30 Days 30 Vols | Counting down to kick off
WVLT News Anchor Ted Hall sat down with Tennessee’s best to see what makes them tick.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - It’s almost football time in Tennessee! Your official Station of the Vols is counting down to kick off with 30 Days 30 Vols.
WVLT News Anchor Ted Hall sat down with Tennessee’s best to see what makes them tick.
Day 30: Caleb Herring
Ted Hall: Let’s talk about your cats, you’ve got cats? Tell me about them.
Caleb Herring: Since I just got them, I’m still like kind of getting to know them, but the black cat, he’s really energetic. His name’s Bob. At night, all you hear is is him running around. Liam, he’s the orange cat. I try to freak them out sometimes; they run away and hide under my bed, but I think he’s coming along.
TH: So why did you get cats? You’re a large man!
CH: I mean, if I had gotten a dog, they want your attention all the time. I wouldn’t be able to give it to him, but cats? They know how to occupy themselves, especially on the weekend too. They can play with each other.
TH: Are you excited about what we got here at Tennessee so far, the weapons you’ve seen on this team?
CH: Oh yeah.
TH: Your brother’s one of them!
CH: Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s going to be fun, just seeing what Coach Heupel has done in these two years. I mean, when I when I first committed, I was committed because I saw the course they were on. Like, when they went 7-6 when he first got here. When I first heard about Coach Heupel coming here, I knew he was going to turn the program around, because that’s what he did at UCL.
TH: What about when you’re not playing football? What do you like to do besides play with your cats? That’s got to be number one for a while.
CH: Playing games. I like to go on long drives at night by myself in my car. I can clear my mind.
TH: Hope you have a great season. It’s really good to meet you.
There’s just 30 days till Football Time in Tennessee. Go Vols!
Day 29: Charles Campbell
Ted Hall: From Indiana? You played at Indiana?
Charles Campbell: I played at Indiana, I’m from Jackson, Tennessee.
TH: And you wear the cowboy hat! That’s your thing.
CC: It is one of my things. Cowboy hat, cowboy boots, some blue jeans. You can’t beat that.
TH: And that does work on the golf course too; they do usually accept those cowboy boots and hats right?
CC: Laughs. No, I sadly cannot wear my cowboy hat or blue jeans on the golf course
TH: Come on, golf courses!
CC: I know! What is it?
TH: I can’t figure them out. You’re actually a pretty good golfer, though, right? Single handicap?
CC: Single-digit handicap. I love playing. My little brother, my dad and I will play all the time. My family all goes to school here. It’s my home state. I love representing my family and my home state at the same time, so take football out of it, it is where I want to be.
TH: How proud are they of you and what you’ve been able to accomplish?
CC: You know, I hope that they’re proud. I try to do my best to make them proud, and to have a high standing with our last name and such and represent our family as well as I can.
TH: Biggest kick you made in Indiana?
CC: I had a 151-yard game winner against Western Kentucky last year, so that was super special to me. Getting to have a part in the win.
TH: Expectations for the season, what do you think?
CC: As a team, I want to win the SEC. Personally, I want best in the SEC. Be the best kicker in Tennessee history. That’s what I believe I’m capable of and what I’m aiming at.
Day 28: Mathew Salansky
Ted Hall: You have a crucial role. Are you and others like you the most overlooked crucial player on football teams?
Matthew Salansky: I wouldn’t say overlooked. If I do my job. nobody knows my name. So that’s my goal, I guess.
TH: And you’ve done your job pretty well for three full seasons already. Going into your fourth. How proud are you of what you’ve been able to do?
MS: Very proud. This is my dream growing up and what I always wanted to do so get to do another year of it, it’s a dream come true.
TH: It’s a close game. There are three seconds left, something like that long field goal attempt coming up to knock off Alabama. You had to be perfect. The holder had to be perfect. The kicker had to be close to perfect. It worked. What was going through your mind at that moment?
MS: I’ve done it 1,000 times. And as soon as I really wanted to get the chance to do it. I’ve always seen big kicks, big opportunities to do it. And it was my dream to always be able to be in that big stage and be able to have an impact in the game like that. So being able to do it for myself was really cool.
TH: Morristown, when you get back home, do people treat you different now that you’re wearing the orange?
MS: Yes and no. Everybody that I’m around, I’ve been around my entire life, and they know the kind of person I am so they don’t really act like that. But they always think it’s really cool. I take a lot of pride in it. Small town, it’s fun.
Day 27: Dylan Sampson
Ted Hall: You run angry sometimes. That’s what it looks like to me: you’re angry.
Dylan Sampson: I just want people to feel me when I want to feel, especially not being the biggest running back kind of a more skilled, scatback type of running back
TH: Pretty fast. You’ve got wheels.
DS: Yeah, I want people to know that, and not take any carry that I have for granted. I don’t want to get tackled, you know what I’m saying? I don’t go out there looking. I want to keep my body as fresh as possible. But when it’s time for contact, I want to be the one to deliver it.
TH: This team’s got a lot of talent on this team this year. Do you see it that way too?
DS: I definitely see it this way, just going through off-season training, spring, about to be going to fall camp. It’s a potential that we could be really good and capitalize on last season. You know what we say all the time: this is a new team now like what happened last season; that’s for the fans to dwell on. But we are going to make our own mark this season this year. We got the talent and the mindset to do it.
TH: What other fun stuff have you done in East Tennessee besides football? What fun stuff do you do?
