KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Three college students on the road ahead of game day, but they are driving away from campus. They are headed to pick up a vital part of Tennessee spirit, Smokey X.
Smokey is the live mascot of the University of Tennessee. The original Bluetick Coonhound was selected during halftime of a home game in 1953. During the mascot selection contest, fans had to make noise for their favorite dog.
When the fans cheered for Smokey, he howled back. The rest is history.
65 years and 10 dogs from the same bloodline later, Smokey X rules the sidelines with his handlers at UT events all over. The handlers, brothers of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at UT, care for him when he is not at his home. Smokey live in West Knoxville with his family, the Hudsons.
The AGR guys pick him up, bring him to campus, and are in charge of caring for him when he is not at home. Senior handler Kyle McMullen says it's a special experience that not many get to be a part of.
"Seeing the joy on on people's face when they see Smokey. Multiple times I've seen people cry. They say they've been waiting for years to meet Smokey," says McMullen.
When Smokey has on his vest, he is calm, professional, and an icon for the university. When he takes it off, he is just a normal dog.
"He's just a real dog. He's an outside dog. He'll be running around in his little enclosed area outside when we go and pick him up. He's just a normal family pet," says Chase Cardoza, one of Smokey's handlers.
Smokey's schedule is busy, but always full of attention. At the end of the day, the handlers say he is most comfy curled up on his old orange blanket, just being a dog with the guys.