Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's Time

I sit here, with a heavy heart and eyes full of mist. I sit here, with my head hanging, hands on my brow, wondering where things went wrong. What happened to us? Where is the pride of our university? Where is the fire? Where is the answer?

Tennessee football for me will always be connected in my thoughts to my family. From the age of 5, my father took me to home game after home game, every year until he could no longer afford that choice. Then, my father, my mother, and I would spend every Autumn Saturday together, no matter the opponent, no matter the other things we could do on those days. We sat together, with pride for the University of Tennessee, and watched every second of every game we could. With my mother in poor health, and my father working his body to the max, Tennessee football is a way for me to remember a lot of good times with them. The key word is "remember." Memories.

These memories, which I will carry with me until my grave, were brought to me by a lot of characters, but mostly led by University of Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. He led my now alma mater to a national championship, 2 SEC titles, and numerous numerous Saturdays of victory. I have been and always will be proud to wear orange.

This is why I'm so saddened to say what we all want to say. The thought alone depresses me. Coach, it's time. You know it is. You know in your heart of hearts that it's time. You've done all you can do. At some point in every person's life, he faces a moment of clarity, where he realizes he is human, a mortal. Tonight, no doubt, you're sitting with a heavy heart, knowing what I know. What we all know.

I consider you a good man with a kind heart and the best of intentions. But it's time. You and I share a bond - we're legit Tennessee Volunteers, we spent 4 years on the same campus, dealing with the same student issues. We are brothers in orange. We bleed it, we live it, we love it. And for that reason, it's time. And you know it.

There is no other image this century that epitomizes what's going on in our football program, and the image will never be forgotten by me. After Florida went up 14-3, the camera was on you, Coach. What did I see, in the FIRST quarter? You let out the biggest sigh, your cheeks filled with air. That sigh was a sigh of confusion. This game, this new game of college football, has passed you, Coach Chavis, and even Coach Cutcliffe, by. The look on your face told the story, and I knew then, in the 1st quarter, down only 11, that we stood no chance. And that hurts. I talk 365 days a year about the memories you helped bring me and my family. And today, I was hurt.

It's time, and you know it. It hurts just to say it, to type it, to think it. I'm literally in a state where crying is a possibility. My memories are becoming tainted by a more recent pain. I can't let that happen, and you, with as much love for this university, can't either. You need to leave as head coach with warm memories of your years in that position. Tennessee is us, and we are Tennessee, and I never want either of us to lose that.

But it's time.

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