A trip to Gatlinburg has been part of Tennessee’s bowl routine for the past few years, but this year it took on a different significance for the Vols and that community.
At least 14 people lost their lives in the fires that swept through the Smoky Mountains and into parts of Gatlinburg in late November. In addition to those who lost their lives, many were injured, and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed in Sevier County. Two juveniles have since been charged with starting the deadly flames.
Multiple Tennessee players, including quarterback Joshua Dobbs and offensive lineman Brett Kendrick, have visited the area since the blaze.
This time, it was the entire team making the trek up for some fun, but also a chance to help brighten the spirits of some in the area. Butch Jones gave the itinerary when speaking to the media the day before the trip.
“It’s going to be a very special day,” Jones said. “We’re going to Rocky Top Sports complex in Gatlinburg, and signing autographs for elementary-aged kids, they’ve done some things with some invitations, and that’s the least we can do. Once that’s done, we’ll go into Gatlinburg and we’ll have our annual team dinner and then I’ll spend about an hour out on the streets and let our kids enjoy that.
“That community means so much to us.”
Tennessee will wear Smokey gray uniform in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 against Nebraska to honor the victims of the fire as well.
Here are some other scenes from the team’s time in Gatlinburg:
— Butch Jones (@UTCoachJones) December 14, 2016
— Quart'e Sapp (@Dedicated_2Work) December 15, 2016
— Lauren Cash (@WVLTCash) December 14, 2016
Vols about to sign autographs for the kids here in Gatlinburg pic.twitter.com/55chRlskWZ
— Luke Slabaugh (@LukeWBIR) December 14, 2016