One Shade of Gray: Vols start new tradition with alternate ‘Smokey’ jersey
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — The worst kept secret in East Tennessee finally leaked Thursday morning. Then, later in the day, Tennessee’s football media day turned into a glorified fashion show confirming the news.
First-year head coach Butch Jones narrated the runway action, set up on a stage in the Peyton Manning locker room, as the Vols unveiled five uniform combinations, including an alternate gray set — officially called ‘Smokey,’ according to the newly added third school color — that will be worn during one home game this season.
“Everything is about our great pride and traditions here at the University of Tennessee,” Jones told VolQuest’s John Brice, who broke the news of the alternate uniform’s details earlier Thursday morning.
The new tradition is “PMS 426,” the technical name of ‘Smoky,’ the dark charcoal-like gray color of the alternate uniform, which features orange numerals outlined in white. The matching pants feature vertical orange stripes, also outlined in white, running down the leg with an oversized ‘Power T’ on the hip.
The gray pays homage to Tennessee’s 1914 football team that won a championship wearing a similar color. The oversized numbers on the jersey reflect Tennessee’s 1951 jersey, another championship team, this one coached by Gen. Robert Neyland. The large ‘T’ on the pants reflects a similar one worn from 1995-98, when Tennessee went 45-5 in 50 games, capped off with the 1998 national championship.
“We truly respect those traditions, but it’s also building upon those traditions,” Jones told VolQuest. “Before anything can be a tradition, it has to have a beginning to it. Just like the Vol Navy, just like the Vol Walk, just like the ‘Power T.’ So when we looked at it, it was ‘How can we continue to move forward?’ As you know, in the world of recruiting this is the world we live in.”
That’s where the main focus was Thursday, as news of the alternates at tradition-rich Tennessee spread across the national sports media landscape.
It reached the recruiting trail, too.
“Anything helps,” defensive backs coach Willie Martinez said. “When it comes to uniforms, that’s big up there with these student athletes, and rightfully so.
“It’s neat, kind of different. But it’s also about us, too. It’s about the tradition, the people that have played this game at the University of Tennessee and honoring them. There’s that part of it, too.”
Added Jones in the interview with VolQuest, “If you had to put a top-10 list that the prospective student-athletes ask you, in the top three would be uniforms. We obviously have great colors, and we’re excited about the ‘Smokey’ gray addition to our traditions and our family here. A lot of thought went into this. We wanted to be very respective of our traditions, but also continue to move forward in this as well.”
It wasn’t a hard sell for the current players, either.
“They matter,” linebacker Brent Brewer said. “If you look good you play good.”
Jones said Tennessee will wear all five of it’s uniform combinations — the traditional home orange jerseys with white pants, orange jerseys with orange pants, road white jerseys with white pants, white jerseys with orange pants or the ‘Smokey’ alternates — this season.
The gray will be a one-time thing for a game at Neyland Stadium, Jones noted. A specific game has not been officially set for the new uniform, with Jones saying Thursday it was “still in discussion.”
Jones surprised the team with the alternate set during a team meeting Thursday morning, having linebacker Curt Maggitt bust through double doors wearing the new colors.
“I thought it was great idea,” Martinez said. “It was awesome.”