Bred to bleed orange

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Football's affiliation with being a battle of inches is a product of the exertion and will of all its parts.

Just quarters into a season, they understand pain is just much a part of it all as cheerleaders, helmets and pigskin. It's a grind to continue competing at a high level every week.

Gen. Robert Neyland's seventh Game Maxim says it all: "Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes."

At times, digging a little deeper to find the emotions that will a player past his boundaries is easier if there's a love affair with what their representing.

Senior wide receiver Zach Rogers followed his brother Austin's footsteps in choosing to sign with Tennessee.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
To his left are Bristol's Brendan Downs at tight end and Mt. Pleasant's Antonio Richardson at tackle. As he eyes a potential free blitzer to his right, there to help block is guard James Stone of Nashville. Behind him in case he goes down is another Bristol product — Mack Crowder.

Center Alex Bullard, who hails from Franklin, understands that little extra that comes from the being raised within the same borders as several of your brothers that share the trenches.

Having spent some time at Notre Dame, Bullard knows the special side of competing for the premier in-state university.

"It means a lot more," Bullard told InsideTennessee. "I gave everything for Notre Dame, but it's just being with your home state, being with people you grew up with. I've known James and Tiny since high school, and we've had a relationship ever since then.

"Being in the South, it just feels more like home. You have that extra little twitch, that extra little chip on your shoulder when you go out there cause you want Tennessee to be represented the right way."

It's not a knock on the vital role of players from other states. Many become intoxicated with life on The Hill.

"They learn pretty quick getting up here," Crowder said. "They kind of get the feel for how big the University of Tennessee is in the state of Tennessee. They just realize how much pride is in this place. Like I said, they learn pretty quick."

Counting summer enrollees Drae Bowles of Jackson and George Bullock of Knoxville, there are 19 Vols that were recruited and on scholarship.

Redshirt senior Rod Wilks is from Smyrna and was born on a day in 1988 when the Vols invaded Oxford, Miss., and walked out with a 20-12 victory.

Twenty-two walk-ons mean more Volunteer State products throughout the roster. Among that group is Powell native Tyler Drummer, who entered this world on Jan. 1, 1991, which just happens to be the New Year's where the Vols upended now-coach Derek Dooley and the Virginia Cavaliers 23-22 in the Sugar Bowl.

It took a long-lasting recruiting battle but the Vols were able to get Paris native Marsalis Teague to Knoxville.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
Having a concept of the rich traditions from the checkerboard end zones to the singing of "Rocky Top" to the Pride of the Southland Band's opening of the "T" just prior to kickoff all combine to give student-athletes a pure feeling of what college football is supposed to be like.

"The first time I ran through the 'T' I was nervous. I just didn't want to mess up," said Bullard, who was actually robbed of the opportunity his first game as a Volunteer as the lightning delay before the Montana game last September altered the pregame plans.

It may take more of these types to get Tennessee back to its winning ways. After a pair of non-league contests to kickstart 2012, the Volunteers host rival and Southeastern Conference foe Florida at Neyland Stadium on Sept. 15.

They all mean something but when teams like the Gators pop up on the schedule, those bred in the Volunteer State will be ready to lead the way and educate the rookies from abroad.

"I think they catch the gist pretty much," sophomore running back Devrin Young said. "They know the SEC is the conference. So, it's just kind of self-explanatory."

Playing his high school football just up the road at Bearden High, Young knows the deal.

"I don't care where you're from, when you're from Tennessee and from your hometown, obviously it means more," Young said. "You grow up watching that team, and your family grew up watching that team. I've had a family member come through here, and obviously it just means a lot more to me. I'm sure it means a lot to my other teammates, but it's different being a hometown kid."

To hear Crowder speak on camera for the first time as a Volunteer, click play on the video below:

Bullard breaks down spring workouts in the interview below:

Get Knoxville native Kyler Kerbyson's thoughts in the footage below:

Danny Parker is currently the Associate Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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