Tobias Harris on the a3 Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrity Golf Tournament
Eric Berry on the a3 Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrity Golf Tournament
Laughter was ringing from the hills of Northeast Knox County on Friday. If a stranger wandered into Three Ridges Golf Course, he or she would quickly realize this was no normal afternoon on the links.
The first clue would be the prevalence of 4XL and/or XLT men climbing in and out of the carts.
Another would be shots spraying hither and yon, although Eric Berry claimed via Twitter to have “just pulled off a true birdie.’’
A formidable crew from Tennessee’s athletic past meshed with several of the hometown Allegiant Athletic Agency’s (a3) pro clients to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The vibe was upbeat, in spite of the turbulence that has roiled the waters since any of these guys last wore orange.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic on the basketball program:
“I think the team they have right now is a Final Four team,’’ said Harris, who would be pointing to his senior year had he not been a first-round draft pick in 2011 following his freshman season.
“I expect them to get to the Final Four. I don’t expect them to settle for anything less than that.’’
No pressure or anything, Cuonzo Martin, it’s just that the program’s rising NBA face expects to see you in Dallas next April instead of the NIT.
I didn’t hear anyone project the football Vols to be in the BCS championship game Jan. 6 in Pasadena.
“Everybody needs to realize it’s a process, you can’t just win championships overnight,’’ said the aforementioned Berry, the Pro Bowl safety with the Kansas City Chiefs.
At least the ex-Vols are comfortable with the man who is now in charge of that process, Butch Jones.
Since Jones was hired in December to replace Derek Dooley, we’ve heard a chorus of thanks from former players who feel welcome to be part of the program again. Friday was more of the same.
“He’s a man of his word, first of all,’’ said Von Reeves, the only tight end I’ve ever seen throw a touchdown pass (1990, to Carl Pickens against Florida).
“He has done everything he has told us that he wanted to do so far. I’m behind him 500 percent.’’
Reeves, a homegrown Knoxvillian, was among the many ex-Vols offended by Dooley’s call-first policy for visiting.
“In my opinion,’’ Reeves said, “that was a slap in the face.
“I played with Leroy Thompson (at Austin-East) and some other guys and when they go to Penn State and these other places, they get treated like family, like royalty. I never felt that.’’
Reggie Cobb, another Knoxville product and one of UT’s better tailbacks (1987-89), scouts the West Coast for the San Francisco 49ers. He’s a regular visitor on campuses and is glad UT will again have an open door.
“We’re a family,’’ said Cobb, “and it’s important for the kids to see guys that make it, and not just playing ... to see a guy come by in a suit and be able to tell his story of what he’s doing.’’
Recruiting is the lifeblood of the process. Two young Berry twins, Elliott and Evan, are prominent on UT’s wish list for 2014. Big brother said he’s staying on the sidelines in this one.
“I only get involved when they ask me questions,’’ Eric said. “When they do bring it up, I just tell ‘em how it is. I don’t sugarcoat nothing. I give ‘em the whole 100.
“Where they want to go, that’s up to them.’’
But if they were to ask him what he thought about Butch Jones?
“I feel like, right now, we’ve got a guy who’s gonna be here,’’ Berry said, “a guy that’s really dedicated to this team and the players who play on this team and the
“All in all, I think he’s gonna turn it around.’’
Take that for what it’s worth. Presumably, a3 will throw another golf bash next summer. We’ll check back on the vibe.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.