The last regular season game is here way too soon. The Vols (5-6) will take their post season hopes into the game against their in- state rival, Vanderbilt (3-8). The loss to the 'Dores last year kept the Vols home for the Holidays; however, this year Vandy is dealing with a coaching change and a winless SEC season.
The Vols can still remember that empty feeling from last season and it will motivate them in this one. Jalen Hurd returning to Nashville should equate to a special performance in front of family and friends. The most important game of the season should be a special one.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought perhaps it would be the perfect time to reflect on a few things surrounding Tennessee Football that I am thankful for.
There are many things that come to mind and I am sure I will over look a few. That is because fans of the Big Orange are so blessed. Tomorrow please pause and think of the things that make Tennessee Football special for you. It will help to keep this season and the patience it has taken during the rebuilding in perspective.
Be thankful that finally a dynamic head coach has arrived on Rocky Top to rebuild the program so it will eventually return to prominence and compete once again for championships. Butch Jones and his staff are truly one of the best things in years to happen to this program.
I am thankful for the student athletes that have chosen Tennessee and have accepted the hard work it takes to turn around a program. Watching these student athletes compete is something that has made this season special.
I am thankful for those older players that endured coaching changes and through it all have helped the younger players mature and contribute. Those seniors tomorrow will have the chance to see their dedication be rewarded.
I am thankful for all the great traditions surrounding Tennessee Football that have evolved over the years. The Vol Walk, the band's Salute to the Hill, Running through the "T," The Vol Navy, the checkerboards, the power T on the helmet, and of course my favorite fight song, "Rocky Top." These all make being a Volunteer fan the best.
I am thankful for the rivalries within the SEC that play out each Saturday in the fall. Every SEC contest takes on a special feel no matter the opponent. Being a part of the best conference in the country certainly is a blessing in itself.
I am personally thankful for the long time friendships established through the years of both Big Orange fans and those that chose to follow other programs. It makes fall special every year!
I am thankful for all the Tennessee history that Bob Mitchell, the late George Mooney and the late Bobby Denton along with others that have taken the time to educate this Terrapin transplant, who, by the way, really does bleed orange!
I am thankful for past, the present and the future of those that make up Tennessee Football. I have been blessed to meet many of the former greats over the years.
I am thankful for fellow columnist Jim Butler and all the banter we had through the years - even if he had to come out of semi-retirement to continue the fun.
I am also thankful for those that have supported me throughout the past seasons with this column. It starts with those at the Chronicle — Pauline, Ed and my photographer, Larry Robertson. It extends throughout the state to other sports writers that have also been invaluable.
I am also thankful for a wife that has been very supportive along the way and works late into the night proofreading every week. Then there are all those Saturdays that are planned around sports.
I am thankful for those that have read and offered support for this column along the way. Without you, this would have ended many years ago. Thank you and have a blessed Thanksgiving with your family and friends.
And finally — I am thankful for Team #118 that is going to celebrate with the Big Orange Nation Saturday night - as the post season era returns to Rocky Top! Go Vols!
(Frank Gale is a Chronicle correspondent and his column appears regularly.)