DS: We actually went jet skiing within a span of six or seven days like me and Jay and Joe all of us. I said it, “Let’s go jet skiing,” and they said, “Let’s go.” So we all went. It was just me and Jay the first time and then he wanted to go again like six days later so we all went. We had a blast. You know, just being out on the river enjoying our days of summer.
TH: What are the goals for this season?
DS: I want to be all SEC you know, personal goals, but at the end of the day, [the goal] is to get to where Tennessee needs to go and that’s when the SEC championship and then that will get us where we need to go which is the national championship.
Day 26: Elijah Simmons
Ted Hall: More nerve-racking, a big game where you have big responsibilities in front of lots of fans, or singing the national anthem at a baseball game? What’s harder?
Elijah Simmons: I would definitely say the game.
TH: Did you sing, no problems? Just get out there in front of thousands of people and nail it?
ES: It usually comes easy. So I’d definitely have to pick the game over that.
TH: It helps if you’re good though. Okay, let’s talk about stuff other than football for a second. You like to sing, which is cool; you could probably do something with that. What else do you like to do?
ES: I play ping-pong here and there. I’m pretty decent at that.
TH: That game can be crazy fast.
ES: Laughs. Yeah. I play video games most of the time. A little 2K, Madden, Call of Duty.
TH: Tell me about the number change. It looks good on you, by the way. I like the smaller numbers on the D-line; it looks good.
ES: I feel like it’s a new season. I’ve got to show some new things out there that I haven’t been showing. Just a new me.
TH: Is it your year to be a leader?
ES: Oh, yes sir. Absolutely.
TH: How do you take that on? What do you do?
ES: A few things. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just coming out, being prepared, knowing my playbook. Tagging other guys along, making sure everybody’s on their P’s and Q’s. Trying to bring the flames, man.
TH: Bring the flames.
Day 25: Kalib Perry
Ted Hall: You had some big plays last year for a freshman. Are you at all surprised you had some of the plays that you did?
Kalib Perry: No sir. The coaches here at Tennessee, they coach us and prepare us and expect us to go out on to the field and have our moments. Do our thing like that.
TH: Kinda go through that list, the stuff you like to do when you’re not playing.
KP: I’m big into FCA, Chris Walker, he does a great job. He played here, he talks to us. I like to hang out with that group. We play pickleball. I like to work on my computer, skateboard. I like to get outside and do activities. Watch movies and chill out, whatever the case may be.
TH: It sounds like fun stuff, but I bet the coaches are like once in a while saying “let’s keep off the skateboard for a little bit.” Just a couple injury possibilities with your fun stuff.
KP: Oh yeah, for sure. Even when I used to do flips a lot, coaches were like “ehh.” It’s athletic, it looks cool, but the season’s just around the corner.
TH: You going to have a bigger role this season, most likely?
KP: Yes sir.
TH: You excited about that?
KP: Definitely, I can’t wait for everyone to be there at Neyland and to have another year under my belt.
Day 24: Cooper Mays
Ted Hall: Cooper, you’ve been through some tougher times here at Tennessee. You’ve been following Tennessee for ever and ever. How did last year feel?
Cooper Mays: It was refreshing, I would say. The first thing, I think there was a different feeling in the air in Knoxville, and everybody felt that. It was a really special year, special group of guy. You know, we went a long way and brought us back to where we needed to be.
TH: A lot of talent coming back this year. Do you have the confidence this year that you had last year?
CM: Oh, indeed, I think we do. I think you ask anyone around here and they’ll agree with me. Literally, the ball’s in our court.
TH: Coach Heupel, he seems like the most normal guy. He seems like the guy who works at the co-op; he’s just a guy. Is he like that as a coach too? Does he come across the same all the time?
CM: Yes; he’s consistent, the same dude every day. The biggest thing about Coach “Heup” is that whatever he preaches, he’s going to practice it. You know what I’m saying? Anytime he tells us to do something, we’re on track with it, because he’s never going to ask you to do something that he’s not willing to do himself.
TH: Can we count on seeing you on a wildlife show one of these days, just hunting, fishing, out there in the outdoors telling us how to do it right?
CM: Tune in! Me, Cade Mays, Trey Smith. I think we’ll have something special one day, it’s on hold for right now, but we’ll get it going.
Day 23: Gabe Jeudy-Lally
Ted Hall: Gabe, we’ve got a million things to talk about with you. Let’s talk about dogs; you know a lot about dogs.
Gabe Jeudy-Lally: Yes sir!
TH: How come?
GJL: Well, my parents own a doggy daycare in Austin, Texas. My stepsister owns two in Austin, Texas, so I’d say on a given day we have about 500 dogs.
TH: Do you help from time to time? Do you get your hands dirty?
GJL: I’d say when I went home when it was first going on, yeah. But they’ve gotten a little bit better with a staff and such, so it’s been nicer that I don’t have to go and get dirty. But my parents, they’re there almost 14 hours a day.
TH: You’ve got a Ukrainian connection, first, that’s gotta hurt with what’s going on in Ukraine, because you said your mom?
GJL: My mom is from Ukraine, my sister emigrated to the United States in 2014 from Ukraine, and her husband came to the United States, I want to say in 2017 from Ukraine. His whole family is in Ukraine. It’s a challenging time.
TH: What brings you to Tennessee from BYU, from Vandy, now you’re in the big orange.
GJL: Truthfully, if I was going to be honest, I wasn’t going to come here. I wanted to be closer to my family back home.
