The idea was hatched a couple of years ago. Some Tennessee football fanatic had gotten wind that an Oklahoma player had documented his baptism to havoc inside Neyland Stadium. Offensive lineman Ty Darlington was part of that 2015 double-overtime slugfest against the Vols and, afterwards, remembered OU’s 34-27 win – after being down by 17 points earlier – was an absolute “dissertation” on the impact a crowd of 100,000 psychotics can have on a football game.
It may be too soon to slip the orange-clads the hint that No. 1 Alabama will come calling this Saturday but by the time this tale is through you’ll be searching for your shakers. It’s a good notion not to talk all day Friday so you can save your voice. You won’t talk on Sunday either because you can’t – but this Saturday afternoon you’ll evermore have a time.
The Oklahoma kid started brash: “I was never a big believer in home field advantage. I scoffed at the notion that a fan could actually have an impact on a football game. You have a hostile crowd? Good. I feed off of hostile crowds, and I embrace it when fans ridicule me. You think you’re loud? Whatever. We use a silent count anyways, and noise is only a factor on three to four plays a game. Your home field advantage is incredibly overrated. Bring it on. You’re wasting your breath.
“Then I ran out of the tunnel in Knoxville, Tennessee, for warm-ups, and was greeted by thousands of screaming fans and the chorus of “Rocky Top.” The game wasn’t set to start for over an hour, and these people seemed to think it was kickoff time … what had we gotten ourselves into?” Darlington wrote before he turned downright funny.
“The Vol faithful made it absolutely impossible to communicate. On the first drive, we had to change our snap count, because even our silent count was ineffective against that wall of noise. I came off the field after that first drive and reassured (my position coach) that the fans would settle down in due time, and that noise was not going to be an issue going forward. Boy was I wrong. The noise was a constant, oppressive force. I could literally feel it on my skin. But these fans weren’t just loud on the first drive. Or just on 3rd down. Or just in the fourth quarter. It was every. single. play.”
And his awakening? “That night in Neyland Stadium, playing football seemed all but impossible, and that can be attributed as much to the men and women in the stands as to the uniformed men on the field itself. That night, as I boarded the flight back to Norman with Rocky Top ringing in my ears,” Darlington confessed, “I realized that I had been converted. From a man skeptical of fan impact, to a man in awe of it.”
Yes, after the last couple of years where ole Smokey ain’t got many bones, Ty Darlington’s blog is a solace to some but just you wait … what’s next is the best basketball player at UT had figured on trying to turn pro, but his God-given gift is that he comes off better than Denzel Washington ever hoped in front of a movie camera. And UT video coordinator Barry Rice has toiled in relative obscurity until he just absolutely shaded every movie maker in California. No, the whole world.
Allow me to give you the highlights of the best Tennessee video ever.
* -- A STAR IS BORN -- The star of the inspiration is the kid with the magical name, Admiral Schofield. As a basketball player at UT he’s good for about 14 points a game, is great in the paint as a rebounder and may be the best small forward at UT in years. He’s 6-4, 240 (I’ll explain ‘small’ in basketball another time) but his bigger attribute is that his persona is bigger than the pond outside his backyard in Illinois. That would be Lake Michigan.
* -- HIS SHIRT AIN’T HIS -- Admiral memorized the entire script but wore a crummy shirt to the shooting so one of his hoops teammates, Kendrick Walker, had to strip. Yeah, the shirt you see ain’t the star’s but his orange ‘sneaks’ are.
* -- QUOTE: “We were going to have Admiral flip the light switch in Neyland Stadium but for liability reasons, insurance reasons, labor union reasons he’s not allowed to touch the d---- situation.” – Barry Rice.
* -- QUOTE No. 2 – “Tennessee has a rigid policy against opening up its athletes to the possibility of electrocution.” – David Ubben, writer for The Athletic.com. (It’s a subscription sports website and, not just because I have some old cronies on it, I adore it. Five stars from me.)
* -- SOLUTION: Barry goes to an electric company and borrows his own switch. He mounts it to a wall. It’s connected to nothing. It’s fake. You would never know that without my inside knowledge. But Admiral doesn’t get shocked. And I love the way he slams it home.
* -- PROBLEM: The huge light towers at Neyland – that you can see from outer space when the Vols play -- take time to warm up once they are juiced. It’s about as much fun seeing them when they start to come on as watching paint dry. So Barry and his VFL film crew set up four cameras and used a drone to take dramatic pictures of the lights – get this -- being turned off. That happens instantly. Then our genius takes the movie tape, reverses it at the cutting table with some kind of thingamajig, and – wow! – the spectacular lights that instantly come on … just between us … are fake, too.
* -- THRILL No. 1 – To watch Barry Rice’s masterpiece, “Don’t Let Up” CLICK HERE.
* -- THRILL No. 2 – “I knew it was cool, and I know what happens when something’s cool,” Rice told David Ubben, a reporter for TheAthletic.com. “But I knew if we mixed something cool with Admiral Schofield, it was going to blow up. That was the secret sauce. No matter what we’d have done, it would not have gone over without Admiral. It was all about him, his personality, his delivery. We’re really happy with it.”
* -- THRILL No. 3 – “I’m telling you, I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and this was one of the most fun shoots I’ve ever done,” said Barry Rice.
* -- THRILL No. 4 – This week. The roar at Neyland Stadium. “I could literally feel it on my skin.” The Third Saturday In October. 3:30 p.m. Be there.
* -- THRILL No. 5 – Every Vol who heeds the call: ‘Don’t Let Up.’
* -- JAPANESE PROVERB: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”