Mike Strange: Texas Vol fans welcome new era

Mike Strange
Texas A&M's Fabyon Harris, center, looks to shoot against Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes (5) during the first half of NCAA college basketball game in College Station, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)

Photo by AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva

Texas A&M's Fabyon Harris, center, looks to shoot against Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes (5) during the first half of NCAA college basketball game in College Station, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)

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When the SEC expanded to take in Missouri and Texas A&M, not everyone applauded. That includes your humble correspondent.

But there are several thousand Texans who would loudly disagree with me.

“We love it,’’ Steve Adkins said late Saturday afternoon, standing in Reed Arena in College Station, Texas, wearing an orange Tennessee cap, processing what he had just witnessed.

What he had just witnessed was Tennessee’s four-overtime, 93-85 win over Texas A&M, the first of presumably many ventures into the Lone Star State by the Vols now that the Aggies are SEC members.

I asked where Adkins was from.

“Morristown,’’ he said.

I had meant where in Texas, but Adkins was answering from the heart. He’s a Tennessean.

He and a couple of other Adkins made the drive up from Spring, Texas, just north of Houston. The Houston alumni chapter secured a block of tickets.

Last fall, UT’s soccer and volleyball teams came to College Station (and won). The Aggies’ pool was full of Tennessee divers and swimmers Saturday at the SEC championship meet.

But Saturday was the first SEC visit to A&M by one of UT’s marquee sports. And the debut was more than anyone bargained for — Tennessee’s first four-overtime game in history.

“It was great,’’ Adkins said. “Exhausting but great.’’

The Dallas alumni chapter also bought a block of tickets. It was a longer drive than Houston, but Matthew Harding wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Fort Worth is where Harding gets his mail, but it was obvious where his real home is.

“Knoxville, born and raised,’’ he said. “Bearden High School.’’

Harding is a 1992 UT grad who came to Texas to continue his education at a seminary in Fort Worth.

When the news broke that Texas A&M was joining the SEC, there was cheering from UT alums from Texarkana to El Paso.

“We have a huge Tennessee fan base in Dallas-Fort Worth,’’ Harding said. “It’s one of the strongest chapters in all of the United States.

“So we’re absolutely ecstatic to be able to come and see our boys play.’’

The alumni chapters organize football-watching parties several weekends in the fall. On TV, of course.

One day before too many years pass — the SEC has yet to announce football schedules past 2013 — the UT fans in Texas won’t need a TV. They’ll come to Kyle Field and watch the Vols in the flesh.

“It’s going to be outstanding when football gets here,’’ Harding said. “Playing against Johhny M. (Manziel, the Aggies’ Heisman Trophy winner). We’re going to see Tennessee bring it.’’

He got to see Tennessee bring it Saturday on the basketball court. The Vols trailed the majority of the game and much of the first three overtimes. Then at the end, they’d make a play, find a way to hang around. Finally, they dominated the fourth overtime chapter.

It’s safe to say no one who made the trip will ever forget UT’s groundbreaking SEC venture to Texas A&M.

“You go into Florida,’’ said senior Skylar McBee, “you know ‘this is Florida.’ You go into Kentucky, you know, ‘this is Kentucky.’

“This is a new place. It was a little bit different feel. But when we got in here and started playing, it felt like an SEC game.’’

At the final horn, it felt like one of the biggest Tennessee wins in recent memory. The locker room celebration hit a level that reminded McBee of that stunning, short-handed upset of No. 1 Kansas in 2010.

That was in Thompson-Boling Arena. This was in the middle of Texas, a state with which Tennessee has a proud historic link.

For the couple of hundred UT fans that made the pilgrimage to Reed Arena it was a day to remember in its own right and also the start of a new era.

Up in the stands, Matthew Harding remained long after the final horn. He looked down and watched his 13-year-old son, John, mingling with players, coaches and other UT fans.

“It’s a rite of passage,’’ Harding said, “for him to get to sit here and experience Knoxville, Tennessee, right here in College Station, Texas.’’

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at strangemike44.

