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100 Days of Vols: #79 - The Backdrop

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Rivals may say bad things about Knoxville, but those fans have never spent much time in the East Tennessee hills.

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Living in Alabama, I've heard all the knocks on the University of Tennessee.

The campus is old and decrepit. Neyland Stadium looked like a big, iron relic. The city is dirty. The interstates are clogged. Why would anybody want to go to school in Knoxville?

Puh-leese.

Anybody who trashes my school and the surrounding area hasn't been around Knoxville lately. Granted, I'll give you that the interstate construction seemingly never ends, and the campus has been in a state of flux with all the refurbishing and progress going on since I graduated several years ago, but it's not like the entire campus is an eyesore.

I personally love campus, the mixture of the old brick buildings and the new-era glossy, shiny halls. I think there's adequate greenspace if you're looking in the right areas, and, though it is considerably spread out, it isn't like it's the worst place in the world to get where you're going. Since they've built up the Old City, Market Square area, that's the place to go to barhop and eat and hang out. Though the Strip is a bit dull, there are still some places around there to go that are within stumbling distance of campus. But that's not what this entry is about, either.

There is no prettier surroundings at any Southeastern Conference school than in Knoxville. First, there's the mountains. Everybody loves the freaking mountains, right? It is a ritual that one fall Saturday when the leaves are turning, my family will go to Knoxville, I'll catch a Tennessee football game and we'll head up to the Smoky Mountains on a mini weekend vacation. If you've never driven through Cades Cove or Townsend, you don't know what true beauty is.

Then, there's my favorite thing in the world to do: trout fishing. Fishing in general is great around Knoxville, but trout fishing in particular is fantastic. Within just a few miles, you've got the Clinch, Holston and French Broad. Tellico, the South Holston and Watauga aren't far away, either. Every trip in that neck of the woods I take to fish, I stop off by my old UT stomping grounds and go to Gus's or see the campus or something like that. A cousin and best friend of mine even lives on a river up there. He happens to be my fishing buddy.

So, from mountains to vacations to night life to eating to other outdoorsy activities, there's nothing like Knoxville. Throw in the football and basketball and UT is the greatest place on the planet to me. If I was a prospect or a prospective student, I'd be chomping at the bit to attend UT. There is no better backdrop for a school in the Southeast.