Photo courtesy of UTSports.com
Dear Coach Butch Jones & the Tennessee Volunteers Football Team:
Congratulations on your win Saturday!
Yeah, I know ... the score makes it look the Vols lost. But as a Tennessee alum, long-time Vols fan, and having resided amongst a mess of Dawg fans in Atlanta for the last 11 years ... I can say with absolute certainty you came out a winning team on Saturday.
You executed play after play with precision we haven't seen in years. You never backed down, never lost hope that you had the talent and fight to pull this off. You laughed off the underdog label. You were solid and steady under the enormous pressure of the well-oiled Georgia machine, not to mention the sold-out stadium full of 102,455 spectators. Because your faith didn't waiver, ours started to grow.
"Watch this," you said, and watch we did.
And what a show.
I wasn't in Neyland Stadium Saturday, but I heard it was the loudest it has ever been. Your fans were screaming in jubilation at this team that had in the course of a few hours righted a ship that has been sinking for years and was suddenly rowing it to shore with speed, agility and assurance.
I called my 12-year-old daughter to come watch the last quarter of the game. "If this happens, if we upset Georgia, it will be huge. No self-respecting Vols fan will want to admit to missing it."
And we cheered, and screamed, while my 14-year-old daughter, surrounded by Georgia fans at a party, was screaming and texting me because our Volunteers were ON FIRE. I was getting calls and texts from Georgia fans and Auburn fans and Alabama fans all saying one thing ... "are you watching your boys play this GAME??" Even the fans of our SEC rivals ... even the ones with everything on the line ... were excited to see Tennessee sending out the warning shot to not count us out just yet.
So did I hate it for the team when we lost by a measly field goal in overtime? Of course I did. You boys deserved to land in the win column this week. But if I had to choose whether to win that game but still feel like we were a football program going nowhere fast, or to lose after laying it all on the field, with the confidence that really big things are coming our way ... I'd pick the latter every time. Therefore, in your fans' hearts, you won that game.
So again, congratulations. And thank you for your hard work, your grit, for getting back up week after week, dusting yourself off and knowing you had it in you to do this thing. Thank you for being champions. And if, through all the negative commentary, the naysayers, the tough practice days and even tougher games ahead you need someone to remind you "hey, you got this ..."
I know where you can find some Volunteers.
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