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A tribute to Neyland Stadium

Orange. Everywhere. A sea of orange fans swarm the legendary stadium, cheering and chanting.

“Veeeeeee! Ohhhhhh! Elllllll! Essssss! V-O-L-S! V-O-L-S! GO VOLS GO!” sang a Tennessee fan, wearing a XXL number 16 Peyton Manning jersey. Everyone around him joined in immediately as they heard the familiar tune.

The energy is high and hopeful as fans enter Neyland Stadium for yet another night of Tennessee Volunteer football.

Homegrown in the city of Knoxville, Tenn., I attended many games at Neyland as a kid sporting a child-sized cheer-leading uniform. Now that I’m older and attend games with students at the university, I’ve been able to take a step back and appreciate the legendary football arena.

So much history has been made inside those concrete walls, and I am lucky enough to have been a part of it and a part of the Vol community. I proudly wear that hideous orange while ruthlessly and shamelessly rooting for a Tennessee Volunteers victory.

As I travel through stadium hallways, dodging the frenzy of orange fans headed to their seats, I peek through the tunnels that open up to the stadium and I’m able to see its massiveness. It’s a feeling like no other.

I sneak a peek through sections “H,” “I” and “J.”

“K” is my section, so once I arrive, I finally get to step through the tunnel and out into the gigantic stadium. As I walk through the tunnel, I look out to the stadium and see more people wearing the color orange than I ever thought possible. When the game is sold out, I’ll see exactly 102,445 orange-dressed blobs.

The stadium shakes with every Tennessee touchdown, vibrates with every first down and wobbles with the roar of jazzed-up fans.

Down on the field, the team stretches simultaneously, and the kickers practice their swings. The coach motions for the team head to the locker room, and then the Pride of the Southland marching band takes the field.

The band walks around doing their pre-rehearsed routine, and after a few minutes of synchronized playing and marching (after years of watching I still don’t understand how they do this), they somehow go from one end of the field to the other while forming themselves into the infamous “Power-T.” This is when the stadium is at its peak noise because it’s time for UT’s mascot Smokey the Bluetick Coonhound dog to lead the team on a sprint through the Power-T.

It’s time.

The only thing left is for the announcer’s booming voice to ring across the stadium: “It’s football time in Tennessee.”

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