You don’t have to look far around the Southeastern Conference to realize the pride and pageantry fan bases take in the tradition and history of their football programs. Tennessee is no exception. In a Southern football landscape where there is plenty of bulldogs and tigers to be found, the Volunteer name stands alone.
The ‘Volunteers’ name derives from the 1,500 troops from Tennessee that fought under General Andrew Jackson against the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. That same Volunteer spirit carried on when the war of Texas Independence broke out in 1835.
Again, men all over the great state of Tennessee took up arms to aid the Texans in their revolution against the Mexican Army. One such man was the legendary David "Davy" Crockett, a soldier and congressman from Greene County in East Tennessee.
Crockett is the personification of the Volunteer name. So much so, he was the inspiration for the logo Tennessee athletics adopted in 1983. Like so many men who fought in that Texas campaign, Crockett paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to the cause.
While the Tennessee football program started play in 1891, it was not until 1902 following a 10-6 win over Georgia Tech that a writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution called the team from Knoxville, the Volunteers. By 1905 the University had officially adopted the name.
When you look at the history of original Tennessee Volunteers, the name itself brings a greater sense of pride to players when they take the field, which in turn makes Tennessee football a little more special than other places.
Most Tennessee fans know the story behind the name. it is one of the things they learn from birth, along with the lyrics to Rocky Top and General Neyland’s game Maxims. But it is important to remember the history, just as we remember the championships and legendary coaches and players. The Volunteer is more than just a mascot. It is a testament to the brave men who went beyond the beautiful rolling hills and deep valleys of this great state to serve causes greater than themselves.