freshmen have that look on their face. Hunter Reese is a freshman but he was here for a semester. Technically, he's a freshman but he takes a role in helping actual freshmen out. We have a really good group of freshmen. They're mature. They're not out there doing dumb things. We don't have to do much of a leadership role. It's lead by example. They do what they do. Everyone on the team knows how to handle themselves.
Q: On the court, you're an emotional player. How do you control your emotions and use them to your advantage?
A: That's been a big problem for me. I get so wrapped up in the match and I want to win so badly for the team that I can't handle it sometimes. I've been working a lot with the coaches, my family and people like Joe Whitney to help with that. I've gotten a lot better. When I was a freshman and sophomore and even some this year, instead of freaking out when things don't go your way, you can step back and use it to your advantage. You can learn from making the mistake. Emotionally on the court, to use it to my advantage, I would say that I'm pretty loud as I was in the crowd. I just can't let it flip to the other side.
Q: You're a competitor and you want to be out there on the court, but you have to be happy to see Bryan doing so well.
A: He's doing a great job. I had chances. We've all gotten our chances. He's getting his and he's doing great. I'm happy for him. I want more than anything to be out there. But I'm really happy for the guy. I've been with him for as long as he's been here. We're really good friends and I couldn't be happier for him.
Q: You mentioned cheering in the stands. You got a reputation as the "Tennessee Cheerleader." Has that made you a target for opposing fans?
A: Yeah, I would say so. It's not really the fans because they don't remember me. It's mostly the players that remember. No team likes playing when I'm in the crowd. It's not that I mentally attack or verbally abuse someone personally. I'm just really loud and obnoxious. People don't seem to like me very much. It comes back to get me on the court, but I kind of like it sometimes. It makes me have a little edge.
Q: The team goes on a road trip this weekend. What's the bus etiquette? Do you guys have any written or unwritten rules?
A: (Hunter Reese: You've got bunks. You can't infringe on the bunks.)
Bunks were established on the first road trip. The people here last year got the first choice. Freshmen get whatever they get. The first portion of the bus is always coaches'. We don't go up there unless it's for the bathroom. The middle part is the bunks. From the middle to the back is all us. The back part there's couches and a table. It's etiquette to let people do homework. You don't go back there and watch TV or listen to music. If no one is back there, we go back there and hang out instead of just laying there. You don't want to be annoying and pestering people. Obviously, that happens. There's really no rules about it. Everyone's mature enough to handle it. On the long bus rides, everyone gets a little hyper, especially Brandon Fickey aka "The Grillmaster." He has some ADD. He starts climbing up things and jumping on people. I don't even want to start on that guy.
Q: Bry always falls asleep before you ever leave. Do you ever mess with him?
A: Oh yeah. Someone will always reach and turn your light on or mess with the curtain. People climb in each other's bunks just to harass people. It's just good fun. The long trips get miserable and you have to find a way to entertain yourself. We can watch TV and stuff, but crammed in a bus for ten hours is rough.
Q: With three matches left before the postseason, what are the team's goals for the rest of the year?
A: I'd say the primary goal is to host the first two rounds of NCAAs. We need to go good the next three matches and have a good run at SECs. If we do that, we're in a good position to host. We're 19 in the country. Top 16 usually host. We're right there. If we finish strong, we'll be able to do that. That's the biggest one right now. We've been working on just giving all our effort every time we're out here. We need to move forward and learn from our mistakes against Kentucky and do better this week. I'd say our two main goals are to host and to improve on our mistakes and get better.
Q: This is a question directly from Jarryd Chaplin. He says "Ask Taylor if because he has orange Beats he thinks he's better than everyone?"
A: I've gotten a lot of grief for that. I got a pair of orange Beats from my girlfriend for Christmas. They think that I think that I'm the coolest kid because of these headphones. In answer to Jarryd's question, yeah it does give me an edge on everyone. We're an orange team and I have orange Beats. They have a button the side that I can press to shut the music off so I can hear you talking. They like that. They give me grief. It just comes with it I guess. Them giving me grief just means they're jealous. Some of the guys have Beats, but none of them have orange ones. I guess that puts me up there on the list.
Q: Volscars are coming up next week, so you guys will be getting dressed up. Who's the best and worst dressed on the team?
A: I'm going to take myself out. I'm clearly the best dressed, but I don't want to do that. My roommate Hunter Reese just got a nice new suit. He looks good. ... Sometimes, you just shake your head. Trym will wear like a V-neck underneath a jacket and some khaki pants and some white shoes. Peter has these brown Adidas originals with the three stripes. He wears them every time. I'm sure he'll pull those out. I guess they didn't bring anything over. We've had some bad ones in the past.
Volscars is a fun event. We get together with everyone and hopefully get a few awards. We're all out here making videos. We try to make it fun.
Q: You're widely considered the fastest guy on the team. Bry's the slowest guy. Are you that fast or are you just fast in comparison to Bry?
A: I'm pretty fast. I would have to blame it on my feet. I've got these weird feet. They're messed up. The doctor said it's common in really fast sprinters and people that can change direction. I'm not the fastest guy in a sprint, but on the court I can change direction because of how my feet are shaped. It's like a claw that can push off the ground and change on a dime. Bry's really slow, but I'm not fast in comparison to him. I think he just likes to have everything where he wants it. We get on him for it. I like to go on to the next thing. I don't like sitting around doing nothing. I get grief for stressing out. I'm always yelling. I'm the first one out of the locker room. If you want a ride, you better get to the car or I'll just leave you. It's part of my personality.
Q: Everyone says you and Bry are attached at the hip. If you had to be literally attached to someone at the hip for a week, who would it be?
A: Bry and I last semester practically were attached at the hip. We had every class together. This year, we don't live together and we have different schedules. I have a roommate Hunter Reese. We're bonding. If I had to choose right now, I'd choose him. We're going to be living together. We've got a good little bond going on. I don't want to sound too much like a bromance, but I enjoy being with him. We have some good times together.
Q: Who are the best and worst drivers on the team?
A: You have to define best driver. You've got two different styles. Bry will never get in a wreck. He's cautious, slow, takes his time and does everything right. On safety, he's the best. If you're going on getting there fast, Hunter is the best. He's a gunner.
Q: If you guys had a tournament of no-rules fighting, who ends up as the champion? No weapons, just fists and feet.
A: I'm definitely out of that. I don't like getting hit. I'll put Jarryd and Trym in the finals. They'll take everyone out, like a Hunger Games kind of thing. They'll just take them out. I really don't know who wins. They're both big and both can go crazy. They have that look to them like they could flip on you. I'm going to have to pick Trym. He seems like he has wild to him. I've wrestled both of them and they're both pretty strong.
Q: Trym has that Viking blood in him.
A: That's it. We went to pick him up from the airport and I didn't know what he looked like at all. He comes in and he's big, tall with blonde hair. From the flight, he had bloodshot eyes. He scared me. It was creepy. I eventually told him, but I was scared to death of him. I felt like he was crazy. I'll definitely pick him in a fight.