John Adams: Mount LeConte could be step up for Vols

John Adams
Members of the Tennessee football team pose for a picture after climbing to the top of Mount LeConte last Saturday morning. (Photo courtesy UT Athletics)

Photo by UT Athletics

Members of the Tennessee football team pose for a picture after climbing to the top of Mount LeConte last Saturday morning. (Photo courtesy UT Athletics)

A black bear turned heads when it wandered onto the University of Tennessee campus last weekend. But high atop the Smoky Mountains, a massive hiking expedition probably was more startling to anyone on the same trail.

This is East Tennessee, where the encroachment of bears into human territory no longer falls into the "Oh my God" category. Half a football team ascending Mount LeConte en masse is less common.

Up they went last Saturday morning — coach Derek Dooley and about 35 players — to the wonderment of all the non-celebrity weekend hikers, some of whom occasionally turned the nature venture into an autograph session.

"We saw a ton of (fans)," Dooley said. "I think they were stunned at the herd of football players rolling past them."

The climb of over 6,000 feet wasn't for publicity. The Vols didn't even promote it beforehand. They just did it.

And nobody came up short. Not even the 300-pounders. The super-heavyweights included linemen Dallas Thomas, Antonio Richardson and Darrington Sentimore.

"I was really proud of them," Dooley said.

"Some guys just annihilated it," he added, singling out cornerback Marsalis Teague and linebackers Herman Lathers and A.J. Johnson.

But this wasn't just a scenic addition to UT's off-season conditioning program. It was more about building a team than scaling a mountain.

Among the participants were the 18 members of the team's unity council. Each one was allowed to invite another player.

"We've done a lot of things (to improve) leadership and team chemistry," Dooley said. "But that was only part of it. Some of these guys had never been on a hike. So it was a good life experience."

It also qualified as a not-so-subtle metaphor for a program attempting to climb its way from the bottom of the SEC East after a 5-7 2011 season. If last year's misadventure had been attributed solely to the team's talent void, Dooley's creative off-season itinerary might have little bearing on the season to come. Yet last year's failure was more complicated than that.

You saw how the Vols unraveled in a 49-7 loss to Arkansas. You heard how they cited "individual agendas" as a divisive factor following an inexplicable, season-ending loss to Kentucky. Maybe they weren't Team Turmoil. But they weren't a band of happy hikers, either.

If you hold the head coach accountable for a family somewhat divided, then you also should credit him for taking novel approaches to bring it together. And don't forget how much ground he had to cover in his first two challenging seasons when building a program superseded team building.

"It was something we wanted to put more energy into — team building and chemistry," Dooley said.

The hiking phase of the process took about two hours going up. The coach and players also took time to relax and eat as they looked out from the cliffs. Along the way, the novice hikers gained an appreciation for appropriate footwear.

"They made fun of me because I had my hiking shoes on," Dooley said. "Then, they were saying 'I got to get a pair like that.' "

A "good full day," Dooley called it. But now isn't the time for telling how good the hike or all the off-season team building might be.

"We won't know till next fall," Dooley said.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 61

TNlogfire writes:

JA...you weren't there, right.?..stop writing like you were, please. BTW, Fleser called and wants to know where his lady vol column went. I guess Fleser's the next one to jump the KNS ship, huh...?..all he twitters about now is the NHL (kiss of death around here)

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

"Some of these guys had never been on a hike. So it was a good life experience."

Yes...the failure to enjoy the great outdoors was what lost the game at Kentucky. Ceramic dogs, day hikes, the power of positive thinking...we might as well have Tony Robbins as a coach.

FEARinSEC writes:

J.A, I was ALMOST proud of you for putting a story together that had nothing to do with Dooley possibly getting fired, or our dismal season last year. ALMOST!
Same ole' same ole'... I guess.

"It also qualified as a not-so-subtle metaphor for a program attempting to climb its way from the bottom of the SEC East after a 5-7 2011 season. If last year's misadventure had been attributed solely to the team's talent void, Dooley's creative off-season itinerary might have little bearing on the season to come. Yet last year's failure was more complicated than that.

