By: Rachel Ward
The All Vol Call in Show
September 12, 2019
This whole article could be about all the strengths and weaknesses of this Tennessee football team. You could break down what led to a loss against BYU and talk about the lack of fourth down conversions. You could talk about the mistakes that led to a 64-yard pass to BYU’s Micah Simon, putting BYU in the red zone in the last seconds of the fourth. You could break down film and see plays where Jarrett Guarantano failed to see guys down the field who were open, opting to pass to guys in triple coverage. You could even look at the two touchdown passes as lucky and see that they could have easily been picks.
At the end of the day, however, I think it’s easy to forget that these are 18-22-year-old boys who at the heart of it all, simply love the game of football. Just like the fans do, they feel the losses deeply and even more so. The mental toll it takes to start a season 0-2 and have a fan base disappointed in you and critiquing you, while you are also disappointed in yourself, must be heavy. I’m not saying that improvements don’t need to be made and that the criques aren’t necessary. The stats speak for themselves, and the players on the field and the coaches on the sidelines know this too. What I can say, though, is that this team is clinging to the support their fan base gives.
What I can say is that the energy of Neyland Stadium on Saturday and the way the stadium filled up despite everything was electric. From the very start of the first quarter to the last seconds of the second overtime, the fans showed up and the stadium was a classic Tennessee loud. I was reminded why it’s special being a Vol fan, and I was reminded how incredible this fan base truly is. Sure, these past couple of years for Volunteer fans have been anything but easy. It’s easy to be a fan when everything is sunflowers and sunshine, wins coming easy and adversity far and in between. It speaks true volumes about a fan base, though, when a stadium that fits 102,455 fills up even through the disappointment.
If there is one VFL I want to meet most, it’s Inky Johnson. Johnson is a man who knows the word “adversity” and isn’t afraid of it, but embraces it. In one of his social media posts, Johnson talked specifically about adversity.
“I don’t want to be that person that’s great when everything is going good, but when something goes wrong they flee and want nothing to do with it,” Johnson said. “I want to be that person that’s gonna show up rain, sleet, or snow and they’re gonna give you everything they’ve got.”
I think there are guys on that field who fully believe and embody this. You look at Jauan Jennings, Ty Chandler, Eric Gray, Henry To’oto’o, just to name a few, and see guys who want to step up and be leaders and stars on this team. The adversity doesn’t slow them down. To give Coach Pruitt credit when many Vol fans have him on the hot seat, Gray and To’oto’o are just a couple of the guys that he recruited himself, and I think this is a positive light in the future of Tennessee football (at least in terms of the caliber of guys that Pruitt wants to bring into the program.)
When asked if playing in Neyland Stadium, the Vol Walk and all of UT’s traditions were what he thought they would be, To’oto’o responded back.
“It was actually more than I thought it would be,” To’oto’o said. “The fans, I truly love the fans and how dedicated and how supportive they are.”
On a same trend of speaking to the importance of a supportive fan base, junior running back Ty Chandler, who Gray refers to as his “mentor,” shared a message with Vol Nation.
“Man, I love y’all. I enjoy y’all,” Chandler said. “I appreciate y’all coming out and watching us. We need y’all behind us. I want y’all to keep coming out. This team is going to get better.”
There are young men on that field who truly love Tennessee and everything that it brings. In a time where Tennessee football is at a low point and the players are working to better themselves every week, the continuous support from the fan base they love and appreciate might just mean the world. And luckily for them, I think this Tennessee fan base has shown that they’re definitely among the nation’s best.