Strange: Eager fans get a grip on Kiffin

They lined both sides of Volunteer Boulevard, fidgeting and looking intently to the west. Finally, someone said, "Here they come."

And here, in fact, they came. Lane Kiffin's first Vol Walk. He won't ever forget it.

The crowd surged off the curbs and into the street, a crush of orange that reduced the path to single file.

Kiffin was in the lead, dapper in a khaki suit and sunglasses, a security officer attempting to part the throng ahead of him. If Tennessee's new football coach is claustrophobic, he disguised it well.

A few steps behind, assistant coach Ed Orgeron whooped and laughed and high-fived everybody. Far to the rear, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, a man old enough to be retired and fishing on a day like this, cavorted like a sophomore on spring break.

On they marched, the crescendo growing as they approached Neyland Stadium.

"I've never seen anything like that,'' Lane Kiffin said later.

"The whole day was unbelievable.''

For four months, Tennessee fans have been sizing up their new football coach, mostly from arm's length. They've read and listened to what he says - and then to the reactions of others about what he says.

Saturday, there was no arm's length. It was a day to get up close.

Kiffin realized as much Saturday morning when he looked out the window during a team meeting in the football complex.

Orange folks were lining up to get in Haslam Field for Fans Day.

"It was two hours before it started,'' Kiffin said. "I was just blown away from it.''

So he scheduled a mini-Vol Walk, the team parading through the fans to get to the pregame meal.

The real Vol Walk was something else. Normally, fans stay on the curb, leaving the street clear for their heroes. Not this time.

"It was really crazy,'' said defensive end Chris Walker.

Crazy was good.

"I really thank our fans,'' Kiffin said. "It was exactly what we needed today.

"We needed to find out who among our players was going to thrive in that environment and who was not.''

The fans did their part to create a game-day atmosphere. They turned out, 51,488 of them, the second-largest spring crowd in UT history.

Their presence and their enthusiasm could only be construed as a warm welcome for Kiffin and the winds of change he has brought since he was named coach Dec. 1.

"I'm on board completely,'' said Michael Mackey of Powell, while waiting for the Vol Walk to arrive. "It seems like he's really juiced to get things turned around.''

There's no disputing the fact that Kiffin has, uh, juiced UT football. He has made headlines both with unexpected recruiting successes and with brash comments that puzzle national pundits, infuriate rivals and are applauded by Tennessee fans.

"I'm enthusiastic about everything he's saying,'' said longtime fan Ron Weaver of Kingsport.

"Anything he can say about Florida or Alabama, that's great.''

Added Paul Nicholson of Nashville, "It's helped put us back in the limelight. I love it.''

The day also included a cameo appearance from the man who was in the limelight for the past 16 seasons.

It was a bit surreal to see former coach Phillip Fulmer materialize at the Wolf-Kaplan media center at the stadium prior to kickoff.

He popped in for a short press conference about receiving the Robert Neyland Award, sitting in the same seat at the same table where on Nov. 3 he emotionally addressed being fired.

Asked to don his TV analyst hat and assess the coming season, Fulmer had a good line.

"I'm an alumnus first,'' he said. "I think we're supposed to win 'em all.''

Happily, there was love to go around. The fans who were welcoming Kiffin with such fervor treated Fulmer to a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game.

But this was Kiffin's day, without question, one long embrace.

Once the game kicked off, his offense even cooperated with some much-appreciated fireworks.

In the big picture, this was a celebration of a new beginning. In the smaller frame, however, it was an ending. Spring practice is over.

That means nearly four months of waiting until the pads go on again.

"I wish we could keep going,'' Kiffin said. "We've got so much to do to become a championship team.''

His fan base wants so very badly for that to come true.

The next Vol Walk is Sept. 5. Get your spot early.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 38

memphis_vol_fan writes:

If CLK and company think this Vol Walk was amazing, they'll be blown away on Sept. 5.

bigvolen74 writes:

I WILL BE THERE! IM FIRED UP!

sameolvolalum writes:

Here's an idea: Let's not respond to any of those useless interlopers. Go Vols! It was a wonderful day to be orange!

Seriouslyorange writes:

" Oh waht a beautiful day"!!!! Everythings going our way!!!!

GO VOLS.....Go Vols.....GO VOLS.. GO!!!!!!!

memphis_vol_fan writes:

Gotta love Fulmer's comment: "I'm an alumnus first. I think we're supposed to win them all."

Welcome to the fold, Phil. Happy to have you.

smashmouth98 writes:

we was defintely PIMPIN!!!!

wyomingvol writes:

GoVols.

mike2ray#532619 writes:

Come on SMO, let's give the positive! This was a day the team totally needed. We as fans are going have to give it all every home game. Today was great. I'm sunburned and I love it. This team is going to do something surprising this year. I dare say the Kiffin Clan is going to bring us a lot of good times. I bet that Coach O and Monte left to get another awesome recruit. If that's the case, I don't care if I didn't get their autograph this day! Tennessee is coming back and nothing will stop it. It may not be this year for a championship--but it's coming!