GJL: Yeah I was most definitely going to go to Baylor, but then I came here, and everyone treated my like family, my mom like family. My mom, me and her are really tight, so she said she liked this place compared to anywhere else.
TH: How do you rank Tennessee’s stuff compared to any other universities you played at?
GJL: If we had just had a shed, I would’ve still wanted to come here. Because of the people. Relationships are the best thing at the end of the day. It doesn’t get much better than this compared to other places I have been at.
TH: Hope you have a great season.
Day 22: Tamarion McDonald
Ted Hall: How do your friends feel about you playing for the University of Tennessee on national TV every week?
Tamarion McDonald: I get a text almost every day from my mom, like a long paragraph telling me how proud she is of me. So it means a lot.
TH: Alright, when you’re not playing football, and there’s not a ton of other stuff that you do, right? But you like to eat.
TM: A lot.
TH: We’ve got some great barbeque here in East Tennessee, my friend.
TM: I haven’t really had any barbeque here, I’ll be honest.
TH: You love barbeque! Why not?
TM: Oh I eat barbeque when I go home.
TH: Memphis. That’s the good stuff?
TM: It’s good. I like Big Bills on Elvis Presley. That’s my favorite spot.
TH: That’s the best one?
TM: Yes sir.
TH: I think people watch, and we see a very strong young man with a helmet on. We don’t see the heart very often and how much other people mean to you. Without that support, I suppose it wouldn’t be worth doing?
TM: We’re just like anyone else. We want support, to know people believe in you. That makes you go harder, especially if it’s people that you care about, like your mom or brother. It gives you a little more fire.
TH: Hope you have a great season man.
Day 21: Omari Thomas
Ted Hall: It’s good to see you again.
Omari Thomas: Nice to see you.
TH: What was your biggest play last year? You had a couple of monsters; what’s the one that stands out for you?
OT: My biggest play? I would say my biggest play for me was sacking Bryce Young. I feel like that was a big play. A big play for the game, not just for me. It was good to be able to do that, still get that win and have a good time.
TH: I was going to ask you; was that game a highlight game of the season? Because you had, again, Tennessee Vols had a lot of really great games.
OT: For me, the highlight game was LSU, actually. Because I’ve always, I’ve enjoyed watching LSU growing up. I’ve always wanted to play in Death Valley, so getting to do that and the way we won, just getting out there ready at an 11 a.m. kickoff. It was amazing, one of my favorite games for real.
TH: You going to do this for a living? What are you going to do?
OT: I think I could do this for a living. I’m interested in sports broadcasting, coaching, AD. There’s a lot of routes; my mind is always thinking, but sports for sure.
TH: What’s up with the Minute Maid?
OT: I love Minute Maid. I’m still keeping that tradition.
TH: Is it a tradition or like a superstition? “I’m going to lose if I don’t do the Minute Maid!”
OT: Oh no; I don’t take it that far, because I have missed it before. I try to do it every game.
Day 20: Jackson Ross
Ted Hall: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. My son-in-law is from Australia.
Jackson Ross: Oh yeah?
TH: Yeah, how far were you from Mooroolbark?
JR: Jeez, I was born about 20 minutes from there, so pretty close.
TH: You sound just like him. What brings you to America? How long you been here?
JR: I got here around this time last year. It’s coming to a year now, I think it was Aug. 13? Middle of Fall Camp, then didn’t participate last year. So this will be my first camp, and I’m looking forward to it.
TH: What do you have for expectations here in Tennessee? What are you going to do in college?
JR: Well, it’s going to be my first time playing American football in Nashville.
TH: No kidding?
JR: Really looking forward to putting my feet in in that stadium and taking it one week at a time. A sport that I’ve never played is going to be different.
TH: The ball is different. It’s a different size, different shape. Is it harder to get the same difference? Yours is a little bit rounder?
JR: It’s similar. But yeah, I guess ten meters less, ten yards, whatever you guys say.
TH: Do they have to explain the rules to you? Are you at that point where you’re like “okay, what happens when this happens during the play when I’m out there?”
JR: Oh the boys at Florida State, yeah I ran past the line of scrimmage and punted it. And all us Australian boys would be like “okay, what’s wrong with that?” Now I know a few things.
Day 19: Jaylen Wright
Ted Hall: Let’s talk about last season, first of all. That had to be kind of a... I mean for the fans, they were going berserk. You guys had to have a great season too, because the players get all that success. What was it like?
Jaylen Wright: It was amazing. I got the real experience. Real SEC football. You know what I’m saying? Big games like Georgia, Alabama. The fans, the crowd noise. The intensity of the game. It gave me the real feeling of SEC football.
TH: Does it concern you about injuries? Or no?
JW: No not really. I don’t think about injuries. That’s not the way I go. I just play. Of course things happen; that just comes with the game. What’s on my mind is doing great on the field, making plays.
TH: Did pretty good on the field last year, didn’t you? Almost 900 yards? Ten touchdowns.
JW: Yes sir.
TH: Can you get better than that this year?
JW: Oh yeah. This year is a year of... I don’t like to talk too much, but I’m about to do big things.
TH: Tell me about the number change.
JW: The number change. This zero. One person had it before me. I knew I wasn’t going to be the first one, but this is my number. Zero. It stands for ground zero; a lot of catastrophic things are about to happen on that field this year. I’m excited.
