Rocky Top role model

He might not be the Rocky Top League's most talented player but he certainly qualifies as the Knoxville summer league's most popular player ... and probably its most unassuming player, as well.

That would be former Tennessee Vol Dane Bradshaw, who spends most of his pre-game, halftime and post-game time each Monday and Wednesday night signing autographs for a seemingly endless stream of youngsters.

Like moths to a flame, the youngsters are drawn to Bradshaw because of his Vol background, his cleancut good looks and his approachability. Being the nice guy that he is, Bradshaw patiently poses for photos and/or scribbles his signature on basketballs, caps, T-shirts and shoes until the last request has been filled.

For a guy who is treated like a superstar, though, Dane Bradshaw certainly doesn't act like one. He is modest and self-effacing almost to a fault.

After posing for a dozen photos and signing several dozen autographs at Monday night's Rocky Top action, Bradshaw honored one last request – for a brief interview with

So, how does it feel to be a folk hero?

"Awwww, I'm not a folk hero," Bradshaw said, dismissing the suggestion with a smile and a shake of his head. "All it is ... I've been gone (honeymooning in Hawaii) the past three games, so the kids have already gotten everybody else's autograph, and I'm the last one left. That's all it is, but I appreciate them still wanting it."

Actually, Bradshaw's recent absence had no bearing on his popularity whatsoever. He is revered because of his unselfishness and hustle on the court, along with his tireless volunteer work in the community. Basically, he epitomizes everything that is good about college athletics. Youngsters love the fact he is famous (a member of UT's All-Century Team) and friendly, while their parents love the fact he is wholesome and a superior role model.

Unlike a lot of athletes, Bradshaw relishes being a role model and takes the responsibility quite seriously.

"Absolutely," he said.

Still, he is reluctant to acknowledge his off-the-charts popularity among fans.

"I joke about it but it's true; it (his popularity) won't last much longer," he said. "Every autograph could be my last. But I appreciate them remembering me around here and wanting my autograph. I don't know if it's worth much but this is what it's all about."

Bradshaw is not your typical sports icon. He averaged just 4.8 points per game for his collegiate career with a top mark of 7.1 as a junior. He made just 38.8 percent of his field-goal tries and 26.9 percent of his 3-point attempts. Still, two years after his last dribble as a Vol, he remains one of the most popular players in program history.

The only down side to Bradshaw's ongoing popularity is that he may suffer cramps in his right hand from signing so many autographs each Monday and Wednesday night. He's OK with that, though.

"You can find summer leagues anywhere," Bradshaw said, "but playing before the UT fans is what makes this one so special."

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