You saw how the Vols unraveled in a 49-7 loss to Arkansas. You heard how they cited "individual agendas" as a divisive factor following an inexplicable, season-ending loss to Kentucky. Maybe they weren't Team Turmoil. But they weren't a band of happy hikers, either."

ReVolver writes:

"Yes...the failure to enjoy the great outdoors was what lost the game at Kentucky. Ceramic dogs, day hikes, the power of positive thinking...we might as well have Tony Robbins as a coach."

You are trivializing the fact that part of the reason we lost that horrible game at Kentucky was, without a doubt, crappy "team chemistry".

Does your dislike of Dooley make you overlook even relatively simple concepts like this?

But, I suppose, we don't want the truth to get in the way of a good wisecrack. Good day sir.

MetroplexMojo writes:

On the topic of bears.....

Q: What does an Alabama fan and a maggot have in common?

A: Both have been living off a dead bear for 30 years

hcjournals#206623 writes:

We have the Smokies....Bama has SuperWalmart.....Let the games begin.....

Pullingguard writes:

Thanks John for a positive article.. It seems Dooley is trying very hard to bring the proper team spirit which hopefully will result in a decent season.. I think we all must realize what a mess Dooley inherted, and ask ourselves could anyone have done much better.. Dont think anyone knew how low the program had become, and certainly Dooley has not enjoyed the success that was expected, but just maybe there is light at end of tunnel and 2012 season will hopefully be good for the Vols and their fans..

snafu14u#241639 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

This is not a novel concept. The Vols are just late to the party on this "creative" approach. This is long over due, and I'm delighted to see the effort. Off topic, whatever happened to our pipeline to linemen from American Somoa. We used to get some great student athletes from there. BonzaiVol

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That's because you trolls don't know the rules. (Just one more thing you don't know.)

There are no limitations to activities with players who are already enrolled, that aren't "sport specific." The strength and conditioning coach can work with them because they aren't practicing football, they're just working out at the gym.

Players can get together and work on football stuff, like throwing and catching, but not with coaches.

Hiking in the Smokies isn't a football-specific activity, as far as I can tell. Dooley could take his players and have a intra-squad basketball tournament, or have cookouts, or whatever, as long as it isn't football-specific.

Lesson over.

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

in response to ReVolver:

"Yes...the failure to enjoy the great outdoors was what lost the game at Kentucky. Ceramic dogs, day hikes, the power of positive thinking...we might as well have Tony Robbins as a coach."

You are trivializing the fact that part of the reason we lost that horrible game at Kentucky was, without a doubt, crappy "team chemistry".

Does your dislike of Dooley make you overlook even relatively simple concepts like this?

But, I suppose, we don't want the truth to get in the way of a good wisecrack. Good day sir.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wayfarer writes:

I like the concept that Coach Dooley is trying. Take these young men out of their element and stretch not only their bodies but give them new experiences. Teams do all kinds of team build exercises during the off season to build chemistry. Whether the event is a cookout, hike or pool party keep them together as group and keep them out of trouble during the summer. To much free time only leads some to bad decisions. Granny always said idle hands are a devil's in road but in this case a portion of the team is busy having fun together.

Now have another unique trip and ask the council to invite one other athlete but not the same one that went on the hike. If every of the member of the council acts as an leader for a small group and holds each one accountable...you have a real possibilities. Team success includes the team holding individuals accountable for their conditioning, their commitment and their performance. Good start Vols, keep it up.

thevoice writes:

Just win, baby, just win.

fearthehound writes:

in response to Wayfarer:

I like the concept that Coach Dooley is trying. Take these young men out of their element and stretch not only their bodies but give them new experiences. Teams do all kinds of team build exercises during the off season to build chemistry. Whether the event is a cookout, hike or pool party keep them together as group and keep them out of trouble during the summer. To much free time only leads some to bad decisions. Granny always said idle hands are a devil's in road but in this case a portion of the team is busy having fun together.

Now have another unique trip and ask the council to invite one other athlete but not the same one that went on the hike. If every of the member of the council acts as an leader for a small group and holds each one accountable...you have a real possibilities. Team success includes the team holding individuals accountable for their conditioning, their commitment and their performance. Good start Vols, keep it up.

