ALL VOLS: KNOX COUNTY WARRIORS
Pioneer House Gallery
413 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
Friday November 13, 2015 6-9pm
In October of 1978, my dad (a University of Tennessee alum) took me to my first Tennessee Volunteers football game at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis; a frustrating loss to Mississippi State. A bitter cold swept in as the sun set, and I got sick on the way home. I thought it was the Wendy’s, but years later I considered the plausible scenario that it might have been my first true taste of internalized, spectator heartbreak. The mood was somber, and the car savage and foul, all the way home. Memphis was the closest town of any significant culture for those of us from across the river in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas, so I made it there a good bit as a kid. In the coming years my dad continued to turn me on to the magnitude of Tennessee football, kindly taking me back to the Liberty Bowl when the Vols would come west for the occasional home-away-from-home game. Thanks to him I got to see Reggie White, Willie Gault, and Bill Bates play at the height of their college careers. While most of the other kids in our neighborhood wore Staubach, Swann, or Bradshaw jerseys in our sandlot, full tackle games, I was the kid in the orange #6 Jimmy Streater jersey and homemade Power-T helmet, both gifts from my dad. I wore that jersey so thin that he chose to replace it a couple years later. Even as life took me southwest, I’ve been proud to follow along and watch the Vols from afar. Through good years and bad, it’s given my dad and I even more conversation to chew on, and I’ve long been grateful for that.
I get to travel a lot, but I’ve never gotten to spend much time in Knoxville. Next Saturday I’ll finally make it to Neyland Stadium for a game. It’s been both educational and nostalgic to assemble this show, and a chance to pay tribute to some of my favorite Vols football players. It’s also a good excuse to take an overdue road trip with my dad. There are some legends missing here and there, and I accepted that possibility from the start. There are many, and I figure that’s a good problem for a football program to have. I didn’t sweat a strict to-do list, but instead went with whatever player happened to inspire or intrigue me at the time the paints were out.
Thanks to my friends Bill Bayne and Julie Belcher for encouraging and enabling this show.
This one’s dedicated to my dad.
-Will Johnson, November 2015