Day 18: Jeremiah Crawford
Ted Hall: Your shoes are significant.
Jeremiah Crawford: Yeah, they’re pretty big, man.
TH: How hard is it to get...what are they, 18s?
JC: Yes, sir.
TH: Those... they don’t carry those in most stores do they?
JC: Not at all. I mean, you go in there - I remember asking for size 16s when I wore those and they laughed at me.
TH: Was that like high school or something?
JC: Yeah, that was in high school.
TH: In Kansas? High school in Kansas?
JC: Yes, sir.
TH: How’s...I mean I used to live in Kansas for a long time too. How do you think Kansas and Tennessee are different? What do you see?
JC: Oh man. Well, like obviously like the atmosphere.
TH: There’s trees!
JC: Trees, mountains - everything in Kansas is pretty flat. So like, there’s not a whole lot to look at but, here in Tennessee is like a lot more scenic.
TH: What’s going to happen this year? What do you think?
JC: We’re going to win it all, man. And if we’re going out, we’re going to be working like we always have, so we always have high expectations for the season.
TH: You proved it last year.
JC: Yes, sir. We’re coming for more. We ain’t hungry...we’re hungry but we ain’t done.
TH: Came that close to making the playoffs. What’s that feel like? What’s that taste like?
JC: I mean it hurts. Knowing you’re that close and not being able to finish the job. So that’s one thing that keeps us pissed off I’d say.
TH: Can you do the things that you liked to do in Kansas when you’re here? Fishing - do you get to do that? Do you get to do some hunting and stuff like that here?
JC: Yeah, I haven’t gotten to do a whole lot of hunting here. I mean if anybody wants to take me out let me know. But, I haven’t got out and gone fishing so, me and my boy Dane Davis, we go out and fish every once in a while.
TH: How do you like Coach Heupel?
JC: I love him. I mean, he was recruiting me while they were at UCF out of juco, and that was like one of my first D1 offers. So, when they all came here and Coach Elarbee called me on the phone and told me what the deal was, I said I’m there, let’s do it!
TH: I hope you have a great year man.
JC: Appreciate it!
TH: Thank you!
Day 17: Keenan Pili
Ted Hall: How does your wife like it here so far?
Keenan Pili: She’s liked it. It’s grown on her so far. I think it was a slow process at first, you know, getting used to a new area. First time being on the east/south.
TH: From where? Now your wife was where?
KP: She’s from Alaska. Uh, we came, I was from Utah, so big change.
TH: Are you enjoying the restaurants and stuff like that? Are you enjoying East Tennessee.
KP: Oh, yeah, for sure. We try a place all the time, me and my wife for date night. For sure.
TH: Was she there the time when you guys at BYU played Tennessee; did she come to the game?
KP: No, we weren’t married at the time for that, but she watched it.
TH: What do you remember about that game?
KP: Yeah, I think, you know, one being the environment. I don’t know. That was kind of my first SEC experience. And then playing at Tennessee was pretty cool. Just, I remember just how the stadium was built and how loud it got.
TH: You’re used to fishing in Utah? Trout and stuff like that?
KP: Yeah yeah, for sure. And they’ve got trout stuff out here.
TH: We do have trout streams around here! The trout streams here, you put a piece of corn on a hook, you put a bobber on it, you toss it into the Clinch River and you’ll catch a trout. You can do much more elaborate stuff, but there’s a trick. There’s a fishing tip for you. What do you hope for this season? What are your goals?
KP: Man, I’m just excited to be a part of this experience. I feel like, the ceiling is off the top for this team of what we can accomplish this year, and I’m so excited just to be a part of it.
Day 16: Javontez Spraggins
Ted Hall: Javontez, why do they call you “The Zoo Keeper”?
Javontez Spraggins: Really last year when we got into winning more games and having those big outcomes over teams that a lot of times the fans didn’t expect. Like, just one time after a game like a fan was waiting on me with like a large stuffed animal, and I was like ‘man, let me have that! Like let me get that!’
I need to show the whole fanbase how big this, like, creature is y’all brought out here! And I guess they expected... they knew... they just knew in their hearts we were winning. So after that game, I just... I knew, and they knew too, because I got a random Instagram text saying, like, ‘hey we gave you that animal, we want to continue doing this, that and the third.’ And then it just became something from that time. Like, I wasn’t like... I’m a regular person. Like, I’ll sit up here and if I get a text message from somebody, I’m going to look and see who it is. Like, I’m not going to ignore it. It turns out they’re really good people. And it just became something from that point.
TH: Do you like working around the kitchen and getting the meals prepared?
JS: Yeah, like, I don’t know. I consider myself a responsible guy. Like, I live by myself, I don’t have payments on cards and stuff like that. I make sure I’ve got cards that I haven’t paid on that are paid for. Like I do the stuff right so I don’t have to suffer in the long run. And that’s just out of my brain, like, knowing what I wanted to do when I got here and knowing how I wanted to...knowing what I wanted my outcome to be when I left here.
So, I’m spending time at home with my dog. I’ve got a nice little crib. I stay by myself off campus. Get here on time just enough to put me in a position to where I feel comfortable as, like, a regular guy and I don’t feel so confined to this football thing. But it doesn’t distract me from being the player that I am.
TH: You’re a wise man. You’ve got a lot of wisdom.
TH: Thank you for doing this with us.
JS: Man, I appreciate you.
Day 15: Bru McCoy
Ted Hall: Bru, how’s East Tennessee treating you so far?
