Hey Vol fans,
I wanted to give a bit of a recap of my weekend in Tennessee, and most importantly give a personal thank you from all of us Ducks that made the trip. I am not sure if I can speak for everyone that made the trip, but from all us Duckies whom I spoke with, it was all of you that made it an incredible trip. This may be a bit long, and I wont spend too much time on the game (I think that horse has been beaten enough, though you guys are better than you give yourself credit for). So for those of you who view this as a “tl;dr” post, my family and I say thank you all for being incredible hosts, amazing fans, for letting us share your wonderful city with you for a weekend, and most importantly GO VOLS and beat those damn Gators.
My trip began early in the week, as I spent the first half in New York City, but late Friday afternoon a friend and myself began the 8 hour drive to Knoxville. We did not arrive until around 2 a.m., and found my parents sitting out in front of the Holiday Inn watching a Duck get arrested. Our first interaction with some Vol fans happened right before we turned into the parking lot, when some guys in a car next to us rolled down the window and asked if we knew where “Crystals” was. I stated that we were here for the game, and had been in Knoxville for all of 15 minutes and had no idea where we were, let alone a bar. The guys asked us who we were rooting for, and I held out my large Oregon flag and yelled “GO DUCKS!” The guys in the car began to jokingly get out of the car, and one guy said to someone in the backseat to “get the gun because its duck season.” We were all laughing pretty hard, and they got back in the car, gave us a warm welcome to Knoxville, said they hoped we had a great game and good luck, and gave us a loud “GO VOLS!” as they drove off. Pretty entertaining way to start the evening. Later that night, my friend and I did make a quick drive around the town, and we had to go stop by and see Neyland, and seeing it at night all lit up, the only things we could say were “wow....”
I will say that I had always heard that people in Knoxville are just plain good people, and that became overwhelmingly evident the next morning at Pete’s Coffee Shop where my parents, friend and I ate breakfast. We got there pretty late, around 2 p.m. and it was clear that they were getting ready to close, but they gladly stayed open, and put up with my Dad’s constant assault on what he should eat. The waitress was great, and gave us a joking Go Ducks as we left, after which her boss said that if she said that again she shouldn’t come back to work. We left to go explore more Knoxville, and I will say that 95% of the people that passed us gave us a hearty welcome and wished us luck. After brunch we went to a bar, grabbed a few beers and watched a few of the games (damn you Miami) then got ready to head to the game. I will admit that the walk to Autzen is one of the most amazing things I have been a part of, but the sight of Neyland right as you cross down Phil Fulmer Way was quite a sight to behold. Not only are you guys good people, you are pretty big football fans too. While taking a few pictures, an older woman came up and told us to get together, and she’d take our picture. No one asked her to, she offered, and to the surprise of no one she was of course all decked out in Orange.
We made our way to our seats, which little did we know were not only amazing seats, but they were smack dab in the Alumni and season ticket section, 50 yard line, row 57 right on the aisle. I read a comment about someone getting a beer thrown on him, and I want to know what game he was at, because it certainly wasn’t the same one. My friend and I were even offered a place to stay at the kids house in front of us, and we almost took him up when he said how much Jack Daniels he had for us. The only inappropriate thing that happened was the man sitting behind me, told my mom that he had “nekkid” pictures of all the Vols cheerleaders after she said that the Oregon ones were much hotter, which was only hilarious. The fans surrounding us were nothing but class acts during the entire game, and stayed for nearly all of it, even when it wasn’t so enjoyable. After the game, we made it to Calhoun’s and my Dad was able to get the last two plates of ribs they had there. After sweating most of my skin off before, during and after the game, they were probably the best things on the planet. We were pretty exhausted after the game, and it was late so we slowly returned to the hotel, never encountering the “terrible fans that will want to fight everyone if Oregon wins big” that some drunk kid warned us about the night before.
The next morning we made it down to Market Square and grabbed some breakfast at a fancier restaurant on the corner whose name eludes me, where we talked with the two nice older couples seated next to us. The asked jokingly why we hadn’t left yet, and we told them it was hard to leave with how great everyone had been to us, and they thanked us and told us to kick the crap out of Kiffin. We wandered the area and around campus a bit before my friend and I decided to head out of town, but first we stopped by Hounddogs way out Kingston Pike to pick up a few goodies. We walked in, fully decked out in our green and yellow and bought a few hats, but not before talking to the owner and getting a free shirt. We then left, to begin the 8 hour drive back home to DC, speaking frequently of what an incredible experience it was.
To close my essay on Knoxville, I want to reiterate that you people are true class. I have never encountered people that are as welcoming, hospitable, humble and classy as you, and especially during a very significant football game. I have always hated the SEC, but there was always something about those Vols that I liked, and I can assuredly say that I am a Vols fan from this point forward. I wish you all the best of luck this season, and want you to realize that you have built something special in Knoxville. You have a world class stadium, and pretty damn good football team (better than you give yourself credit for), a smart and humble coach and fans that are second to none. I only hope that we can be half as pleasant in Eugene to all of you when you make the visit. My friend and I are already planning on hitting up the UT alumni bar this weekend in DC, wearing our new Orange gear. Thanks for the memories Vols, I hope we can play again, and most importantly, kick the [FULMERIZED] out of Urban and those Gators this weekend.