Discover Tennessee's Mascot, Origination of the Volunteers Nickname and the Many traditions that Take Place on Gamedays

When it comes to college football, the University of Tennessee boasts some of the best traditions in the game. And it all starts with their beloved mascot: Smokey. This lovable Bluetick Coonhound has been cheering on the Vols for over 50 years, embodying the spirit and determination of the team itself. But it's not just Smokey that makes the Volunteers stand out. Their nickname - the Volunteers - has a rich history, dating all the way back to the War of 1812. And when it comes time to take the field, the team does it in style, led by the iconic marching band and a sea of orange-clad fans. So if you're looking for a true southern football experience, look no further than the University of Tennessee. Go Vols!

Tennessee Vols Mascots: Two Smokeys and Dave Crockett

Until 1953, UT's mascot was all "no bark and no bite."  The reason was simply because the University didn't have a live mascot to help support it teams.  That year a student poll suggested that they wanted a mascot and the UT Pep Club began the selection process.
Any drama concerning the type of  animal that would be featured quickly faded when it was announced that the chosen mascot would be a coon hound, a breed native to the state.  However as the school paper noted, "This can't be an ordinary hound."  He must be a 'Hound' Dawg' in the best sense of the word."

The late Rev. W.C. Brooks entered his blue tick hound, Smokey, into the hound dog competition that took place during half time of a 1953 home game.  The hound put on such a crowd pleasing performance that the fans were quick to jump on top of old Smokey for their choice.

Tennessee Mascot Smokey

The competing dogs were lined up on the old cheerleaders' ramp and then introduced one at a time over the loudspeakers.  When it was Smokey's turn he received the loudest cheers after he barked when his name was called out.  Upon hearing the crowd's response Smokey howled again.  The sequence of howling and cheering gained momentum until the whole stadium was rocking.   That day a star and the new UT mascot were born.

When Smokey trotted away from his mascot role, Rev. Brooks continued to supply the school with a line of  "Smokeys" until his death in 1986.  His wife Mrs. Mildred Brooks and family friends now oversee the dog's daily care.

A Costumed Smokey

Donning much less fur, a costumed version of Smokey also patrols the UT sidelines.  Whether he’ s leading cheers or teaming up with UT’s original mascot, Davey Crockett, this two-legged adds much bark to the Vol’s mascot bite.

Smokey Tryouts Are Extensive

Every four years, the University of Tennessee selects a new Smokey mascot from among five finalists. The selection process is collaborative and involves both the student body and a panel of faculty members.

In order to become one of the five finalists, candidates must have an exemplary record at UT Knoxville (including academic performance and service to the community), demonstrate leadership skills, entertain with spirit on game day, be available for all home football games in Neyland Stadium, display affinity for children as Rocky Top’s Pal Buddy Program ambassador, participate in school functions such as Homecoming festivities and mass media events like ESPN College GameDay on campus each fall.

Once these requirements are met by prospective candidates they are invited to participate in an audition held during spring semester where they will vie with other applicants vying for he honor of donning Smokey's costume throughout their term. This audition consists of several challenges such as delivering a prepared speech about why you should be chosen as Smokey; exhibiting spirited energy when leading cheers; displaying enthusiasm through various sports drills; displaying knowledge about UT Athletics programs past and present; interviewing with Faculty Selection Committee members regarding your candidacy for mascot honors including 3 separate interviews.

Tennessee Davy Crocket Mascot

Whether you're a fan of college football or just appreciate Tennessee history, you can't help but appreciate the Volunteers' mascot, Davy Crockett. This hearty figure not only represents the team on the field, but also honors the bravery and spirit of the famous frontiersman who gave his life in the fight for freedom. As "Davy" charges out onto the gridiron with the iconic Power-T flag waving high, you can feel the energy in the stadium grow. It's the perfect embodiment of what makes Tennessee such a unique and beloved state: fearless determination and a true passion for the game.

Tennessee Nickname: Volunteers

The University of Tennessee has earned its “Volunteers” nickname over many generations. It all began in 1812 during the War of 1812 when then-governor, Willie Blount called upon the state militia to serve and fight on behalf of the United States.

Over 11,000 Tennesseans answered that call, volunteering their time and energy to be part of what would become known as the "Tennessee Volunteers", a name which was applied both to those who served and fought in battles in the war and also later given to any members from Tennessee who were part of any military service regardless of conflict or era.

It wasn't until 1890 however, that this nickname was adopted by UT for use as an athletic team name after then-governor Bob Taylor commented positively upon it during a Columbus Day speech he gave at UT Knoxville campus. Since that day it has been a series association between UT athletics teams with this proud nickname – particularly in football where it is perhaps most closely associated – with Aggies, Aggies being another term for farmers and referenced typically due to how much larger rural population there used to be near many colleges like UT during earlier days before more sizable cities developed around them too.

I Can't Hear Yoooou! The tradition of Vols fans singing
I Can't Hear Yoooou!
The tradition of Vols fans singing "Rocky Top" at opportune moments such as a first down, touchdown, turnover, etc., keeps the decibel level high in Neyland Stadium.

Tennessee Fight Song: “Rocky Top

One of the best know fight or rally songs is the one that echoes throughout the tremendous double decked bowl known as Neyland Stadium.  Whenever the Volunteers score or another  joyous occasion arises, the UT band cranks up "Rocky Top" and the following words are expressed.

"....Rocky Top, you'll always be
home sweet home to me:
Good ol' Rocky Top:
Rocky Top Tennessee:
Rocky Top Tennessee."  

Needless to say, when more than 100,000 fans sing along, the song is delivered in a thunderous manner.

Tennessee Gameday Tradition - Running Through the "T"

When it comes to Tennessee football, there is one tradition that stands above all others: running through the T. Created by the combined minds of Coach Dickey and Dr. Julian, this entrance has become an iconic symbol of Tennessee football. The audacious spectacle of over 300 band members sculpting the letter T before the team rushes onto the field is enough to fill any fan with anticipation. It's no wonder why it's been labeled as one of the greatest entrances in all of sports. Every time the Volunteers charge through the T, the excitement is palpable, and it's certainly not a sight to be missed for any true football fan.

Tennessee Colors: Orange and White

For Tennessee football fans, there's nothing quite like the sight of players running onto the field in orange and white jerseys. But have you ever stopped to wonder where those colors came from? Believe it or not, they were chosen more than a century ago by a member of the university's very first football team. Charles Moore noticed that the common American daisy - which was abundant on The Hill, a prominent area of campus - featured the same shades of orange and white that he thought would look great on the team uniforms. After a student body vote, the colors were officially approved, but it wasn't until 1922 that players actually took the field wearing orange jerseys. The Vols didn't disappoint, delivering a resounding 50-0 win over Emory & Henry that set the stage for decades of gridiron dominance.

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