With legions of followers and devotees, regional football teams have stadiums jam-packed with enthusiasts pledging their allegiance. But the following fanatics have more than your average school spirit. They’re devoted, dedicated, and determined to cheer their players on season after season. Here’s what makes them the wildest superfans in town.
By Candice Graham | Photos by Med Dement
University of Tennessee Chattanooga Mocs
Q: When did you attend your first UTC football game?
A: It was fall of 1989, my freshman year at UTC. It was at Chamberlain Field, our former on-campus stadium, and I was with my Sigma Chi pledge brothers. I soon went a step further and served as the UTC mascot, Chief Mocanooga, for three football and basketball seasons.
Q: I hear you throw one of the biggest tailgates around. What makes it a hit?
A: We are now kicking off our 6th year as hosts of the Big Shoe Crew. We established the Crew to bring friends and families together to make memories and support the Mocs. We have more than 100 members and anyone is welcome. Just show up and be ready to have a good time. Many years ago, UTC was lucky to get people to show up by kickoff or even show up at all. Now, tailgating starts at least four hours before kickoff, and we are just one of dozens of groups. Our Crew makes it a point to pack up about 20 minutes before kickoff, enter the stadium together, and all stand and cheer in Section 111.
Q: Do you have any superstitious gear you have to wear?
A: My football hat! People call me the Pope of Mocs football, but I just like the ridiculousness of the hat. I wish I had a backup in case something happens to it, but I cannot find another one.
Q: What do you expect from the team this season?
A: I expect to win the Southern Conference Championship and join them in Frisco, Texas, for the National Championship. But you know what, if that doesn’t happen, I’m fine with it because I know those men are giving everything to win for Chattanooga.
Q: UTC’s football team is on the rise. What is it that makes the program excellent?
A: It’s the student athletes who have built this team. I’m friends with so many of the football players through all my years of affiliation. You watch what these guys do in practice, on the field, in the classroom, and in the community, and you want to cheer them on. You watch that camaraderie among guys who played 30 years ago or five years ago, get those big hugs, relive memories, and you know we have built something special.
• Has missed less than 10 home games since 1989.
• Always buys extra season tickets to share with others.
• Has attended upward of 150 home and away games.
• Practically his whole family also attended UTC (his wife, sister, two brothers-in-law, and two sisters-in-law).
University of Tennessee Vols
Q: How long ago was your first UT game? What made it special?
A: In 1970, at the age of 10, I attended my first Tennessee game with my parents. The game was against Florida and Tennessee won. From that moment, I was obsessed. And in each of the 46 years that have followed, my obsession with The Vols has only grown stronger.
Q: What’s your day like before the Vols run though the T?
A: Game day has always been a family affair. I’m thankful for the Tennessee memories made with my wife, Bonnie, our children Lexi and Thomas, and our friends, the Taylors, who have been tailgating with us for 25 years. Our game-day traditions begin with tailgating about seven hours prior to the game. Depending on game time, we may prepare breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For the South Carolina Gamecock games, we have fried chicken legs, and grilled gator is on the menu at every Florida game. Since elephant meat is not an option, cooking Bama on Tennessee’s turf is a sweet treat, indeed.
Q: Who do you sit with at games?
A: Our family sits together at games, and my brother from another mother Jimmy Taylor and his family are always seated right beside us.
Q: What’s your favorite UT football tradition?
A: There is nothing better than watching our Tennessee Volunteers run out of the T. If chill bumps do not cover your body at that moment, you better check your pulse.
Q: What do you think sets the University of Tennessee football program apart from all the rest?
A: Tennessee Football players and coaches are exceptional in their talent, work ethic, and drive to win. Not only do they have what it takes as a team to achieve their goals, they have more than 102,000 loyal fans cheering for them every step of the way. When those players look up into the crowd they see a sea of orange and white. The Pride of the Southland Marching Band plays Rocky Top repeatedly as the fans sing at the top of their lungs and Smokey howls from the sidelines. It doesn’t get much better than that.
• Season ticket holder since the ’70s.
• Has attended around 300 Vols games at home and on the road.
• Wears something orange every day of his life. Every day.
• On game day, you can find him cloaked completely in orange – head to toe.
John Sorrow (Pictured with wife Ashley and daughter Lela Kate Sorrow)
University of Georgia Bulldogs
Q: Do you remember your first UGA football game?
A: Yes. In 1978, the Dawgs beat Ole Miss 42-3. I knew then that it was where I wanted to go to college. My Dad, Wesley Sorrow, took me. Before that, we’d always listened to Larry Munson call Georgia games on the radio, and on those rare instances when one was televised, we watched those together.
Q: What’s your pre-game ritual like?
A: We go with a group of friends and tailgate by the Dawg Walk at Clark Howell Hall. One of our friends is an incredible organizer and handles setups for each game. Our menu each week is themed based on the opponent, and we also have kids food, desserts, a full bar, and large HDTVs showing other games. Much of our group stays at the tailgate the whole day, rather than going to the game. For our postgame tailgate, some of the coaches, athletic department officials, and their families come by each week for food and drinks and to recap the game.
Q: What’s your most memorable football game experience?