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Comments » 17

armyvol22 writes:

Cool. I remember while being in the military and going to the Lady Vols game when they played Old Dominion. It is always special when you are away and they come to your area and play. GBO

HtownVol writes:

This is pretty cool.
I am Steve Adkins, me and my dad actually. We went to the game with my brother and were hanging out with the players and their family after the game when Mike Strange came up to us for an interview.
Good think me and my dad are both named Steve.

Sorry Mike, we didnt know you meant where from in Texas but we dont tell people we are from Texas, we are from Tennessee.

Thanks for the most publicity we will ever see though.

The game was Awesome!
A&M fans were pretty nice. Although we expected more from the "12th man".

At the end of regulation we were prepared for a loss but I was telling my family the last game I went to was LSU last year and UT was down 17 in the 1st half and came back to force a OT win.
The fans did give the refs a hard time though, They kept calling the older one grandpa and asking him if he could see. I dont know why though the calls were not really in favor of either team although on a inbound play Golden got tackled trying to get open and there was no call.

Anyway, I was very suprised to see our names in GoVols but it is just a nice cap to a perfect game.

GO VOLS

movol77 writes:

Great story

LSG410EC83 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

This is pretty cool.
I am Steve Adkins, me and my dad actually. We went to the game with my brother and were hanging out with the players and their family after the game when Mike Strange came up to us for an interview.
Good think me and my dad are both named Steve.

Sorry Mike, we didnt know you meant where from in Texas but we dont tell people we are from Texas, we are from Tennessee.

Thanks for the most publicity we will ever see though.

The game was Awesome!
A&M fans were pretty nice. Although we expected more from the "12th man".

At the end of regulation we were prepared for a loss but I was telling my family the last game I went to was LSU last year and UT was down 17 in the 1st half and came back to force a OT win.
The fans did give the refs a hard time though, They kept calling the older one grandpa and asking him if he could see. I dont know why though the calls were not really in favor of either team although on a inbound play Golden got tackled trying to get open and there was no call.

Anyway, I was very suprised to see our names in GoVols but it is just a nice cap to a perfect game.

GO VOLS

Yall definitely got to see a barn burner. Remember when I worked in Virginia that everytime someone would ask where I lived, I would always first tell them I was from Kingsport, Tennessee. Accent kind of gave it away. As far as the refs, have to agree. They made some horrible calls, but at least they were not one way as they usually are. You could tell the A&M fans were really getting into it,but, you could here the UT faithful on the set also. Glad you got to enjoy a Volunteer Victory. As you have pretty well mentioned without saying it, IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL. GO BIG ORANGE.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

This is pretty cool.
I am Steve Adkins, me and my dad actually. We went to the game with my brother and were hanging out with the players and their family after the game when Mike Strange came up to us for an interview.
Good think me and my dad are both named Steve.

Sorry Mike, we didnt know you meant where from in Texas but we dont tell people we are from Texas, we are from Tennessee.

Thanks for the most publicity we will ever see though.

The game was Awesome!
A&M fans were pretty nice. Although we expected more from the "12th man".

At the end of regulation we were prepared for a loss but I was telling my family the last game I went to was LSU last year and UT was down 17 in the 1st half and came back to force a OT win.
The fans did give the refs a hard time though, They kept calling the older one grandpa and asking him if he could see. I dont know why though the calls were not really in favor of either team although on a inbound play Golden got tackled trying to get open and there was no call.

Anyway, I was very suprised to see our names in GoVols but it is just a nice cap to a perfect game.

GO VOLS

It's pretty rare for anybody to "break cover" on this board, but it's cool that you did this time. Great to hear how many Vol alums there are in Texas and how active and enthusiastic they are. Hopefully, by the time the football Vols get there, they will be able to give the Aggies a run for their money. Judging from the home basketball crowd, football is the only sport they seem to care about down there. I would tend to agree with the home crowd that the officiating was lousy, but they seemed to largely be equal-opportunity offenders.

VolnTex writes:

I live in Spring, TX as well! I took my son to his first Vol game of any sort and we had a great time.
I was really glad when A&M joined the SEC, simply because if you hang out with Aggies you realize they have an SEC sort of attitude about them. They're just a good fit. (As opposed to the Longhorns, who just get on my nerves.)

