Smokey X’s final season on Rocky Top
The coontick hound stays with the brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho before games.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - One of the most familiar faces at Neyland Stadium on game day isn’t scoring any points.
Smokey, the mascot, is known for helping fans celebrate a Tennessee touchdown, but we went to find out what his life is like off the field.
When he’s on Rocky Top, he’s with the brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho. They’ve been Smokey’s on-campus home since 1977.
“We have the most famous ankles in all of college football because normally when the cameras are on us, it’s, you know, waist or knee level and below because everybody’s focused on him. Which is understandable,” said Andrew Fuson, Smokey’s Senior Handler.
Fuson became involved with the famous mascot in his first year on Rocky Top.
“I got involved in this actually before my freshman year,” said Fuson. “I knew some guys in AGR that were handlers already. I thought it was something that was so cool. I could just see myself doing it one day.”
When Smokey isn’t with Fuson, he’s at home with his owners.
“Outside of this, he’s kind of a normal family pet, believe it or not,” he said.
The handlers are responsible for getting him to campus events and ensuring he’s well taken care of.
“Sometimes he’s just a little timid if he’s somewhere that he’s not used to, especially at away games and things like that, but he’s so used to campus and so used to Neyland he is usually fine,” Fuson explained.
But this season is bittersweet for Fuson and Smokey. Fuson is graduating, and Smokey X is retiring after this season.
“He’s actually the longest-tenured Smokey we’ve had; I believe his first game was in 2013,” he said.
Smokey XI is in training, awaiting his day to take the job over.
“11 who is training right, we do a good job of getting them desensitized to, you know, being around a lot of people, crowd noise and everything like that,” Fuson said. “I’ve gotten to train with 11 a few times and he’s still working on that sort of thing.”
To make sure he’s comfortable, Smokey X is handing down a gift, the infamous orange blanket that keeps him warm on the sidelines at Neyland Stadium.
“It was a gift from IX, and so that’s why we still have it. Hopefully, it’s still good enough that we can pass it down to XI when the time comes,” Fuson said.
The duo hopes to make it their best season yet.
Making sure it’s known, Fusion said, “Smokey is my number one.”
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