Fulmer's farewell

His eyes will be focused on a victory Saturday at Neyland Stadium but they're sure to be a bit misty.

After 35 years as a player, assistant and head coach, Phillip Fulmer's association with the University of Tennessee football program will end with this weekend's season finale against Kentucky.

Being a native Tennessean, a UT alumnus and a long-time Vol, Fulmer knows he will be flooded with emotions. But, being an intensely private man, he is reluctant to discuss those emotions as the big day approaches.

When asked about the annual "last-tackle drill" that serves as the official send-off for senior players, the outgoing head man paused thoughtfully, then ducked the question.

"The Last Tackle's a big deal for the seniors," he said. "It's one of those things that's part of the whole week here – the last Sunday, the last Monday, the last Tuesday. I'm not dwelling in that. I'm dwelling in 'What have we got to do to win this football game?' That's the truth. That's kind of where I am.

"There are a lot of lasts. But it's not like anybody died or anything. We're going to live a good life regardless."

Attempting to lighten the mood a bit, one reporter asked Fulmer if he might dust off his infamous "Flying Bambino" block for the last-tackle drill.

"There won't be any Flying Bambinos," the head man said, managing a soft chuckle. "That was about 10 years ago. I want to be sure I get to the game Saturday."

There is no more emotional time on Senior Day than when the seniors are introduced individually as they run through the giant "T" formed by the marching band for the final time. Supposedly, several ex-Vols will be lining the "T" this Saturday to give their former coach a proper salute.

"I guess they're going to come out on the field, line the T and be a part of that," Fulmer said. "I don't know exactly how that's going to work out. I think the seniors will go through, then me and my family will go through there for the last time."

When another reporter asked about the emotions surrounding this game, Fulmer shook his head and mused, "I knew you all would head this way.

"It'll be an emotional time, I'm sure," he added. "As I've said before, you can sit here and keep dwelling on this until it drives you into the dirt, and I'm not going to do that. I want to celebrate the good things, and we'll make it a good thing. Then we'll try to win a football game."

Watching Tennessee's seniors wave goodbye as they run through the "T" is always an emotional moment. Watching the seniors AND the head coach wave goodbye is likely to bring some tears.

"A few times when there's been some really special seniors go through there, it takes you half a quarter just to recover a little bit," Fulmer conceded. "I can't get over there on the sidelines and not be able to function. I'll try not to let that happen."


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