Friday, August 05, 2005



It's a great day here in Big Orange Country. Why? Because...


Yes, it's true that we have 29 days and 3 hours (or thereabouts, depending on when you are reading this post) until The University of Tennessee Volunteers grace Shields-Watkins Field before over 107,000 fans to battle UAB, but today is momentous because official practices start on campus. Much like National Signing Day in February, First Practice has become an official holiday for rabid Vol fans throughout the nation because this is the first real opportunity to see what kind of team has been assembled by Coach Fulmer and his staff. I know that I started celebrating early, viewing last season's season opener against UNLV at 12:01 A.M. this morning. (Fanatical behavior? No, not me...)

Brent Hubbs of contends that – after a long, hard summer in Johnny Long's weight room - this is the best looking team physically since the 1999 squad (a squad that went 9-3 on the year). We'll find out quickly if all of the hard work was enough; UT plays back-to-back games at "The Swamp" against Florida and in the newly-expanded "Death Valley" versus the Tigers of LSU before the calendar turns to October.

There are many interesting storylines coming into this season, including a QB battle (senior Rick Clausen or sophomore Erik Ainge), several preseason All-SEC selections (Jesse Mahelona, Jason Allen, Gerald Riggs, Jr., Arron Sears, and Parys Haralson), a punting legacy (Briton Colquitt taking over for his brother, Dustin), and Richie Gandy's possible return to action this weekend after surgery to replace his ACL only five months and one day ago.

However, the player I will be following most attentively is linebacker Kevin Simon. Simon came to Tennessee with huge expectations out of high school as the #1 rated defensive player in the nation. His speed and quickness were incredible on film, and he certainly made many UT fans ecstatic when he picked the Vols over several teams closer to his California home. However, Kevin's college career has been marred by one freakish injury after another. This year is Kevin's final year in the orange and white. He has worked incredibly hard to chisel his frame into a body that would make Michelangelo's "David" jealous. His work ethic, leadership skills, and determination in the face of adversity are all admirable, but it's only when you meet the man that you realize that you can't help but like him. He's a fine human being – the kind that don't make the pages of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, instead giving way to stories of assault and mischief. My prayer is that Kevin has an injury-free season this fall. In my eyes, he has earned it.

UT's Kevin Burnett (left) and Kevin Simon Posted by Picasa

29 days until the first tailgate. 29 days until I get to walk to Neyland Stadium for the first time from my new house. 29 days until The Pride of the Southland Marching Band forms "The T." 29 days until "It's Football Time in Tennessee."

I've got goosebumps just thinking about it...

Posted by Picasa

Voluminous has more, and I suspect that Big Orange Michael will have some thoughts on this as the day goes on.

EVEN MORE: For those of you who need a little help getting into gear, I suggest this compilation of "Florida Gator Highlights." Again, goosebumps...

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