A: Attending the National Championship Sugar Bowl game on New Year’s Day in 1983 tops the list. Even though the Dawgs fell short against Penn State, it was an incredible experience.
Q: Who else in your family is a huge Georgia fan?
A: Everyone, but my daughter who is in first grade has become a fixture at UGA basketball games, and she has a record of 19-1. She is specifically requested by Coach Mark Fox’s wife Cindy to attend every game as the Dawgs were undefeated with her in attendance for her first 17 games. Cindy calls her the team’s “good luck charm,” which got Lela Kate featured on ESPN.
Q: What do you expect from the team this season?
A: The unexpected. I love Mark Richt and believe he will go down as one of the best coaches we’ve ever had. However, with Kirby Smart taking over, there is excitement about a new approach. I expect an unpredictable ride, but I’m pumped that many of my friends are re-energized for the new season.
Q: What do you think makes UGA’s football team exceptional?
A: Athens is the best college town I’ve ever seen. The beauty of the campus and Sanford Stadium nestled in the middle of campus make for the best setting and atmosphere in college football. The tailgating atmosphere near the Dawg Walk is magical for children and adults alike.
• Has attended nearly 300 games – 80% being home games.
• Coaches and Athletic Department officials swing by his group’s post-game tailgate.
• Famous Dawg Walk kicks off right by his group’s tailgate.
• His allegiance to UGA isn’t limited to football! John’s daughter has specifically requested to attend each UGA home basketball game.
Terry Nida (Pictured with wife Diedre Nida)
University of Alabama Crimson Tide
Q: What do you remember about your first Alabama football game?
A: My first Alabama game was on October 15, 1976, versus Tennessee on a cool afternoon in Knoxville. Alabama won 20-13. I attended the game with two good friends, including one who was a Tennessee student. My biggest impression was how Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant ran the wishbone offense. It ran like clockwork every time.
Q: Since that first game, how many times have you been in the stands to cheer on Alabama?
A: I have attended 218 games since 1976, including six national championships from Miami to Pasadena. I have yet to see Alabama lose in a national title game.
Q: Which game stands out to you as one of the best?
A: One I’ll never forget is the first championship game I attended. On January 1, 1979, Alabama competed against Penn State in the 45th Annual Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans. That game had one of the most famous goal-line stands in college football history. Alabama was ranked no. 2 and Penn State was ranked no. 1. – the energy in the stadium was incredible. Alabama beat Penn State and Coach Joe Paterno 14-7 that day to win the National Championship.
Q: Are you always sure to get season tickets?
A: I have been a season ticket holder for about 20 years, and I always sit with my wife.
Q: What’s tailgating like for you and your family? Do you have any places you have to visit while in Tuscaloosa?
A: My daughter attended the University of Alabama and our tailgating usually consists of having lunch at the sorority house and watching other SEC games of the day on TV there before heading to the stadium. Our other favorite places in Tuscaloosa to visit on game day are the famous sports restaurant Rama Jama and Archibalds BBQ.
Q: What do you think makes Alabama one of the top teams year after year?
A: What sets Alabama apart is our head coach Nick Saban. He expects excellence in his staff and players. He recruits to the highest level and will not accept excuses or failures. I feel like Alabama could contend another national championship this year if our quarterbacks come through and injuries are minimal.
• Hasn’t missed an Alabama-Tennessee game since 1979.
• Has attended more than 200 Alabama games.
• Was in attendance for the 1979 Sugar Bowl and the famous goal-line stand.
• Current president of the University of Alabama Alumni and Friends – Chattanooga Chapter.
Davis Family (Front: Lauren and Bennett Davis. Back: Nick, Susan, Coleman, and Nick Davis.
Auburn University War Eagles
Q: How many members of your family attended Auburn and who?
A: Everyone went to Auburn. Parents, a grandparent, aunts, uncles, and cousins all attended. Plus, our son, Nick and his wife Lauren, our son Nelson and his girlfriend Millie, and our son Neal and his wife Mary Caroline. Our daughter-in-law, Lauren, went to the University of Georgia her freshman year but quickly came to her senses and transferred!
Q: Tell me about tailgating! Do you throw a big tailgate or attend someone else’s?
A: When the boys were all in school our tailgates were legendary.
We always tailgated in the amphitheater for all their friends and fraternity brothers, and would often have 50 to 75 people in attendance. Now we typically visit the SAE house or visit friends’ tailgates.
Q: Does your family have any superstitions or good luck charms?
A: The boys have a “lucky” game day shirt every year and they only change it if we lose a game.
Q: What’s your favorite Auburn football tradition?
A: Rolling Toomer’s Corner and the Tiger Walk are great Auburn traditions, but the eagle flying around the stadium before kickoff is our favorite!
Q: What’s your outlook for the 2016 season?
A: We are looking forward to an improvement over last year. We are expecting a great season.
Q: What do you think makes Auburn’s football program the best?
A: Auburn is truly a family experience. You can hear “WAR EAGLE” anywhere in the world and know you have a special connection with someone!
• Annual season ticket holders.
• Tailgate at home for away games! Tailgating food included.
• As a kid, Dad Nick would sell game programs in exchange for a football game ticket.
• Have been known to roll their own yard after a War Eagle win.