Matthew Butler is getting set to play his final game for Tennessee. Thursday’s Music City Bowl against Purdue will be the final time he straps on that Power T helmet, which clearly means quite a bit to him.
Tennessee arrived in Nashville on Sunday, immediately hitting the practice field in a familiar location in the midstate — Vanderbilt Stadium. It has to be somewhat awkward for Vandy, welcoming their biggest rival to town and letting them go through practices for a few days on their own turf.
On Tuesday following Tennessee’s bowl practice, Butler couldn’t help but laugh a little at the situation.
“Neyland is wonderful and I love our fans, how passionate they are,” Butler said. “But when you’re locking into that game, even going into the Vanderbilt game — it’s so funny because we’re practicing at Vanderbilt’s stadium. Like that’s just hilarious that there’s nothing they can do about it. Kind of just rub it in a little bit.
“I thoroughly enjoyed kind of just walking on this field and kind of stomping on the ‘V’ a little bit, but we go into the Vanderbilt game, and of course that’s my last game in Neyland and there’s all kinds of good emotion, but there’s no really differentiating anything. They’re both very important to me, but they’re both still football games, so you’ve got to go out there and ball.”
Tennessee beat Vanderbilt in the final game of the regular season, 45-21. The Commodores finished year one under Clark Lea with a 2-10 mark, going 0-8 in conference play.
The Volunteers are looking for their eighth win in year one under Josh Heupel.
Butler, a 6-4, 290 pound defensive tackle, will compete on Thursday before heading to the East-West Shrine Bowl in preparation for the NFL Draft. On his way out the door, he couldn’t help taking one final shot at Vandy, which I think we can all respect and understand.