Tennessee ushers in football's NIKE era

Tennessee unveiled its new football uniforms Wednesday in a one-hour webcast that had the Internet abuzz.

In one fell swoop Wednesday, Tennessee’s new NIKE uniform unveiling covered social media in a blanket of orange, checkerboard and smokey gray.

The much-anticipated switch from adidas to the Swoosh began with a one-hour webcast, hosted by FOX broadcaster and former Tennessee football player Charles Davis and SEC Network broadcaster Maria Taylor, where student-athletes hit the runway to model the home and away uniforms for most of the school’s sports. The broadcast was bookended by the revelation of a new smokey gray football alternate combination complete with a Smoky Mountain outline on the helmet.

NIKE also extended the smokey gray concept to sports other than football, as the both the men’s and women’s basketball and baseball programs all received similar alternates.

The eight year, $35 million apparel deal with NIKE ended an adidas partnership that began in 1997 and ushered in a new era of branding and marketing for Tennessee, with football serving as the flagship.

“It is a very exciting time. You talk about the global brand of NIKE partnering with the global brand of the Tennessee Vols and it’s a perfect fit,” Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones said. “I know our players … they’re all very excited. Our respective recruits are very excited as well, and our fan base as well. All of Vol nation has been waiting anxiously for this day and we’re finally here.”

The Vols’ have three uniforms, using NIKE's new breathable Mach Speed Uniforms System technology, with an opportunity to mix up the combinations. Jalen Hurd opened the festivities by modeling the road uniforms, consisting of a white top and orange bottoms with a subtle checkerboard pattern running down the side of the pants. The checkerboard was also incorporated into the thick stripe on the helmet. Tennessee will also wear all-white on the road. An orange collar borders the white tops with a “V” shape veering toward the number — an homage to keeping the Volunteer spirit with the team on the road.

The alternate uniforms include a helmet that has a silhouette of the Smoky Mountains.
(NIKE photo)

"I feel privileged,” Hurd said. “Just to be a part of the first team and everyone to wear NIKE, it's awesome. It's very special."

The home jerseys feature a traditional orange top with the option of orange or white pants. Jones praised the design for its sleek, innovative look while still adhering to the rich tradition of Tennessee’s past uniforms.

"That's one of the things we wanted to do, to make sure we were innovative, that we stayed up with the times. But we really respect the great tradition that we have here at Tennessee,” he said. “The NIKE research and development and design team did a tremendous job of really looking into our traditions, our values, our ideals that we have here and incorporating those into our uniforms."

The biggest buzz came during the final segment, when the Vols revealed their new two-tone smokey gray alternates. The alternate version of the helmet is also a gray design with the silhouette of the Smoky Mountains amidst a thick orange stripe cascading into a checkerboard design.

"Big reaction from the kids. Again, this is a special game uniform. You pull this out, it gives them a pump,” NIKE VP/Creative Director for Football & Baseball Todd Van Horne said. “It gives them that edge when they need it, and that's what a special uniform is about. You play that in with a unique story for Tennessee, and you have something that no one else has.”

Insider Report: NIKE Era begins

Inside Tennessee Top Stories