(from email) Grab yourselves by the cubes and man up motherfuckers:
It is now a week after Cal, our warmup game that went Appy State on us. Since early January each of you have worked hard to be ready for the games. In fact, across the country, coaches, players, and teams have been preparing to do their best to win. There is a difference with you though, All throughout the spring and the summer, we have not heard much about the Volunteers from the pundits.
Those of us who have a deep understanding of Tennessee football know it as “flying under the radar”. In fact we see that expression about UT football from time to time in news stories and web postings and on the television. You are overlooked and underappreciated as a force in college football. It has been that way before at UT. But never for very long. AND IT HAS NEVER BEEN THAT WAY WITH COACHES FULMER, CHAVIS, and CUTCLIFFE. The record of this combination of coaches speaks for itself. In addition, our other assistant coaches show outstanding leadership, hard work and effort, and the mentoring ability that each of you young men on the team needs to have a chance at success. I am as proud of the coaches as you are.
As I listened to ESPN Game Day on Saturday, I became angrier and angrier. Not a mean anger but a righteous anger. An anger that said that no longer will the Vol Nation stand by and allow this great collection of coaches, managers, and players be snubbed again. And then I realized the source of my frustration. This group has marketed against UT whenever they are given any opportunity. The commercial with the pig coming off of the elevator, the comment about Tennessee trailer trash, Corso’s sometimes inane rambling and sometimes mean spirited comments, and many other examples of disrespect for the fine people of Tennessee and their football team. While they and others discuss games, it is interesting that it is always Tennessee that seems to be the key team to get past. Why don’t they talk about Tennessee and the key games we need “to get past”?
I have listened to the people who pick Southern Miss to win (most do) based upon the lie that somehow there is something wrong with our football team. Defensive backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive line! Why, to listen to them you would think that no one grows a year older, stronger, and more experienced at UT. I ask that each of you, from the head coach all the way to the players, dedicate the focus this week to one goal. That is to dominate the Southern Miss football team and to leave no doubt that Tennessee is back. It will be natural when going on to the battle field to be nervous and apprehensive. Forget about personal goals and internal fears and put your team first. For this game, replace that nervous energy with the cold steel of determination that each of you has within you. It is not just the other team you are playing against. It is a disrespectful group of pundits who want to hold you back.
Decide beforehand that you will play fast, hard, smart, and controlled. Look out for each other. Put the rest of the team first this week. Demonstrate the leadership that comes from being a servant to each other. I read some comments from you players that the freshmen have brought energy and excitement to your practices. That is wonderful! As the Bible says “And a child shall lead them!” But, I have also watched the seniors and juniors on this team and I am convinced that they, too are Tennessee Leaders. We have the ability to do whatever is needed to win the game.
As you move through the season, You will hear that Florida hasn’t lost at home since Meyer took over. What an opportunity to take that away. By the way, put a little extra in your first hit for the young lady, your college mate, who dressed up for game day to show you support and then was urinated on by an older Florida fan and stood there crying over the ultimate disrespect that can be shown a lady. When Arkansas State comes in, put more heat on. You only get to play it once! Make it count. Georgia is coming to town and we have been informed ad nauseum about the “hob nailed boot” and that Georgia owns us in Knoxville . Well, does that mean this team has to accept that drivel? That is one team we need to put back in there place. We have former Tennessee coaches at Mississippi State so I am concerned about them. With Coach Croom in charge, they will play well and with good sportsmanship. We must be ready because they have also been picked to upset you.
And then on to Tuscaloosa . Somewhere along the line, because they got a new coach, they are all of a sudden being handed a free pass to the upper echelon of football without earning it. And by the way, your earned pass is nowhere to be found. That is ok. I like it that way. I hope you do. Don’t forget, your head coach who has nurtured your career and treats you as his boys, looks out for you, and who helps you learn about life, has been viciously and unfairly attacked over there for insisting on fair play. Again, the national press has played that card and will play it again. But Coach Fulmer never would and never will. If it were my head coach, I wouldn’t be worried too much about how I might play. I think I would be consumed with making that state pay through their football team for those slanderous, vicious attacks. By the way, Steve Spurrier also called out Alabama . He even said so in the press. There was nothing negative said about him! When we are done with Alabama , let’s invite coach Spurrier and the South Carolina team up to Rocky Top for a ball game. The old ball coach has decided that he can beat us. Last year, he told his team to keep it close until the fourth quarter and he would out-coach us to the win. He is a good coach and a decent person. We just need to teach him that he can’t get away with comments like that. I don’t even need to go into the Arkansas game. You know what you owe yourself, your coaches, and the state of Tennessee for last year. The Louisiana team isn’t the one from Baton Rouge (though we may get to play against them a little later) and the comments about Arkansas State ring true here also. In one preseason magazine, Vanderbilt was picked to beat Tennessee. They have improved. Boy, am I afraid. What disrespect they show you in these magazines! Finally, the end of the regular season. Kentucky ‘s quarterback is better than yours. If you don’t believe it just read the press. Geez, I don’t guess Coach Cutcliffe has it any more when it comes to preparing quarterbacks. And I suppose it must be true that Erik is a question mark. What do you think? Tell them to bring it on.
If you listen to your coaches and play for your teammates and the great state of Tennessee ALL SEASON and EVERY GAME we will welcome you to Atlanta . So until you step foot on the field for the SEC championship you will be predicted to fail. It happens every time. It won’t matter that you have a better record, that records have fallen, that you have done it the right way, that there are redemptive story lines on your team, too. It will be all about the trials and tribulations of the other team and how they should win. Take a quick minute to look over the pre-season magazines and predictions. They want you to believe that somehow, you aren’t quite fast enough, strong enough, and tough enough to get there. If I were you, that would make me FURIOUS enough to be able to get there and win. After you demonstrate that you are no longer going to take it from these experts and as you prepare for the national championship against the “team of the century” (No kidding, they already called one team that”) and you are under rated again, don’t think of yourself. Think of your teammates, your coaches, the VOL NATION, and all of those Volunteers who went before you as you prepare yourself to fight the battle that all of the teams I mentioned want to be in. Think of all the great teams and proud traditions at your great university. And relish the underdog role. It is always more fun to be the one that everyone counts out. And then make them pay until they wish they hadn’t made it to the game.
Being a coach or player at Tennessee is a little different than any other place in college football. Everyone looks to the state university and the football team as a place to rally to in times of trouble. It began when our grandfather’s were young men through the depression and the wars and has grown ever since. For those of us who grew up with little, PARTICIPATING in UT football and all that means from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River , was and is life changing. Those feelings run deep into the soul of a Tennessee fan. Last year was step one on our way back. This year, you have what it takes to take us the rest of the way. So as you prepare, get determined and have the righteous anger to overcome any temporary setbacks thrown the team’s way, support each other, and we will be there with you every step of the way.
One more thing, as you work your way through the season with the chip on your shoulder you so richly deserve, be good sports. Not only do champions act that way, ESPN and the rest of the “experts” will be looking to besmirch the image of this wonderful thing called the University of Tennessee football team. As you have heard before, act like you have been there before! We know you will.
You have earned the right to be there. Make every practice and game count. Put on your helmets, tighten your chinstraps, take the challenge, and hit somebody.
And remember as you go- Rocky Top! You’ll always be — home sweet home to me!! It’s great to be a Tennessee Vol! We will all be there for you! Good luck and God Speed.
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