Memorable memos

At the beginning of the 2007 football season, Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer wrote a couple of memos – not to his players or his staff, but to himself.

The first said "Have fun." The second said "I believe." Both were displayed prominently on his desk.

Those memos must've seemed a tad ludicrous earlier this season. There was nothing fun about losing 45-31 to Cal, 59-20 to Florida or 41-17 to Alabama. And, if Fulmer believed in his team at this point, he may have been in the minority. Many Vol fans gave up on the '07 squad after its rocky start.

Although he acknowledges that this has been "a challenging year … a frustrating year at times," the coach never let the early struggles affect his mindset.

"I have not lost any confidence at any point in the year that we could be a a good team if we continued to work and improve," Fulmer said, reflecting on a 9-3 regular season that closed with a five-game winning streak and an SEC East title. "That's turned out to be the case."

Asked if he ever checked the memo to remind himself to "have fun" during the course of this rollercoaster season, the Vol coach nodded.

"I have," he said with a laugh. "I've done that."

It's a safe bet those memos got more attention after the Florida and Bama games, when the Vol performance, like the mood of many fans, was downright ugly. Asked if he consulted his memos more often during the first part of the season, however, the coach replied: "It's been different … at different places, different circumstances."

Regardless, the coach has had a lot more fun during the five-game winning streak that has earned the Vols a date with West champ LSU in Saturday's SEC Championship Game.

"We'll have to play well to win this game," Fulmer noted. "But, at the same time, you enjoy the journey along the way.

"We realize our strengths and our weaknesses. We'll work like heck to control what we can control and go and play with great effort, energy and emotion. We're a young team but I don't expect the environment we're in to affect us in any way."

Fulmer's 15-year tenure at Tennessee is by far the longest of any SEC coach. Houston Nutt, who had the second-longest tenure, resigned under pressure on Monday after 10 years at Arkansas.

Asked if any SEC coach can expect to stay with one school as long as he has stayed with Tennessee, Fulmer paused thoughtfully, then grinned.

"Yeah," he said. "If they win all their games … or most of ‘em."

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