If you know my family, you know that our blood runs Tennessee orange. As far back as I can remember, we have followed University of Tennessee athletics. Particularly Volunteer football.
In 1966, my Dad graduated from High School. He was a gifted athlete who not only had talent but had heart. His jersey (#44) was retired at Smyrna High School and remains there today. Upon graduation, he was highly sought after by many colleges. He recently shared with me that he was approached by every SEC team (with the exception, I believe, of Florida).
Dad's dream was to attend UT and that he did. I have pictures of him signing to play for the "Big Orange".
Dad has been a loyal follower of Tennessee football over the years; traveling across the country to see them play, driving to Knoxville to watch them practice and keeping up with every statistic for every player. He is the epitome of a true fan. (Not to mention that buying him a gift is always a cinch...if it's ORANGE, he loves it).
I haven't talked to Dad today but I know that he is saddened at the news of Phil Fulmer's dismissal. In all the talk over the last months, he has remained faithful, always countering anyone's negative talk about this season with Phil's overall record of success. Dad wants what is best for the University but I know that he hates to see Phil go. It is definitely a bittersweet parting.
I am on an email list for the University of TN Athletics and, today, received an email from Mike Hamilton regarding UT's parting with Phil Fulmer as head coach. An except from that letter read:
Coach Fulmer has been, and will continue to be, a great representative of the University and the athletic department. He has dedicated a majority of his life to our program and brought home two SEC championships and a national championship. He has secured his place as the second winningest coach in Tennessee history behind General Neyland. I personally appreciate everything he has done for Tennessee and look forward to him continuing to be a part of our family.
If I was Phil Fulmer, I'm not sure that I could continue to be a part of this program/"family"; however, I hope for Daddy's sake, that he sticks around. UT Football would not be the same without him.
P.S. My daddy has to be the best Phil Fulmer look alike ever...particularly when he's wearing a cap. He is often mistaken for him out and about. It is so funny (when we are in and around the Knoville area particularly) to see people stop and look at him, speak to him or just come right out and say, "you're Coach Fulmer".