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Another great article by Mike Strange. John Adams, you should stand up and bow to him. Some day you may be as good, but I doubt it.

HtownVol writes:

in response to VolnTex:

I live in Spring, TX as well! I took my son to his first Vol game of any sort and we had a great time.
I was really glad when A&M joined the SEC, simply because if you hang out with Aggies you realize they have an SEC sort of attitude about them. They're just a good fit. (As opposed to the Longhorns, who just get on my nerves.)

Where in Spring? Im on Louetta and 45.

77VolFS writes:

Another Vol fan here in DFW area doing my best to let the locals know who the true UT is. I"d agree the Aggies are a good fit for the SEC - glad to have them. GBO !!

brokebackvol writes:

Shout out from Atlanta to all y'all Vols out there! Indeed, it's great to be a TENNESSEE VOL!

BEAT THOSE DAMN GATORS!!

volfan73120#211815 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

This is pretty cool.
I am Steve Adkins, me and my dad actually. We went to the game with my brother and were hanging out with the players and their family after the game when Mike Strange came up to us for an interview.
Good think me and my dad are both named Steve.

Sorry Mike, we didnt know you meant where from in Texas but we dont tell people we are from Texas, we are from Tennessee.

Thanks for the most publicity we will ever see though.

The game was Awesome!
A&M fans were pretty nice. Although we expected more from the "12th man".

At the end of regulation we were prepared for a loss but I was telling my family the last game I went to was LSU last year and UT was down 17 in the 1st half and came back to force a OT win.
The fans did give the refs a hard time though, They kept calling the older one grandpa and asking him if he could see. I dont know why though the calls were not really in favor of either team although on a inbound play Golden got tackled trying to get open and there was no call.

Anyway, I was very suprised to see our names in GoVols but it is just a nice cap to a perfect game.

GO VOLS

Hi Steve. It's good to see some one from Morristown in the news with the Vol clan. I was born in Morristown and grew up on Louise Ave across the street from old Sherwood school I graduated from MHS in 1951. I now live up the road from you in Oklahoma City. I come to Dallas a lot and watch games with the UT alumni club. I have a lot of friends I went to school with at UT, that live in the Dallas area.

volaholic45 writes:

Davey Crockett, Sam Houston, GTT (Gone to Texas) - the historical connections between Tennessee and Texas are numerous.

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Great story. As someone who hasn't had the blessing of living in TN since I graduated (though born and raised in Knoxville), I can appreciate any chance I get to see the Vols whenever they wander my direction. So while I wasn't thrilled with adding teams from either TX or MO, I'm happy for the VFLs in those areas that finally get to enjoy their team there! (What are the chances of adding a Michigan team? Blehhhh.)

ACWLY writes:

So NICE to hear from so many Volunteers in the great state of Texas. Reading your comments has been a very rare and uplifting experience. THANKS from all your Friends back in TENNESSEE!!!

jmaples54 writes:

in response to snowpeapod#263184:

Another great article by Mike Strange. John Adams, you should stand up and bow to him. Some day you may be as good, but I doubt it.

living in austin in the 1980's i watched longhorn sports but never got to see the vols. my one tennessee sporting memory was going to san antonio to watch the usfl gunslingers host the tampa bay bandits. tampa bay was coached by steve spurrier (his first head coaching job) and the gunslingers by my high school coach, jim bates. i don't remember seeing spurrier throw his visor-- the bandits, named after minority owner burt reynolds's film franchise smoky and the bandits-- won the game. i do remember bates, ever the enthusiastic dynamo, executing leaping chest bumps with his players after big plays.
hopefully, vol fans in the show-me state will get to enjoy similar moments starting next football season.
as for snowpea, you're just a debbie downer. if it makes you feel good to slam adams from way out in left field, go for it. most people think comments like this are a waste of cyberspace. try to contribute something positive (i know you include a strange complement to go along with your strange blabbering).

bUTch_please writes:

t may very well be for texas...

but T is for Tennessee!!!

Shout out to all the great southwestern VOLS and thanks for wearing the real orange of the real UT.

illinoisvolfan writes:

Remember folks...if it wasn't for Tennessee, Texas would still be part of Mexico.

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