In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby has his green light. He sees that green light every night and he wants to capture it. Gatsby’s green light is Daisy and he ends up getting his chance but he fumbles the ball and loses Daisy.
As a religious Vols fan, I know exactly how Gatsby feels. Vols fans want to get to their green light which is the national title, but they always fumble the ball. Each year, we say that this is our year. Even when there is a new coach, new quarterback, and a new system. We say this is our year.
But each year, we miscarry the ball.
This all started with Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer's six National Titles.
The year is 1998. Peyton Manning is now in the NFL and his backup Tee Martin is stepping up to the plate. This is his first year starting at quarterback for the Vols and everyone is exhilarated. The 10th-ranked Vols have their season opener against 17th Syracuse and their starting quarterback Donovon Mcnabb - one of the greatest Eagles quarterbacks of all time. The Vols shock Syracuse, 34-33.
Then, the most heated rivalry in college football: Tennessee Vs Florida.
Every Tennessee fans grow up to be a Gator hater their whole life. I am a third-generation Gator hater.
The Gators #2, Vols #6. The Vols were all defense that game with tons of hard-hitting sacks and acrobatic interceptions.
Then, with around 8-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter, Tennessee found itself sitting on Florida’s 29-yard line with the ball. Tee Martin looked to Peerless Price who completely faked Dock Pollard allowing Price to gain the advantage. Price leapt for all he was worth, snatching the floater, which Martin lobbed his way, Price snagged it out of the air. John Ward screamed, “GIVE HIM SIX!!!”
The Vols win in overtime 20-17 by a game-winning field goal.
After these two games, the only thing on Vols fan minds is this is our year.
The Vols went 13 and 0 and beat Florida State 23-16 in the national championship.
That was our year.
Since I was five years old and put on my jersey to go to school, the only thing I heard was “this is our year.” That is the only thing Vols fan hear at the start of the season.
I started to watch football in 2015 with my Dad. Every Saturday, we go to the game together.
I am a very superstitious person and I want to do the same thing every time. We drive up there in my Dad’s car and eat at the same place, the French Market. I get a roast beef sandwich on a baguette and steak fries. It is lip-smacking good. The food there is as good as an ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day. Then walk to the stadium. I do this in the hope it will bring us luck.
That 2015 season, we go 9 and 4 and everyone is saying:
This is our year.
Fast forward to 2016.
The Vols started off the season ranked in the top 25 and everyone was saying this is our year. Tennessee had returning players such as Josh Dobbs, Alvin Karama, Josh Malone, Jalen Hurd, and Derrick Barnet.
Tennessee started the season almost losing to the two cupcake teams and then played Georgia.
That 2016 game was one of the best games that year. In the first half alone. The Bulldogs scored 17 unanswered points and the score at halftime was 17-7.
Going into halftime the Georgia crowd barked their chants.
Every Tennessee fan was down and depressed for what they thought the second half had in store. That was going to change. Tennessee came out of that locker room a whole new team. They scored 17 points to take that lead.
10 seconds on the clock.
I am in my Dad’s office at our house and walking around the room nervous as can be. I am on my black couch, orange jersey and my hands are on my face. The smell of chili filled the air.
Georgia has the ball on the 50 and it is third down. Their quarterback drops back and throws a 47 yards boom to their receiver and takes the lead.
Tennessee had 10 seconds left to score they somehow get the ball to the 50
I throw my hands to my face and start bawling crying like a waterfall and praying to God we can pull something out to win this game.
Josh Dobbs drops back and launches the ball with all his might. Juaun Jennings meets the ball in the air with six different players around him. He became a household name that night. He is even referred to as the Goat because everyone loves him. It looked like Juaun was Jesus and every Tennessee player was his disciples.
I scream as loud as a banshee.
I was so flabbergasted.
We all thought the same thing.
This Is Our Year.
Tennessee ended up losing to Bama, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt. God-awful Vanderbilt.
I was at my friend’s house and lost my mind and threw my jersey and walked home.
Ever since that 1998 season, the Vols have tried to claw and scratch their way back to that national title. They recruit the best players and try to get the best coach and it just never works out. Since I was born in 2003 the Vols have gone through six head coaches with zero National Titles. Alabama, on the other hand, has gone through three head coaches and six national titles under Nick Saban.
It is like climbing a mountain but with every coaching change or loss, the Vols tumble down the mountain. Even after those head coaching changes or whole new staff, Vol fans come back wanting to see if this is the coach that can get us to the green light. But it still has not happened yet.
Vols fans are a different breed. Each year we come back and show our colors. Even if we lose, we still fill Neyland Stadium. I have been to that stadium and we are losing to Missouri and all I can see is a sea of orange and them screaming every play.
“Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me.”
When I first sang this it did not mean anything to me but now it means something special to me. It means being loyal to my school, my friends, and everyone in my life. Peyton Manning once said, “You are not just here for four years, you are here for the rest of your life. Once a Vol, always a Vol.”
Every Vols fan home is in Rocky Top and they will stay loyal.
Vols fans are loyal people. When we lose we don’t even talk about the losses - we talk about who played well. After the Bama loss this week, all I could think about was how good our freshman wide receiver player is.
We know how to experience defeat. And a loss. It has taught us how to live our lives. It shows us that when we are at our lowest we can help each other and cheer for our family.
Every year is our year.
Because Vol fans don’t look at the losses. We look at how close we are getting to Alabama’s level so we can compete with them the next year.
People always ask me why I waste my time with this team. I say, “I have squandered my time with this team but this is just not a team anymore. It is my life. I live, breathe, pray Tennessee football and I always will.
“Miracle”, one of my favorite movies of all time, says one important thing that has stuck with me forever.
“Because we’re a family,” says Mark Johnson.
I think of Tennessee football fans as my family. We all know we can’t let our family down. Every Saturday, every year, tons of people marching into Neyland Stadium as an army of 102,000.
This is our year.