Bru McCoy: Treating me great!
TH: It’s better than California, obviously, in every way. Clearly! The lakes are so much better than the ocean. It’s got to feel good though? Making a decision like that and having it turn out as well as it did?
BM: For sure. Yeah, I mean, in hindsight looking back, it’s like I couldn’t have made a better decision, you know? I mean with everything we accomplished last year...I mean I didn’t know what I was getting into last year. Like you said, I came in summer last season and had about 10 to 12 weeks to prepare for the season and learn the offense and everything; the way it played out, you couldn’t have written it better.
TH: What do you like to do besides football? When you’re not playing football what do you do?
BM: I really try to reconnect with like...I’ve got a lot of family back home. So really, in my free time I call home, I check in with people, I read, I watch a lot of movies. I haven’t fished too much here but back home in California I fished quite a bit.
TH: What kind? Did you do ocean fishing?
BM: Ocean fishing, yeah.
TH: Shore? Or deep?
BM: Yeah, we go deep ocean fishing. Yeah, sometimes we go down into Rosarito into Mexico a little bit and chase some different fish there.
TH: Different kind of fishing here altogether, but good fishing here. It’s just different.
TH: What do you want to do when you’re done here, done with college football?
BM: Right. Obviously, I have aspirations of playing in the NFL at the professional level. But beyond that, I really enjoy the spectrum of real estate. Not exactly sure of where in real estate I want to do it - more commercial or maybe residential. But you know, I’m not sure yet. But I kind of enjoy the figuring it out - the process of learning what I’m passionate about beyond football you know?
TH: I could talk to you all day too, but we don’t have that much time, man. Thank you very much, Bru! It was really good to meet you!
BM: Thank you!
Day 14: Elijah Herring
Ted Hall: What’s it like having your brother join you here?
Elijah Herring: It’s great. It feels just like it was back at home. I mean, you see him every day. We still talk. He’s still learning stuff from me. I’ve still learned stuff from him. So I mean, it’s just great to have him here and it’s just been better for the whole family. So they don’t have to travel all over the place.
TH: Do you guys practice together or are you in different areas a lot? Do actually work out together?
EH: So, most of the time we’re split up because he’s in the young group they still get with the young guys and I’m with the oldest right now, but during the season we’ll be working out together most of the time.
TH: How about goals for yourself?
EH: Be a true quarterback on the field like if somebody’s having trouble I can tell them what to do then they are good. Just pay attention to little details on the field like down, in the distance, and also just be a leader throughout the facility like leading coaches, leading by example, leading everybody that sees me and just being able to have some type of effect on somebody.
TH: How proud’s Mom of you and your brother?
EH: She tells you, she can’t even explain it. She tells us every day, ‘I’m just proud of y’all.’
TH: When you’re in the eighth grade you probably have no idea what you’re capable of. Then all of a sudden people are telling you you’re capable of amazing stuff.
TH: How do you deal with that?
EH: You just got to keep your head down because I mean, it can get to you. It’ll get to you fast, just like that. But keeping a cool head, keeping level, knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It’ll keep you right there where you need to be.
Day 13: Wesley Walker
Ted Hall: How is East Tennessee treating you now? You’ve been here a while, you’ve kind of gotten used to it. Good decision to come here out of Georgia Tech?
Wesley Walker: Yes. Yes, sir. A great decision for me both off the field and on the field. It’s been an easy transition. I’m from Tennessee. So, I’m used to being around people from Tennessee.
TH: How much free time do you typically get in a day or a week? You got class, you got football, you got meetings, you just take care of your body the whole time. What kind of free time do you get?
WW: I say our schedule was pretty actually pretty good, better than most in terms of giving us time but you know, you got to be a professional with that time you give us. You got to like I say get your body back right, and really, they preached staying off our legs because when we come in, we gotta be expected to work. So
TH: Top three expectations for the season for you?
WW: For me personally or for the team?
TH: Both. Throw one of each in there.
WW: I’m going for the Jim Thorpe Award for the team. You know, SEC championship. And then you win the SEC championship, you get an opportunity at the national championship, and that’s what we want.
Day 12: Brandon Turnage
Ted Hall: How’s your daughter doing?
Brandon Turnage: She’s doing great.
TH: And she’s now two?
BT: Yes sir.
TH: What’s her name?
BT: Aspen Turnage.
TH: What’s it like being a dad and a college football player at the same time? Not too many of you I don’t think on the team.
BT: Well, you know. It’s a challenge every day to make sure you’re balancing your household and school and football and everything else we have to do. Trying to fit it into a schedule where I can be able to manage to do all my work for football, all my school work and then get home to be a father.
And then whatever we have to do with football in the afternoon, make sure I’m prepared and ready to go for that. So it’s kind of a challenge, but it’s fun.
TH: What kind of fun stuff do you like to do with your girl?
BT: Recently, well we just spend so much money doing fun stuff. Because she just brings out the inner kid in me. Really takes me back to my childhood. For example, yesterday we went to Main Event and played in the arcade, we bowled and stuff like that. Two days before that we went down to Pigeon Forge and rode the Farris wheel and all the rides. Just to let her have fun so she isn’t bundled up in the house all day.
TH: In most games, the defense played well enough to get a win, even if the offense didn’t score that much. Does the defense need to get that much better?
BT: Yes sir, the defense needs to get a lot better in a short amount of time. We need to get better for us and for the guys in the locker room and our team. We need to have more urgency and be efficient.
