For 17 years Bill Curry was a head football coach, at Georgia Tech, then Alabama, then Kentucky. For one week every one of those seasons, he prepared to play Tennessee.
So Saturday at Neyland Stadium won't be Curry's first verse of "Rocky Top.'' By now he should have it committed to memory.
But Curry has never brought an underdog quite like Georgia State into the orange lion's den.
Or has he?
"With Georgia Tech back in the early '80s, our team wasn't any better than Georgia State is now,'' Curry said this week. "And Tennessee was really good.''
Saturday will be Curry's last waltz with Tennessee. He's retiring after this season.
This time he's really retiring. Curry left coaching after Kentucky let him go in 1996. He spent the next 11 seasons as an analyst for ESPN, and he was a good one.
In 2008, Georgia State, a commuter school in downtown Atlanta, asked Curry to take on one last gig: start a football program from the ground up.
A homegrown Atlantan, Curry was a natural choice.
"It's such a privilege,'' he said. "I literally grew up on these streets around here. My dad worked in a department store six blocks from what is now the campus.
"We lived in the suburbs, in College Park, but we were down here all the time.''
So Curry hired a staff, recruited a freshman class in 2009 and in 2010, and played the school's first season.
This is Georgia State's second season at the FCS level. Next year the Panthers join the Sun Belt Conference and the FBS.
"Yes, it has been difficult,'' Curry said. "Yes, it has been demanding. But it's been more than worth it.''
The satisfaction of helping a hometown school will have to be Curry's reward. This final chapter won't improve his career win-loss percentage.
Curry's journey in football has touched a lot of bases. He played for Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech — and against UT from 1962-64. In the NFL, he played for Vince Lombardi and Don Shula.
A center, he started three Super Bowls, snapping the ball to Bart Starr and later Johnny Unitas.
As for his coaching record, the bottom line isn't Lombardiesque — 92-119-4. He's 5-11-1 against the Vols.
The tie was a 6-6 thriller in 1985. The Vols kicked a last-second field goal to avoid a loss to a very good 9-2-1 Tech team.
Curry was 3-0 at Alabama against UT, But he was 0-3 against Auburn, Despite a 1989 SEC title, Curry left the howling wolves in Tuscaloosa for Kentucky in 1990. His Wildcats contributed seven wins to that 26-year Tennessee streak that ended last November.
Curry and Derek Dooley have a history, some of it friendly, some not.
Georgia Tech was an arch-rival of Vince Dooley's Georgia teams. A Tech win made life hard for Derek's dad.
"Not some of my fond childhood memories,'' Derek Dooley said.
College memories were better. Dooley and Bill Curry Jr. were teammates at Virginia, both walk-ons who earned scholarships.
"Derek was wonderful to Bill Curry Jr,'' Curry Sr. said. "We've been eternally indebted to Derek for his kindness to our son.''
Dooley can't afford to be overly kind to the old man Saturday, even if he is able to hold some of his horses in reserve for Florida.
So Curry will take the approach he took back in the early 1980s. He'll hope for a blocked punt, a couple of turnovers, some combination of calamities to level the playing field.
"Hoping and praying we can go beyond ourselves,'' Curry said. "It's easy to talk about but tough to do.
"But you have to believe those things when you go into a situation like this.''
The 1981 Georgia Tech team, the first Curry brought to Knoxville, finished 1-10. But it played the Vols hard to the final gun, losing 10-7. That's how Curry would like to go out against Tennessee.
But it's the Vols' job to avoid sentimentality. Not even for a classy old rival's exit scene.