Gunkel: Volunteering for Tennessee

InsideTennessee welcomes new staff writer Cory Gunkel to Knoxville. Gunkel will help cover football, basketball and recruiting for IT.

By now you’ve probably seen my name next to a story or two on InsideTennessee and wondered who this guy is and why his last name sounds like a German strudel. I can help you with the first question, but the second one is still open for interpretation.

My name is Cory Gunkel and I’m the new staff writer here at InsideTennessee. I got my start after graduating from Southern Miss in 2013 by working for the USM Rivals website before accepting a job as a sports reporter and featured columnist for The Vicksburg Post in Vicksburg, Miss. Now, as fate would have it, I’m here in Rocky Top. (Don’t worry. I prepared by listening to that song on repeat for the eight-hour drive here.)

Growing up in the Deep South has both its hindrances and advantages, one of the latter being the quick immersion to college football we all in this area no doubt experienced. I was raised on the Jefferson Pilot/Lincoln-Financial game at 11:15, the smell of smoked meats wafting over a tailgate on a crisp autumn afternoon, the sounds of a marching orchestra gracefully moving past midfield as the notes of a familiar fight song rise over the October chill.

To me, college athletics has always been a liaison of sorts — a connection to the past bridged with one to the immediate future. I attended my first college football game at six months old, and my mom vowed to leave my dad if I experienced permanent hearing loss because of it. Thankfully I can hear just fine (except when my girlfriend asks me to take out the trash), and ever since then the pageantry, passion and power of college athletics has driven me to this career that rarely feels like work.

I was asked why I wanted to come to Knoxville, and the answer is pretty straightforward. There are but a few meccas within the realm of college sport and this is one of them. It is impossible to grow up in the South without hearing about General Neyland, the Volunteer Navy, the checkerboard end zones and Rocky Top. It just doesn’t happen. Tennessee is the place where the rich history of college athletics collides with its most treasured traditions.

The first college football game I remember watching involved UT, when 10-year-old me sat mesmerized in front of the TV as the Vols scratched out a hard-fought 19-16 victory over Southern Miss on ESPN in 2000. It was the game that started this crazy journey, watching 108,000 orange-clad Tennessee congregation members worship in the cathedral of Neyland Stadium. I’ve been hooked ever since.

So far in Knoxville I’ve covered a firing, a coaching search and two football practices. I’ve been here for three days, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I look forward to getting to know you all while continuing to bring you the best Tennessee coverage in the country.

Just don’t kill me before spring practice is over

Follow Cory Gunkel on Twitter @CoryGunkel or email him at cory.a.gunkel@gmail.com


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