Day 11: Dont’e Thornton Jr.
Ted Hall: How you enjoying East Tennessee so far?
Dont’e Thornton Jr.: I love it. I love it better than Eugene.
TH: Better than Eugene?
DT: Definitely better than Eugene.
TH: Good, good. What brought you to Tennessee? How did we win you is another way to look at it.
DT: First thing I’d say is with the coaches, like Coach Pope, Coach Cook and then Coach Heupel, with how they recruited me. I could feel that this was a very family-oriented team. That’s one of the biggest things I was looking at.
TH: When you see how they play on that offense, I mean as an outsider to that offense, what do you think about you in it?
DT: When I came here, playing offense seemed like the best situation for me to be in.
TH: I can’t wait to see you in there.
DT: I can’t wait.
TH: People around here, they love their team. They’re going to welcome you, but they don’t know a ton about you. What would you tell Tennessee fans about you? A couple little tidbits you want them to know.
DT: I’m the best Call of Duty player on the team.
TH: Bingo, that’s nice.
DT: I have a YouTube channel so you can keep up with me on my YouTube channel.
TH: What is it?
DT: The Dont’e Thornton Jr. on YouTube.
TH: Coach Heupel. He seems to me like a regular guy; he doesn’t seem like a superstar coach. Is he like that as a coach too?
DT: Coach “Heup” is really cool. Even on my visits and stuff, he’s the same person now as he was then. I will say, I’m the only person who beat him in bowling. So he may see this, he may not see it. If he does see it, he’ll know I said that.
TH: What’s you best score in bowling?
DT: I don’t even remember, I wasn’t even that good.
TH: Good job, man!
Day 10: Squirrel White
Ted Hall: You kind of had a “Hello everybody! I’m the guy to watch!” season last year. Did you feel like that? Are you about to blow up?
Squirrel White: I feel like I am, actually. I feel like y’all got to see that in the Orange Bowl. Popped out for like 100 yards or something like that with a touchdown. So yeah, we’ll see what happens this year.
TH: This offense kind of helps players excel and exceed and put up big numbers. Do you really like playing in this offense?
SW: Oh yeah I love playing in this offense! Coach “Hype” does a great job getting his playmakers the ball down the field wherever it needs to be.
TH: What did you eat when you were a kid? Because I want to make sure my grandkids eat plenty of it so they’re as fast as you. What did you eat when you were a kid?
SW: I’d say my favorite thing growing up eating was probably wings. I love wings! Yeah!
TH: Best kind of wings?
SW: Honey barbeque with a dash of lemon pepper on there.
TH: That’s a mix?
TH: That’s good! Ok, how hot will you go?
SW: Oh, I don’t like too much hot stuff
TH: These other guys eating all the hot stuff, all you’re doing is burning your mouth and you can’t taste anything after that!
SW: Yeah, I don’t like that.
TH: Breakout seasons is what this team has given Cedrick, Jalin. What did you learn from those guys, and the work that they put into it?
SW: I just learned that it’s next man up, for real. Ced had a good year like two years ago, then Jalin had a good year last year, so I just feel like I could be next.
TH: Good luck!
SW: Yes, sir!
TH: Thank you very much and I hope you have a huge season!
SW: Yes, sir! Appreciate that!
TH: Thanks, Squirrel!
Day 9: Tyler Baron
Ted Hall: How does it feel having your hard work paying off? All SEC nominations and things like that; that’s something, Tyler.
Tyler Baron: It is! It’s a blessing just to even be considered in that light, to be honest. But I feel like just the team mindset going into it, I feel like we all want so much more. So I kind of just put it to the side and just kind of been focused on the team goals more so than anything.
TH: That Alabama game was exciting wasn’t it?
TB: It was! It was crazy!
TH: What was the worst moment for you last season? Those two losses? Was one of them worse?
TB: Yeah, one of them was definitely worse than the other for sure. Our most recent loss definitely stung a lot.
TH: What do you do about that this year? How do you make that pay off?
TB: I think the biggest thing...I mean, if you spend a day in our facility, you see how everybody works and we definitely have it all right on our chest, right on our shoulders and we’re excited for this year going into it.
TH: Other kind of fun stuff that you like to do when you’re not playing football?
TB: I’m a really big video game player. Call of Duty: Warzone. I like playing the video game. I also just like spending time with my people, my friends, my family. Just being around them, I think quality time is priceless.
TH: Tell me about your family. What’s it like having the family proud of you? You’re playing on national TV every week!
TB: Oh, I’m incredibly proud of my family: my mother, my father, both of my brothers, my extended brothers Wesley and Chris. I love everybody. Alayah. I love everybody. It’s unexplainable.
TH: Nice! We’ll let you get going.
TB: Yes, sir! I appreciate you!
TH: Thank you! Appreciate you! I hope you have a great season.
Day 8: Nico Iamaleava
Ted Hall: How you liking East Tennessee so far?
Nico Iamaleava: I love it man, it’s been great to me. The people here are great. In the locker room, all the guys want to see each other succeed, so it’s been great.
TH: A lot of what I’m seeing is you walking around talking to kids, shaking hands; is that something you enjoy doing?
NI: Yeah man, I think the fans only get that once in a lifetime and you don’t really know them. Just giving them that time of the day, pleasing people.
TH: How do you handle being under pressure? There’s so much hype coming with you. Do you notice that you get more hype than other people? Or are you just being yourself and doing your thing?
