Tennessee Game Day Traditions for Families

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Tennessee Game Day Traditions for Families

I’ve been a Tennessee Vol my whole life. I was born just down the road from campus and grew up going to games at Neyland Stadium with my dad. We had our own traditions, a favorite of which was tailgating. We’d set up tables with orange and white tablecloths. We’d bring orange plates and checkerboard napkins. We would eat all of the best tailgate food and hang out listening to other games and all of the pre-game stuff on the radio while spending time with fellow Vols fans. Then we’d make our way over towards Neyland. Sometimes we would watch the band come in, and other times we would just hang out outside the stadium taking it all in before going to get in our seats. We would watch the players warm-up and the band march pre-game and of course, stand and cheer as the team ran through the T.

This post is brought to you by Football Matters, but all opinions and experiences are my own.

Everything about game day was and is awesome and exciting. I’m so glad I grew up going to games, and I’m thankful that my family established those traditions. They are traditions that stand the test of time and ones that I want to continue with my own kids. I want my kids to grow up knowing the fun — and let’s be real, the challenges — of college football, especially in the South and especially at Tennessee!

We love our football here in Knoxville! We are hardcore fans who love the game, love our school, and love our traditions! Here are some of the best game day traditions for Tennessee fans and families:

ORANGE and WHITE

Those who aren’t Tennessee fans often find the color offensive, but to those of us who love the Big Orange, it’s a huge part of our lives, wardrobes, and color wheels.

VOL NAVY

Over 200 boaters dock on the Tennessee River right by Neyland Stadium tailgating before and after the games.

THE PRIDE of the SOUTHLAND MARCHING BAND

The band is one of Tennessee’s best traditions. With their classic uniforms, marching to the stadium, the salute to The Hill, forming of the T for the players to run through, impressive circle drill halftime show, and constant playing of Rocky Top for fans to sing along with, the band is key to a Tennessee game day.

NEYLAND STADIUM  

Need I say more? Neyland is huge. We gladly welcome other schools to come play in our 102,455 fan-filled stadium. That’s a lot of orange, and nothing beats the sea of orange outside of Neyland before the game starts. Best sight to a Vol fan’s eyes!

“IT’S FOOTBALL TIME in TENNESSSSEEEEEEE”  

The most exciting announcement and music to our eyes. This phrase is what gets the fans going pre-kickoff.

RUNNING THROUGH the T

There is nothing quite like the anticipation of watching the band unfold into the power T. Watching the players and coaches huddled ready to run through the T is the buildup of excitement before the game.

ROCKY TOP

Played a minimum of 40-50 times per game, this will get your orange blood pumping. There’s nothing like a touchdown followed by a celebratory Rocky Top over and over and over. #BestSongEver

VOL WALK

This longstanding tradition is such a great one! Watching the players and coaches walk into the stadium is a classic UT tradition that’s part of every game day.

SMOKEY

Our beloved mascot. This hound dog is all Vol and represents our team so well. Leading the team into the T, barking on the sidelines, giving his howl — he makes his school proud. And let’s not forget mascot Smokey who is full of enthusiasm for our team and definitely a favorite with the kids.

CHECKERBOARD END ZONES

Welcome to Tennessee, check out our awesome checkerboard end zones. A touchdown has never looked so good.

I WILL GIVE MY ALL for TENNESSEE TODAY

We know the players and coaches hit this sign on their way out of the locker room before each game. We also know that many UT fans take this to heart, too. We play our hearts out tailgating, dressing in our orange overalls, sporting more orange than anyone ever thought possible, giving our hearts to Vol Nation — all for Tennessee.

The STRIP

While not technically on campus, a drive down the Strip on game day will let you know you are in Big Orange Country. People eating, parking, buying tickets, and wearing their orange all making their way to the stadium to cheer on the Vols. The Strip is definitely part of the game day atmosphere.

The ROCK

A school tradition, this big rock is a place for students to share their thoughts, feelings, and artistic abilities. Always orange and white before a game, the Rock marks another classic Tennessee tradition.

All photos are from our amazing contributor Katherine Birkbeck Photography!

We asked on Facebook what some of your favorite Tennessee game day traditions were and here are your thoughts:  

“Of course the UT PRIDE of the SOUTHLAND marching to the stadium. As a Pride alum, it was my favorite thing to do on gameday and now it is my favorite thing to do as a spectator.” — Stephanie H  

“The Vol Walk!” — Janie P.

“Mine is seeing all the Red Cross volunteers who return each year. Neyland has eight Red Cross stations with tons of volunteers and Rural Metro. I have volunteered for 25 or 26 years!” — Janet P.

“Our family loves to wear our orange! It’s fun to see others wearing theirs and feeling bonded together with the city!” — Stephanie P.

“Grill out and make queso dip and brownies or cookies…” — Kim H.

“Win or lose, sway to the Tennessee Waltz at the end of the game!” — Erica M.

For more history and information about Tennessee traditions, check out this website. And we want to know: what’s your favorite tradition? And what is YOUR favorite thing to do with your kids? Share with us in the comments below or on Facebook! Go Vols!

The National Football Foundation (NFF) launched Football Matters to celebrate the positive impact the game has made on millions of players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, and fans nationwide. Football Matters spotlights and explains the many benefits that football brings to communities, schools, families, and individuals and the opportunities it provides to those on and off the field and at every level. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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