Good post. Maybe the next one could be a barbecue. Note to Dooley: NO RECRUITS!

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

I'm not gonna praise Dooley or bash Dooley for this. It is what it is, a summer hiking trip. When these guys line up across from Bama, I dont see it helping or hurting their chances. As people I can see the benefit of learning a new experience. As an SEC football team, X's and O's will mean more. All in all maybe some good will come from it as people, and that should still count for something in a College environment.

PHAT_VOL writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

I'm not gonna praise Dooley or bash Dooley for this. It is what it is, a summer hiking trip. When these guys line up across from Bama, I dont see it helping or hurting their chances. As people I can see the benefit of learning a new experience. As an SEC football team, X's and O's will mean more. All in all maybe some good will come from it as people, and that should still count for something in a College environment.

Well there you have it. It certainly sounds like you know what your talking about,again.
I guess!

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to ReVolver:

"Yes...the failure to enjoy the great outdoors was what lost the game at Kentucky. Ceramic dogs, day hikes, the power of positive thinking...we might as well have Tony Robbins as a coach."

You are trivializing the fact that part of the reason we lost that horrible game at Kentucky was, without a doubt, crappy "team chemistry".

Does your dislike of Dooley make you overlook even relatively simple concepts like this?

But, I suppose, we don't want the truth to get in the way of a good wisecrack. Good day sir.

Do you REALLY believe that hiking up a mountain is going to fix what's wrong with this team?

They hiked up a mountain that I used to hike about once a month when I was going to UT. Hiking Mt. Le Conte didn't make me better at anything else in my life except for...hiking up Mt. Le Conte. Hiking that mountain isn't any more of a "team building" exercise than staring at an orange ceramic dog and thinking positive thoughts (which didn't work either since the ceramic dog was in play long before the UK game).

There's one thing and only one thing that will make the Vols capable of competing with Bama and LSU: excellent coaching. Until we fix the problem with this team, all of this psychological "fluff" won't mean a thing.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

I like this idea.

PHAT_VOL writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

GO WALT GO!! GO WALT GO!!

Huttdawg100 writes:

This is what I wanna know:

Tiny Richardson vs. Daniel McCullers (aka Ton DMC)

Who ya got?

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

I'm not gonna praise Dooley or bash Dooley for this. It is what it is, a summer hiking trip. When these guys line up across from Bama, I dont see it helping or hurting their chances. As people I can see the benefit of learning a new experience. As an SEC football team, X's and O's will mean more. All in all maybe some good will come from it as people, and that should still count for something in a College environment.

PH,
An interesting challenge would have been to send them up the mountain one at a time...How many would have had their own agenda, like the KY game, and turned around when it got a little tough on their feet or they got winded?
Dooley is a metaphorical guy and I guarantee he said, "guys...it's a lot easier getting up here as a unit rather than individually. So if your happy wandering around Gatlinburg with Vanderbilt and Ole Miss fine...but if you want to get up top with Bama, LSU etc then grab a teammate and do it together."

volinlm writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

I'm not gonna praise Dooley or bash Dooley for this. It is what it is, a summer hiking trip. When these guys line up across from Bama, I dont see it helping or hurting their chances. As people I can see the benefit of learning a new experience. As an SEC football team, X's and O's will mean more. All in all maybe some good will come from it as people, and that should still count for something in a College environment.

While I agree, if any games are close in the fourth quarter, these types of team building experiences will, hopefully, help them to not blame each other and fight through it together. Maybe not, but I admire Dooley for trying something different.

hikerdude writes:

Was Da'Rick on the hike?

CrankE writes:

John Adams. The Debby Jennings of sportswriters.

(Readers, feel free to use this early and often. On signs, bumper stickers, autosignatures, and comments.)

MetroplexMojo writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

I'm not gonna praise Dooley or bash Dooley for this. It is what it is, a summer hiking trip. When these guys line up across from Bama, I dont see it helping or hurting their chances. As people I can see the benefit of learning a new experience. As an SEC football team, X's and O's will mean more. All in all maybe some good will come from it as people, and that should still count for something in a College environment.