NI: Really I think I’m just being myself. I put in a lot of had work to get to where I’m at right now. When you work as hard as our QB room does, you won’t feel that pressure as much.
TH: What do you have for expectations for yourself at Tennessee?
NI: My expectations are to be a great teammate. Backing up Joe is going to be huge to me. I get to get a year under my belt just to learn how to be a college athlete.
TH: Have you had the chance to do anything fun besides football while you’ve been in East Tennessee? What do you do?
NI: Yeah, we took trips to Dollywood, Gatlinburg. It was cool to see that side of Tennessee. It was cool to see all the events they had, like upside down buildings and laser tag. I took a trip with my family to Dollywood. It’s been fun, man.
Day 7: Joe Milton III
Ted Hall: Other quarterbacks, Joe, Heisman-caliber talent, starting-quarterback talent would have left when they got benched. Why did you stick it out? Why did you stay?
Joe Milton III: I had to understand what I did wrong in the beginning. You know the things that I did wrong, the things I can improve on as a man and as a football player.
TH: You’re still a leader as a backup quarterback. How do you do that?
JM: I mean it’s a better way to get to the team as a backup, man. I know some people don’t like being the backup, but the backup can teach you a lot you know. You get around the team that the star quarterback may not have. Like I was around the team more than Hendon [Hooker] because Hendon was more busy than that so I was making up handshakes with guys. I was dapping up different types of guys. I was getting to know guys more throughout that process of being a backup.
TH: How about this year? What do you think? What do you think about this year?
JM: I mean, honestly, truly, I have a lot of confidence and everybody in this building.
TH: How about Peyton Manning’s camp, your throw? Have you ever gotten so much attention in your life? Was that the thing that just kind of put you over the top? Oh, you’re on a rocket ship right now.
JM: Yeah, I mean, I don’t really know what going on.
TH: You don’t pay attention to all that?
JM: No, I don’t really pay attention to it.
TH: People are talking about you, I’ll just tell you that.
JM: I see it. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, you got some guys that were posting on the team so I see it, but I don’t really feed into the hype that’s going on.
TH: So are you happy you’re here in East Tennessee?
JM: Love that I’m here. It’s another opportunity. It’s a blessing. You know not many people have this opportunity. There’s a lot of people in this world that want to be in my shoes. So I live it out through that. I move on and I’d be happy every day.
Day 6: Aaron Beasley
Ted Hall: Where did you come from last year? My goodness, what a season! You were you were on!
Aaron Beasley: Yeah, just you know, getting comfortable with the position, with the with the system that we’re running, you know. That prepared me for the success I had.
TH: Let’s talk about the number change. Aaron’s gonna have number six on this year. How come?
AB: Just a little switch-up. You know, 24 hours is a special number to me for sure. But it was it was given to me when I first got here so I actually wanted to, you know, pick my number. And I also wore six and REC ball, so just going back to that, it made sense.
TH: Yeah, it makes sense. Let’s talk about last season a little bit. The biggest win for you, the most exciting game for you, what was number one?
AB: I have to say the game in Pittsburgh. You know, I feel like that kind of set the tone for us as the season went on. You know, it was a close game, a tight game and we actually finished that game on top. And I feel like a lot of times in the past, we would get in those games and we wouldn’t come out on top - those close, tight games. And I feel like that, you know, propelled us on through the season.
TH: Do you like it here? Are you happy you came? Not just to UT, but to this area of the country?
AB: Yeah, most definitely. You know.
TH: Franklin? Am I right? Was it Franklin, Georgia? Small town? How big is that town?
AB: It’s not big. One red light. You know, I spent my last two years of high school there. I’m actually from Bowden, Georgia, so I spent most of my life coming up. And it’s no different than Franklin, you know. Might have like two red lights in Bowden. he says.
TH: Twice as big!
AB: Yeah, so I mean they basically the same. But yeah, you know, I like it here - love it here in Knoxville. You know, it’s my fifth year being here and it’s home to me for sure.
TH: Have a great season!
AB: Yes, sir man! Appreciate you!
Day 5: Ramel Keyton
Ted Hall: Ramel tell me about that catch.
Ramel Keyton: Laughs.
TH: That’s all you have to say, isn’t it? I mean, what a ridiculous catch. How did you do that?
RK: I really don’t know, honestly. I was just trying to dive under it, but then it kept going. It was just reactionary.
TH: What was New York City like? New York stock exchange, was that what it was?
RK: We visited there, but New York. It’s not for me, honestly. Too much going on, too many people.
TH: A lot of smells in New York!
RK: I think we went on trash day too, so it smelled like trash everywhere.
TH: Okay let’s talk about stuff when you’re not playing football. A lot of that’s about to go away, I’d guess.
RK: Well when I’m not playing football I like to make money.
TH: You got something going on?
RK: Still working on wholesale right now on my real estate. Other than that I like to fish, listen to music. That kind of stuff.
TH: Tennessee is there again, and you’re a part of that. How does that feel?
RK: It feels good, but there’s still work to be done. It’s not like we made it and can just look back. But it feels good.
Day 4: Warren Burrell
Ted Hall: Tell me about the agricultural leadership that you’re doing in college. What would you do with that, Warren?
Warren Burrell: Yeah, so agricultural leadership is pretty broad as far as the things you can do with it because it’s a leadership masters at the end of the day. So anything that involves you know, leading people, working with teams, working with groups, it relates a lot to what we do here you know, on the football team, so that’s why I enjoy it.
