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Why I’m a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers: How Bruce Pearl opened my eyes to Basketball

I was born into the football side, but Bruce Pearl and the mid-2000s basketball teams made me a new kind of fan.

NCAA First Round - Long Beach State v Tennessee Photo by Travis Lindquist/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed Rocky Top Talk! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts section to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here [] and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!

For me — just like so many of you I’m sure — college football was just something that I was born into. Maybe it’s more of a southern thing, but to me it’s just something that you’re born into — at least football wise. I’m sure plenty of you have unique stories about how you decided to be a Vol, but I had no choice and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My entire family on every branch bleeds orange and you better believe we are raising the next generation to do the same. I welcomed my son Knox into this world last October, just four days after the hail mary game at Georgia. I’ll never forget watching my first game with him — which just happened to be one of the most memorable games (albeit a loss) in recent times against Texas A&M.

I guess my true story of becoming a fan comes on the basketball side. Tennessee Basketball was just kind of existing under Buzz Peterson, hovering around the .500 range. But then Tennessee made the absolute best hire of my lifetime, bringing in Bruce Pearl. He was a ball of sweaty energy. Bruce lit Knoxville and the state of Tennessee on fire. Pearl’s first team was aggressive — they could shoot, they pressed like maniacs — they were just fun. They were a welcomed sight after the football team went 5-6 in 2005.

Pearl took the Vols from a middle of the road program to a top ten school in the matter of a couple of months. It was amazing. It was the first time in my life that I had cared about Basketball on any level. Lofton, Watson, Wingate, Bradshaw and JaJuan became idols. Suddenly, you cared just as much about the basketball program as you did about the football program — at least I did.

Tennessee didn’t get past the second round of the tournament that year, but we were blessed with this iconic shot from the hand of Chris Lofton, who would become a Tennessee legend.

Did he travel? Yeah. Do I care? No. My entire middle school class got thrown out of a pizza buffet in Virginia on a school trip because we were too loud during the game. Lofton’s shot was the final straw. The manager came over and changed our channel and sent us packing. Nobody cared — not even our teachers.

There was something about that tournament feeling that was impossible to match. I was hooked. From there on, Basketball took just as much precedence as football. Bruce Pearl was the man and I’ll always be mad at how it ended. I fear no coach will ever match what he was able to do. But I’ll be here waiting on that next tourney run.

Anyways, that’s my story of how I expanded my love of Tennessee Football to Tennessee Basketball. Do you have an interesting story of how you became a fan of Tennessee Athletics? We want to hear from you! Write a fan post for us and we’ll share some of the best ones with everyone. Remember, SBNation is handing out a $500 dollar gift card to the best fan post out there, so get rolling!

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