KNOXVILLE — Adam Vicars never expected to follow in his older brother’s paw prints when he got to the University of Tennessee. But he did.
Adam and Jason VicarsAdam, 22, who will graduate in December with a degree in logistics, spent about four years — from 2003 to 2007 — serving as UT’s costumed mascot, Smokey. Adam’s brother, Jason, ’01, was Smokey for two-and-a-half years and won the Universal Cheerleaders Association Mascot National Championship in 2000 and 2001.
Adam and Jason Vicars are the only brothers ever to have served as Smokey, according to Joy Postell, UT mascot director.
The bluetick coon hound became UT’s mascot in 1953. The hound won the Pep Club contest that year because he howled when the students cheered. Smokey IX is the current real-life mascot. The costumed Smokey is part of the team roster.
The Vicars moved to Tennessee in 1984. The boys’ mother, Michele Vicars, saw her first UT game while she was eight months pregnant with Adam. She said the family immediately became “diehard” fans. They have season tickets for football and men’s basketball.
Both Jason and Adam describe running through the “T” as an adrenaline rush.
Jason said being Smokey was extremely rewarding, but also very demanding. Smokey makes appearances at home and away football games; home men’s and women’s basketball games; home baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer games; bowl games and tournaments; and hundreds of appearances on behalf of the university.
“Being the mascot at UT is different than being the mascot anywhere else,” he said. “UT is one of the few universities in the country that recognizes the Spirit program as a part of the athletic program. We were treated as student athletes, and it was a great experience.
“Many people think it’s just throwing on the costume for a football game. I wouldn’t be surprised if being the mascot requires more time than any other sport on campus.”
Both Adam, who graduated from Farragut High School, and Jason, who graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, received college scholarships for being Smokey.
However, being Smokey wasn’t part of the original plan when the brothers applied to UT.
As a child, Jason dreamed of playing football for UT.
“After enrolling in college I realized that I wasn’t athletically gifted enough to play football, but I wanted to find a way to get involved and support my favorite team,” he said. “I auditioned for Smokey on a dare. I checked my inhibitions at the door and went for it.”
Adam didn’t decide to try out for the mascot position until after he had enrolled at UT. He asked his older brother for help. Jason advised him that it took up much of his time, but encouraged Adam by teaching him Smokey’s personality, dances and signature moves.
“I never thought I would ever be Smokey,” Adam said. “I never had mascot experience prior to trying out. It is something I’ll never forget, and I am grateful for all the opportunities that I have received throughout my college career.”
As part of the All-American Mascot Team, Adam traveled to Vancouver, Canada, to film commercials for ABC and ESPN. He also appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “Wheel of Fortune.”
“These are great experiences I will remember for the rest of my life, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been Smokey,” said Adam, who will spend the fall 2007 semester helping with UT spirit program.
Jason, 29, who grew up in Oak Ridge and Kingsport, now works as a territory sales manager for Newell Rubbermaid in Nashville.
“[Being Smokey] is something that holds a special place in my heart,” Jason said. “Even though I’ve lived in many places since I graduated from UT, I always make it a point to get back to as many games as I can to support my Vols.”
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org