TH: Hope you don’t mind talking about this a little bit the bad luck thing or not, but what was it like getting hurt? How frustrating? How saddening? What was it like?
WB: Man, it’s a lot of missing out, you know? It’s a pretty big effect on you in the beginning, but, you know, it’s like anything, you know, it’s life. Things are gonna happen that you don’t want to happen. You know, it’s just like anything else, you gotta roll with it. You got to adapt, you got to adjust to it, and at the end of it, you’ve got to come out stronger than when it happened. So I feel like i did that well.
TH: Probably an obvious question, but I bet it’s real too. Makes you a little bit hungrier, doesn’t it?
WB: Yeah, yeah, it’s a weird feeling because it’s like you know, you’re watching from the sideline, but at the same time you watching you guys, your friends go out there and ball and compete to the highest level and give their all. So it mostly motivates you to to get back on the field and want to do what they’re doing.
TH: Does your family kind of get around you and help you did you get support from them? I’m sure they were disappointed too. Scared?
WB: Yeah, they were a big part in my comeback and me doing the things I need to do to get back on the field. Support from them, man, is like nothing else. Without my family, you know, it’s, it would be a much harder road than what it was.
Day 3: Dee Williams
Ted Hall: Tell me about some of these touchdowns and some of these long punt returns and other things.
Dee Williams: Before the injury, I worked hard at it on and off the field. Coach Blocker and Coack “Ek” always told me to just wait for your turn, and the LSU game was the first game I was back. And obviously, that punt return was the first one. I was kind of shocked myself with how far I got on that one. And the Vandy game, the one I scored on.
TH: If it weren’t football, what kind of thing would you be doing, Dee?
DW: Probably dancing somewhere, or anything to help out younger kids to make sure they grow up having a better lifestyle than I had.
TH: Are there some difficulties maybe that you had growing up that people might not know about that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?
DW: Not really. I just kind of always, like, been distant from my surroundings growing up. Really, I just try to teach kids there’s always a way to grow up and be the best you can be.
TH: How does that help? When you’re going through tough times? When things are good? How does that help?
DW: I really think a lot of people just think words in the Bible are just something to read. But like, if you really get deep into it, there’s a lot of stuff in the Bible that we’ve already done out in this world. And I just try to follow those words at the end and keep my faith in God.
TH: What does it feel like in the locker room? Do you feel like one of the best teams in the country?
DW: Yes, sir! Every day we go out before we leave the locker room we just make sure we’re on the same page. And like I said Coach “Hype” likes for us to keep each other accountable.
Day 2: Jabari Small
Ted Hall: You led the team in touchdowns? 13 last year?
Jabari Small: Yeah, I did!
TH: Holy cow! Everyone thinks it’s a throwing game and this is a throwing offense. You guys run the ball and you score a lot. That’s got to be fun!
JS: Yeah, the passing game helps the running game and vice versa, so it’s definitely spread across the board.
TH: Talking to some of the other guys earlier already today and they’re talking about the weapons, the receivers and the running backs. Sounds like you guys are loaded this year again.
JS: I mean it’s crazy because you see everybody grow, but like you see their games just starting to develop. And just across the board from receivers to running backs, it’s just like anywhere you look, man, there are just dogs everywhere. I’m excited!
TH: Not knowing what this coaching staff that’s coming in is going to be like, and having it turn out like this?
JS: Man, it’s just definitely...you have to have some type of faith, like I said before. With Coach “Hype” and what he’s preaching, you obviously don’t know what it looks like until the season starts. So that first year when he got there, I think he went about things the right way, but I think we really didn’t know how it was going to turn out. But everybody had a leap of faith. We all bought into what he was doing and we came a long way. So it’s just definitely trying to trust where he was going.
Day 1: Jacob Warren
Ted Hall: Alright, Jacob. Golf. Is it better than football?
Jacob Warren: I think I have to say “no,” right? But I do have a really good time with it.
TH: You play a lot of the courses around East Tennessee. A lot of the teammates play too?
JW: Yeah. A lot of us do. Obviously, it’s something we can be competitive at off the field.
TH: You’ve been with this team a long time.
JW: Oh yeah.
TH: You’ve been around Tennessee football a lot longer, growing up, being from here. How satisfying was last season?
JW: Man, it was great. It was something I didn’t really get a chance to think about, right? Until the process was over, and then my future, my future with the program. Last year had a lot to do with the fact that I’m sitting here again today. The program has reached a point that it hasn’t been to in a while.
TH: You know, the question about Joe is how accurate he can be. For the last several games he’s played at Tennessee, he’s been accurate. Do you see that?
JW: Can’t deny it. When you see what he did in the Orange Bowl. There’s going to be times, and I hate when people bring it up, it was one of his first starts. The Vanderbilt game last year.
TH: Crazy rain.
JW: Crazy rain. Wide receivers are getting held, balls are going over heads. And everyone is saying “oh, he’s over-throwing.” That’s going to happen. It’s the timing. And out timing has just gotten tremendous since. Expect really big things. I tell people he’s going to win the Heisman. And I truly believe that. Hopefully I can be a part of that success for him.
TH: What’s next for you?
JW: Man, I got two degrees now. Graduated with my masters last December. Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to play beyond Tennessee in the NFL. If that’s not what the Lord has in store for me, then I’ve got two degrees. I can get a job somewhere.
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