|Smokey The Top Dog
By Amy Blakely
This two-legged purebred, the court jester of Big Orange Country, has a human side
Adam Vicars never expected to follow in his older brother's paw prints when he got to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but he did.
Adam, 22, who graduates in December with a degree in logistics, spent about 4 years-from 2003 to 2007-as UT's costumed mascot, Smokey. Adam's brother, Jason, '01, was Smokey for 2 1/2 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 coonhound 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 Vicarses moved to Tennessee in 1984. The boys' mother, Michele Vicars, saw her first UT game while she was 8 months pregnant with Adam. She says the family immediately became "diehard" fans. They have season tickets for football and men's basketball.
Both Jason and Adam describe running through the "Power T" as an adrenaline rush. Jason says being Smokey was extremely rewarding, but also very demanding. Smokey makes appearances at home and away football games; men's and women's home 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 from being the mascot anywhere else;" he says. "UT is one of the few universities in the country that recognizes the spirit program as 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 in Knoxville, and Jason, who graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, received college scholarships for being Smokey. Being Smokey, however, wasn't part of the original plan when the brothers applied to UT.
As a child, Jason dreamed of playing football for the Vols. "After enrolling in college I realized 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 says. "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 warned him that it took up a lot of time, but he encouraged Adam by teaching him Smokey's personality, dances, and signature moves.
"I never thought I would be Smokey;" Adam says. "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," Adam says.
Jason, 29, is a territory sales manager for Newell Rubbermaid in Nashville.
"[Being Smokey] is something that holds a special place in my heart;" he says. "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."