Titan writes:

I'm not sure where Mike normally views the Vol Walk, but from where I usually watch (just up the hill from the press box), the fans never "stay on the curb" - we are always in the street and it is always single file. I appreciate the enthusiasm but I also appreciate accuracy in reporting.

Voluvr writes:

in response to Titan:

I'm not sure where Mike normally views the Vol Walk, but from where I usually watch (just up the hill from the press box), the fans never "stay on the curb" - we are always in the street and it is always single file. I appreciate the enthusiasm but I also appreciate accuracy in reporting.

It's different all the way down. One sided then two sided, then around the stadium past 21. There is usually more room coming down the hill. I think that is what he means.

teampenny#658108 writes:

Good day for Vol fans. An we are suppose to win them all. We have the best fans we should have only the best players and coaches. Go Vols

txvolsfan writes:

Stones kiffin is pulling all the right strings. I just love Coach O and Monte, these guys must mainline caffine all the time. Everyone said that Coach O wasn't a X's and O's coach but I bet that Chris Walker and the rest of the D-line would disagree with you!!! Chris is an animal and will get at least 12 sacks this year.
GO VOLS
CAN'T WAIT FOR THE SEPT. 5TH.
and then can't wait to stomp a mud hole in the SWAMP!!!
Urban Cryer the most classless coach in the SEC!!!
I have a friend who writes for Rivals and he says that Urban cries about everyone else but in fact is the dirtiest recruiter in the SEC and will say anything and trash anyone. He said that non of the coaches in the SEC like or respect him!!!

volsoutwest writes:

I haven't seen us this excited since Dave Claussen(sp.) was named Offensive Co-Ordinator. Sorry guys just trying to get a jump on the intelopers. Wow what a good day to be a Tenn Vol. Couldn't be there in person but great to hear from those who were. Having been a Vol fan for over 40 years from all those descriptions I could almost see Kiffin and the Vols in the walk, smell the hotdogs cooking, see that sea of orange, hummm I even thought I heard John and Bill in the background somewhere. Gosh darn, I miss them. Sorry for all the reminiscing but...Heck!! Go Vols!!!

volsoutwest writes:

That was d a r n not the other word.

rocky_topper writes:

guys/gals, if we ALL would seriously stop responding to dcdynasty, gatorz, butch, richrollins, (remember each have several names on here but probably are the same of 2-3 people) ..... they would stop. no matter how hard it is to not repond to them as you ARE ONLY FEEDING THEIR EGOS WHEN YOU RESPOND....just stop doing it. this is all they are trying to do, ruin our forums! ignore them! also, go to contacts at the top of the page and hound the heck out of KNS to get us an ignore button on here where we can ignore people! i have done this....

rocky_topper writes:

in response to ETorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I saw Monte in the vol walk and actually gave him a high-five. You could tell he was ecstatic about doing the VOL walk for the first time.

richvol writes:

The best way to deal with interlopers is to ignore their rantings. Just don't even READ their tripe and you won't be tempted to respond to it...your're not going to change their mindless poop anymore than they will change your mind about supporting the VOLS.

Have some discipline...just skip over their idiocy.

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to rocky_topper:

guys/gals, if we ALL would seriously stop responding to dcdynasty, gatorz, butch, richrollins, (remember each have several names on here but probably are the same of 2-3 people) ..... they would stop. no matter how hard it is to not repond to them as you ARE ONLY FEEDING THEIR EGOS WHEN YOU RESPOND....just stop doing it. this is all they are trying to do, ruin our forums! ignore them! also, go to contacts at the top of the page and hound the heck out of KNS to get us an ignore button on here where we can ignore people! i have done this....

When are you going to stop posting this same thing on every article?We got the message .

VolunteerPassion writes:

in response to memphis_vol_fan:

If CLK and company think this Vol Walk was amazing, they'll be blown away on Sept. 5.

Crompton said this Vol Walk was the most awesome walk he has ever been in!!! They didn't have anyone blocked off. Everybody was just grabbing the coaches and players. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!! And even better, WE WON!!!! lol

tennezz writes:

in response to richvol:

The best way to deal with interlopers is to ignore their rantings. Just don't even READ their tripe and you won't be tempted to respond to it...your're not going to change their mindless poop anymore than they will change your mind about supporting the VOLS.

Have some discipline...just skip over their idiocy.

I have said this for some time, Don`t read their posts and you will not feel a need to respond! This will take all the fun out it for them! Just skip over them!

blitzshoot writes:

Good to see the fire in the gut of UT football again.
Cob-webs are gone.

old_number1 writes:

in response to tennezz:

I have said this for some time, Don`t read their posts and you will not feel a need to respond! This will take all the fun out it for them! Just skip over them!

I admit, I do read them. I keep thinking they might provide some info on the SEC, ect. But now that you mentioned it, I can't remember getting any legit info from them!