I'm a big believer in team chemistry. From my own personal experiences, the team that got along and strived for one common goal did better than more talented teams with individual goals. If this outing helps team chemistry, then it could be beneficial in the 4th quarter of many games this year. If the team plays selfishly like they did in November 2011, then Coach Dooley will be taking a hike.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to hikerdude:

Was Da'Rick on the hike?

Witch Doctor say the knox sports media is reporting he is enrolled at Georgia State! haha
Bones never lie.

Bigger_Al writes:

Meanwhile, down in Gainesville, Will Mushchomp and his merry band of Gay-ters climbed the outdoor ladder to the top of the K Mart. "Hey look! There's our bus!", he boomed from the rooftop.

CroKev writes:

Took the kids on a hike?! Fire Dooley.

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to CroKev:

Took the kids on a hike?! Fire Dooley.

an obvious non-hiker talking. Go back to your World of Warcraft game. They are missing their troll.

Central_IL_Vol writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I don't think you should be allowed access to a computer to post STUPID OPINIONS!

Voltman writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

This is what I wanna know:

Tiny Richardson vs. Daniel McCullers (aka Ton DMC)

Who ya got?

this would be interesting to watch in that new MMA cage they have over in that new building of theirs

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Uh Walter,

Do you dare show us a photo of what a chronic
griper such as yourself..........looks like?
We can imagine what a dork REALLY looks like.

You talk pretty big on this site for a chronic complainer. By now, one would think you might have grown up a little. Guess not..

rtrchatt writes:

in response to MetroplexMojo:

On the topic of bears.....

Q: What does an Alabama fan and a maggot have in common?

A: Both have been living off a dead bear for 30 years

Is that the best you got? A tired ssa disrescpectful "joke" that has been around for decades. Here is one for you and it is a FACT.
What do Saban and Bryant have in common? Answer, they both OWN UT. Bryant 17-7-1 and 11 in a row against the creamsicle boys. Saban 5 in a row winning by an average of 21 pts a game. CNS will challenge that 11 in a row, and you know it. Roll Tide

MetroplexMojo writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Is that the best you got? A tired ssa disrescpectful "joke" that has been around for decades. Here is one for you and it is a FACT.
What do Saban and Bryant have in common? Answer, they both OWN UT. Bryant 17-7-1 and 11 in a row against the creamsicle boys. Saban 5 in a row winning by an average of 21 pts a game. CNS will challenge that 11 in a row, and you know it. Roll Tide

How many times did the Bear beat General Neyland?

frblalack writes:

Great idea! Chemistry + endurance! Keep up the good work, Coach!

All Vols - All the Time - Believe in The Big Orange!!!

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

http://media.photobucket.com/image/ol...

Walt? That you?

lookin good buddy

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Is that the best you got? A tired ssa disrescpectful "joke" that has been around for decades. Here is one for you and it is a FACT.
What do Saban and Bryant have in common? Answer, they both OWN UT. Bryant 17-7-1 and 11 in a row against the creamsicle boys. Saban 5 in a row winning by an average of 21 pts a game. CNS will challenge that 11 in a row, and you know it. Roll Tide

dude Fulmer was 11-4 against you guys

11 in a row? don't think we will see that, and you know it

come off you high horse a little, its a great college rivalry

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Orangeblood13:

dude Fulmer was 11-4 against you guys

11 in a row? don't think we will see that, and you know it

come off you high horse a little, its a great college rivalry

Orangeblood,

You got it friend. By the way, first Alabama game I saw was 1970............24-0 Vols win.
First time Bama had been shut out in something like 119 games. Scott Hunter picked off 8 times that day by the fantastic Vol defense which led the nation with 36 ints that year.

You're right, ask the troll/RTRchatterbox how many times the Bear managed to defeat the General..........0. I would say that was owning somebody.........but trolls like the chatterbox don't like to bring that up, do they?

10seVol85_Part_Deux writes:

in response to frblalack:

Great idea! Chemistry + endurance! Keep up the good work, Coach!

All Vols - All the Time - Believe in The Big Orange!!!

