Tennessee would’ve had a sold-out crowd and a fantastic atmosphere on Saturday against Florida regardless of any promotions or extra touches.
But an idea – #CheckerNeyland – that originated from fan Spencer Barnett and grew via social media and other outlets took root. Tennessee officially endorsed it on Sunday and it promises to provide both a very picturesque scene and promote a raucous atmosphere when the struggling Gators come to Knoxville.
Put simply, it will be “epic,” according to senior linebacker Curt Maggitt.
“To have a fan initiative of checkerboarding Neyland – I think it speaks volumes,” added Tennessee coach Butch Jones. “Most places, they have to manufacture that, where our fans come out, and it’s on them. I’m excited. They have created so much positive energy and excitement around our football program.”
Jones makes a valid point. While many programs are struggling to sell out their stadium and create buzz, Tennessee officially has two sellouts in three games this season and has fans pushing to make the atmosphere even better.
Now add in what all Tennessee fans have been through in the past few seasons, and it’s a truly impressive feat. The infusion of young talent and the strong effort over the past few weeks can’t completely erase four straight losing seasons in Knoxville, but fans are clearly buying into what Butch Jones is doing in terms of rebuilding the program.
“The support has been outstanding,” Jones said. That support has been there since December 7th (the date Jones was hired), I believe it was, a couple of years ago. Our fans are incredible. I work everyday for them and representing Tennessee. They are so special, and it means so much to them.
“Our players are feeding off of it, our recruits are feeding off of it, our community is feeding off of it, the state of Tennessee is feeding off of it, and it’s great. They have been extremely supportive, and Saturday afternoon at noon should be a great, great college football environment. Should be the best environment in the country.”
The players unanimously agree. For seniors such as linebacker A.J. Johnson, it’ll be the last opportunity to beat a Florida team that has won nine straight against the Vols. Being able to do it in front of such a unique atmosphere is all the more special.
“Just looking at the pictures makes you want to play in the stadium,” Johnson said. “I know our fans are going to have the emotions high and have the environment turned up.”
“The atmosphere is going to be amazing,” added freshman running back Jalen Hurd. “The fans are going to be there – they’re going to be loud and rowdy and we’re going to bring our A-Game.”