35 years ago, JeTske was only beginning to discover how great it is to be a Tennessee VOL, thanks to Smokeys Trainer. JeTske had just arrived at Rocky Top when he made one of the most unlikely and life-changing decisions he would ever make. He joined the Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity. Despite mixed reactions from his parents, JeTske joined AGR because he was so impressed that everyone in the fraternity was majoring in Agriculture and they all made him feel comfortable that he would “fit in”. It didn’t take long before JeTske and Smokeys Trainer (Springfield, TN) became close friends, forging a relationship that would endure for the rest of their lives. The memories of those college years included many adventures both “on the field” and “off the field”. You see, Smokeys Trainer was indeed Smokey’s real trainer – the student responsible for training, transporting and caring for the UT mascot – including running through the “T” and handling him on the sidelines. Some of JeTske’s most cherished memories include fabricating fake “Authorized Access” arm bands and dressing himself up like a trainer, cheerleader, or photographer to be able to be on the field during many of the football games – both at home and away. JeTske will always remember being on the field with Bear Bryant, toting a camera with no film in it pretending to take pictures. College students couldn’t afford rolls of film or the cost of developing film in those days.
Traveling with Smokeys Trainer for road games was always fun. The budget would only cover the expenses of Smokeys Trainer and dogs were not allowed in hotels. So, both Smokey and JeTske always had to find creative ways to elude tacklers at the front desk. Often, his sleeping accommodations required JeTske to sleep on the floor with Smokey. But that was OK. How many other Tennessee fans can say they ever slept with Smokey?
When JeTske first began to follow the VOLS, it was all about the adventure, not what actually happened during the game. It didn’t take long however for him to discover how much more fun everyone had whenever the VOLS won! Through the years, JeTske has come to fully appreciate how great it is to be a Tennessee VOL, regardless of whether the VOLS win or lose. The “greatness” comes from the shared joy and hUmiliTy VOLS fans experience and the meaningful relationships they cUltivaTe along the way – like the relationship JeTske enjoys with Smokeys Trainer and his entire family.