Some people on here don't seem to get that. I remember either Pearl or Fulmer taking the team for a big day of bowling a few years back for the same reason -- team building. All types of organizations, from social to military to businesses, do it. You get a more cohesive unit the more things they do together, and the better they know one another.

SevenT writes:

in response to rtrchatt:

Is that the best you got? A tired ssa disrescpectful "joke" that has been around for decades. Here is one for you and it is a FACT.
What do Saban and Bryant have in common? Answer, they both OWN UT. Bryant 17-7-1 and 11 in a row against the creamsicle boys. Saban 5 in a row winning by an average of 21 pts a game. CNS will challenge that 11 in a row, and you know it. Roll Tide

Alabama owning Tennessee is an understatement. I almost fell out of my chair with laughter thinking about the payback Tennessee fan is getting for supporting Fulmers firing a few years ago when that fat alabama player Terrence Cody blocked Daniel Lincoln's field goal twice in the same game.

MemphisVOLALum writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

Do you REALLY believe that hiking up a mountain is going to fix what's wrong with this team?

They hiked up a mountain that I used to hike about once a month when I was going to UT. Hiking Mt. Le Conte didn't make me better at anything else in my life except for...hiking up Mt. Le Conte. Hiking that mountain isn't any more of a "team building" exercise than staring at an orange ceramic dog and thinking positive thoughts (which didn't work either since the ceramic dog was in play long before the UK game).

There's one thing and only one thing that will make the Vols capable of competing with Bama and LSU: excellent coaching. Until we fix the problem with this team, all of this psychological "fluff" won't mean a thing.

I'm sorry to have to disagree. Better players are THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that with make UT competive. Coaching is important, but recruiting is KING!

kennypowers writes:

in response to Salma_Hayek_is_my_Wife:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You spend your free time talking trash on an opposing team's site. LMAO! Loser

Shmohawk writes:

in response to MetroplexMojo:

On the topic of bears.....

Q: What does an Alabama fan and a maggot have in common?

A: Both have been living off a dead bear for 30 years

That joke does not work anymore, unfortunately.

MetroplexMojo writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Thanks for serving our country!!

Navaloranges writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nothing wrong with Dooley's coaching attire. Your problem is he's not Fulmer, plain and simple. I know a he!! of a lot of Marines, and NONE of them cry and whine like you do. Fulmer's gone, we have a new coach, get over it. Did you receive a merit for being the "Whiner of the USMC"? Geeze, I've never seen anything like your ridiculous belief that nobody is capable of coaching the Big Orange but Phil. It's a blatant, freighteningly weird man-crush. Very unbecoming of a true Marine. It's actually something one would expect from a juvenile football fan that doesn't understand the reality of coaching turnovers, and doesn't understand that it was time for coach Fulmer to go.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to WaltGoVols:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say you may want to update your account. Witch Doctor say it says you died in 2008 in Jacksonville...(?)
Bones never lie.

Navaloranges writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say you may want to update your account. Witch Doctor say it says you died in 2008 in Jacksonville...(?)
Bones never lie.

Muwahhhhahahahahahahahahaa!

Too dam funny!

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Navaloranges:

Muwahhhhahahahahahahahahaa!

Too dam funny!

Witch Doctor say hes using a fake account..on an anonymous board..lol. Fulmer or nothing Walt!
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say easy to create account..find a fake pic on Google and there ya go. lol. Witch Doctor not surprised! Witch Doctor say besides the troll that just got kicked off who would post their REAL ID..? lol. Witch Doctor say "Walt" too smart for that!(he does know how to create 10+ logins..he probably forgets who he is)
Bones never lie.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to RockyMountainVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Witch Doctor say "case-closed"! Busted! lol. Witch Doctor say they just here to argue and fuss so they invest zero other than "Fulmer or nothing" arguments knowing only a time machine could fix anything they are after..so thats how they keep it going. lol.
Bones never lie.

Pompey writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"Some of these guys had never been on a hike. So it was a good life experience."

Yes...the failure to enjoy the great outdoors was what lost the game at Kentucky. Ceramic dogs, day hikes, the power of positive thinking...we might as well have Tony Robbins as a coach.

....your name and your post are equally stupid...

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