Derek Dooley: Game week preparation for Montana
Get ready for the fast break. It starts this week.
You know how it goes. August drags along like a blocking sled being pushed by sportswriters. But once the college football season starts, the days fly by like plays in Oregon's offense.
If August inches along for fans, you can make an educated guess on how excruciatingly slow the time passes for players. And the pace would be abhorrent even if they weren't butting heads in 90-degree heat.
A little more than a week into preseason camp, Tennessee players were ready for a football game. Imagine how they feel now.
The anticipation is heightened for Anthony Anderson, a fifth-year senior who played high school football at Austin-East and grew up a UT fan.
"This is the most excited I've ever been, knowing it's my last year," Anderson said. "It's amazing how it has gone by so quickly."
His first game at Neyland Stadium was the home opener in 2008 against UAB.
"I couldn't breathe when it finally hit me that I was running out the 'T,' " he said.
I wonder how many other players have lost their breath on the same short run from the tunnel to the sideline. The experience seems more acute for those who saw so many other players make the same run.
Zach Rogers can point to his seats in Neyland Stadium where he watched his brother, Austin, play. That didn't prepare him for his turn.
"I had been coming here for four years," he said. "I sat right up there (pointing to end zone seats)."
He sat, watched, and rose to his feet like the rest of the crowd when the Vols ran through the "T." As exciting as that was, it wasn't comparable to the ground-floor experience.
"When you put on that helmet with the 'T' on it, it's different," he said. "There's that roar of the crowd.
"I still get chills every time I run out through the 'T' no matter what game it is."
This week's season opener against Montana offers no extra boost. The last two years, the Vols opened with a new head coach; for most of their season openers in Neyland Stadium, there has been a bigger-name opponent, a new quarterback or the possible atonement from the previous season to raise the anticipation level.
These Vols have the same coach and the same quarterback as last year. And Montana doesn't quite offer the incentive that top-10 Cal did in the 2006 season opener.
But in a town where football matters so much, there's no such thing as a low-key opener. Even if the stadium isn't full Saturday, who can distinguish between a roar of 106,000 or 96,000 fans?
Sophomore defensive end Jacques Smith looked forward to that roar two and a half years before he actually got to experience it. As soon as he committed to UT as a sophomore in Ooltewah, he was fantasizing about running through the "T."
Said Smith: "When I ran through it, I felt like I was running a million miles an hour."
Once it starts, the season seems to go just that fast.
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 865-342-6284 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or email@example.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.