John Shearer: Visiting Neyland Stadium

Sunday, September 2, 2012 - by John Shearer

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself over by the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

That may seem typical for a September weekend, but Tennessee had no home game. The Vols had played on Friday against N.C. State in Atlanta, and about 100,000 fewer people were there than will likely be the next two Saturdays.

As I jogged around the area and took pictures, I was struck with how peaceful the setting was. A beautiful blue sky had appeared, and hardly anyone else was there.

I particularly wanted to examine the new checkerboard and power T painted brickwork that had been installed on Peyton Manning Pass in front of the stadium. This is the area where the UT team walks during the famous Vol Walk, and the work was done last month to enhance the experience and give the street the look of the stadium field.

The $20,000 project, done by National Pavement, had been funded by 700 members of the Class of 2007 as a class project.

So few people were there that I was able to lie down very briefly and get a picture of the checkerboard bricks from street level.

Next week against Georgia State, the team will be walking over those bricks with hundreds standing along the street.

But on Saturday, only an occasional car passed.

I then looked around the outside of the stadium a little, noticing the Don Weller gate named for the Chattanoogan. I also said hello to the large murals of the late Chattanoogan Reggie White and others, and noticed the orange Tennessee signs from different eras and the vintage wooden game program booths.

After that, I climbed the hill west of the stadium and passed the Volunteer/Torchbearer statue. Its flame was burning strongly, just as it has since 1968. As with the stadium, I had the statue to myself, which will be a far cry from the next two Saturdays.

I then jogged around Circle Park and then around the remodeled Humanities and Social Sciences Building and McClung Tower.

I like to run on grassy areas, and the University of Tennessee does not have as much grass and trees as some campuses. But these areas – particularly Circle Park – were adequate. And, unlike during the week, they were void of students.

As I ended my run back by my vehicle, I picked up a few persimmons that had fallen from a Circle Park tree. I wanted to take them home to make fall persimmon bread.

Next week, hundreds will probably be trampling over the area on their way to the stadium and smashing the remaining persimmons.

But Saturday was a day to enjoy the calm before the storm.


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