By S. Yvonne Loveday
Does the name Adam DeVault ring a bell? How about Smokey, UT’s team mascot?
DeVault calls himself the most famous man whom nobody knows in Knoxville. Not many people know the man behind the mascot, even though DeVault has been animating that blue tick hound suit for four years. This is his final year as the team mascot. He’ll be passing the dog head to another at the end of the semester, when he graduates with a master’s degree.
DeVault is going out with a bang, though, having won the mascot national championship sponsored by the Universal Cheerleaders Association and Disney.
Usually, Auburn’s Aubie takes home the gold, but this year Smokey’s high impact skits raised the bar, and Tennessee came home a winner, says DeVault. “Sixteen of us were invited to the finals this year,” he says. “Smokey was lucky enough to win.”
Smokey, er, DeVault had to submit a two-minute tape demonstrating community service, crowd interaction, interaction with cheerleaders and the band, and non-sporting activities. Once accepted as a finalist, he put together a 90-second skit for the judges.
The championship is a fitting end to a trying year for Smokey. