Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer never has been one to make a big deal over himself and, apparently, doesn’t intend to start now.
But Thursday after the Vols’ last full practice at Haslam Field, after paying a verbal tribute to his 25 seniors and sending them one at a time through the line of teammates to their “Last Tackle,” Fulmer decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I kind of got in on a cleanup block,” Fulmer said of his charge through the line on a beautiful Thanksgiving afternoon. “I didn’t have to hit it. It was already on the ground so I just cleaned it up a little bit.”
Asked if he had ever before taken part in the Tennessee tradition, Fulmer said in his typical unpretentious manner, “It wasn’t my year to be the ‘Last Tackle.’”
This Saturday, however, Fulmer coaches his final game on the UT sideline when the Vols host Kentucky in a 6:45 p.m. Eastern time kickoff. A win against the Wildcats not only keeps alive UT’s 23-game winning streak in the series but also raises Fulmer’s coaching record in 17 seasons to 152 wins against 52 losses.
Knowing the circumstances, Thursday’s post-practice wrapup involved lots of hugs, thank-yous and well-wishes from players current and past.
“A lot of friends came out to see us,” Fulmer said. “It was a good day and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Thursday’s “Last Tackle” and Saturday’s pregame ceremonies honor 25 seniors playing their final game for the Big Orange. Those being recognized are: Brett Barnes, Demonté Bolden, Josh Briscoe, Jake Brown, Britton Colquitt, Stephen Darville, Walter Fisher, Arian Foster, Brent Freeman, Derrick Furlow, Antonio Gaines, Ryan Hill, David Holbert, Nevin McKenzie, Adam Myers-White, Anthony Parker, Brett Thomason, Phillip Tritapoe, Ben Weisensel, Ja’Kouri Williams, DeAngelo Willingham, and captains Lucas Taylor, Ellix Wilson, Ramon Foster and Robert Ayers.
The Vols coach said Thursday he has not made a final determination for Saturday’s starting quarterback, offering that it likely would be Jonathan Crompton and that B.J. Coleman has been limited this week by a foot injury. Coleman, who saw his first extensive action in last week’s 20-10 win at Vanderbilt, is expected to play.
As for Thursday’s workout, the Vols practiced 75 minutes in a good tempo.
“We had a much better day as far as offensive execution than we had Wednesday, which was encouraging,” Fulmer said. “It was a fun day. The guys changed jerseys and that’s fun for them — although it’s hard to see Gerald Jones out there in No. 75 running the football.
“And the last tackle is always special.”
Make that extra special; just don’t make it that big of a deal.