I live in Alabama. I don't like it.
Because I'm a Tennessee boy. That's why. Tried and true.
Don't get me wrong: I love where I live, and I'm very fortunate that God has blessed me with the things He has and with the in-laws that He has, but none of that is in Tennessee. And I'm a Tennessee boy. It's not something my little boy will be able to say, and though that's minor to some folks, I don't like it at all. But when your wife is an only child and has a 50-acre farm that will belong to us someday, it's hard to pass up the opportunity to have that land to pass on to your family. So, we're living in Alabama. Of all states...
Still, I'll always be a Tennessee boy, no matter where I live. I have a great passion for my state and for my university, and this goes back to everything I was saying back in my "Standing and Singing the Alma Mater" entry for this same series. While I know that Tennessee doesn't produce the same amount of Division I players that Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, Louisiana or Alabama produces, I believe that the kids who are from Tennessee who do get the opportunity to play for Tennessee care a little bit more than some who are from elsewhere.
I've been told by some recruiting experts that's ridiculous. And that's fine. I still believe it.
The problem now is a lot of these kids who are coming up now don't really remember Tennessee being TENNESSEE. Once UT gets back to where we belong, it'll mean a little bit more than these past few cycles of players. Then, however, you get a group of guys like this year's recruiting class who have state pride and want to help build something in their home state.
Last year, Jalen Ramsey, Vonn Bell, Corn Elder and others talked about how much state pride meant to them and how they wanted to show out at these national camps and show them that Tennessee boys could play ball. Then, they went out and signed with out-of-state schools. It's tough for some to blame those guys for leaving since Dooley was such a doofus, but it isn't hard for me to blame them.
State pride is fine and good when it's convenient to throw it out there because you feel personally slighted about your individual recruiting ranking. But then when you go play for a Florida school, you can talk to the hand. Sorry, it's just the way I am. It would be one thing if these kids went to play for Vanderbilt. I'd still not like you, but at least you'd still be in-state.
This year, we've got boys who actually care for their state, their state school and are backing it up by committing to the Vols. You think guys like Jalen Hurd, Todd Kelly Jr. and Vic Wharton aren't going to hurt a little extra when they don't win a Tennessee game? What about lifelong UT fans like Zach Stewart, Jaylond Woods and Jack Jones who are committed to the 2015 class? Again, maybe I'm romanticizing it too much, but I don't think so.
I know how I feel about the Vols, and I know how I feel after a loss. I want the players who play for the team I love to feel the same or worse. It's just the way I am. Maybe I need to think that way to make it true in my own little brain when it isn't really the way it is, but that's what I think. I like for Tennessee boys to wear the Power T and the orange and white.
Tennessee has a rich history of producing in-state players who've helped UT win. I'm not even going to go back into the old days, but just in my lifetime, Johnny Majors recruited tons of Tennessee boys to help the Vols out of the dark days and back into the national spotlight. Though Phillip Fulmer moved a bit more away from recruiting in-state players and Lane Kiffin/Derek Dooley avoided it altogether, Butch Jones has realized that relationships in this state with players and coaches have to be patched.
Because there are good players in this state, players worthy of wearing orange and white. These players need to be playing for UT, and we don't need to be letting any of them head off to rivals like Alabama or out-of-state programs like Ohio State unless they have ties at those schools. It's not right, and it's a product of relationships having to be re-forged after so many years of coaches not caring.
It's time to get things back in order. Jones realizes that while his entire recruiting class cannot be built off Tennessee boys, there's no reason UT shouldn't have 7-10 players from Tennessee every year.
That's the way it used to be. You know, when we were winning football games.