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

what was Layla wearing?

Volinsider writes:

To any recruits out there, Neyland stadium will be a packed house Sept. 5th when we play Western Kentucky. That pretty much says it all! We love our Vols!

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

When are you going to stop posting this same thing on every article?We got the message .

that's what makes it fun--to see how foolish they look spending all their waking hours on ut sites. then when they lose they don't post for months. during basketball season you don't hear a peep out of the Gator fools unless ut loses. (of course it wasn't florida beating ut)

old_number1 writes:

in response to ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER:

that's what makes it fun--to see how foolish they look spending all their waking hours on ut sites. then when they lose they don't post for months. during basketball season you don't hear a peep out of the Gator fools unless ut loses. (of course it wasn't florida beating ut)

Not only that, but they make the most ignorant statements. I would be embarrassed to show that stuff in public.

kman29 writes:

in response to txvolsfan:

Stones kiffin is pulling all the right strings. I just love Coach O and Monte, these guys must mainline caffine all the time. Everyone said that Coach O wasn't a X's and O's coach but I bet that Chris Walker and the rest of the D-line would disagree with you!!! Chris is an animal and will get at least 12 sacks this year.
GO VOLS
CAN'T WAIT FOR THE SEPT. 5TH.
and then can't wait to stomp a mud hole in the SWAMP!!!
Urban Cryer the most classless coach in the SEC!!!
I have a friend who writes for Rivals and he says that Urban cries about everyone else but in fact is the dirtiest recruiter in the SEC and will say anything and trash anyone. He said that non of the coaches in the SEC like or respect him!!!

wow! if that wasnt the biggest bunch of made up garbage. And this friend who "writes for Rivals" is named who?

Nice attempt at making up info. The only thing you know about Meyer is what you read in here or in a blog. The funny part is probably 80% of what is said about him is not even accurate about who he is. But you continue to believe your lies and made up stories. In the meantime he will just continue to win championships. You do know what those are dont you?

old_number1 writes:

in response to kman29:

wow! if that wasnt the biggest bunch of made up garbage. And this friend who "writes for Rivals" is named who?

Nice attempt at making up info. The only thing you know about Meyer is what you read in here or in a blog. The funny part is probably 80% of what is said about him is not even accurate about who he is. But you continue to believe your lies and made up stories. In the meantime he will just continue to win championships. You do know what those are dont you?

If you don't like the posts, why don't you go to another site? I know, because you have your 'right to be on here because it's free, blablabla'. Save it!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to abnerPeabody:

When are you going to stop posting this same thing on every article?We got the message .

Clearly not everyone has gotten the message! It is disgusting what a huge percentage of the comments on almost any thread on this board are loper comments and replies to them. Almost none of either category contains real info or even reasonable opinions. We can't keep them off here--and their attention is flattering in a sick kind of way--but we don't have to keep feeding them like the unwanted guests they are!

ThurmondEppy writes:

Notice how that clown posted the stupid FL fan acronym twice...because no one responded to it the first time. Keep ignoring them.

kjvols writes:

in response to rockybottomtenn:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Gator boy,your gonna be looking for a new
coach after C U M bolts to the Irish next year

ThurmondEppy writes:

in response to kjvols:

Gator boy,your gonna be looking for a new
coach after C U M bolts to the Irish next year

See there, you screwed up. You commented on something the interloper did. Now you've done it. IGNORE THEM!!!!!!!

MarbleVol48 writes:

If I were Urbano Meyer and Floriduh fans, and I had the Sr. Class horses they have I would be extremely careful what I said about this TN team & staff.... Unless Urbano plans to pursue his dream job in the next two years.. This TN staff will not be tolerant or forgiving. There is a storm brewing and GA & Duh are not going to be happy sooner than I first thought!

Ralph_Crampton writes:

What a coaching staff we have...did you notice Coach "0", the guy that recruited super players and shocked new coach Houston with such awesome linemen that he had recruited at Ols Miss. Instead of a has been, Nutt is a hero at ole Miss, ans with a big nice contract...and more money..laughing all the way to the bank. That shows you what a staff the Volunteers have...look out college football....Prayers do come true EH Houston?

tennezz writes:

in response to robvols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ignore him, He is like a buzzard flying around looking for his next meal!

mjaichele writes:

in response to tennezz:

I have said this for some time, Don`t read their posts and you will not feel a need to respond! This will take all the fun out it for them! Just skip over them!

You are absolutely right, "SHUN ON"....

matt2009 writes:

V.ICTORY'S
O.urs'
L.oser,
S.o

W.E
I.GNITE
N.EW &

O.LD
V.OLS,
E.VER
R.ESOUNDING

G.O VOLS !!!
A.nd
T.OUCHDOWN !!!!!
O.ver the
R.ABID!!!
S.wamp !!!!!!!

belayvol writes:

What's the over/under for the number of raggedy jorts that post in this thread?

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features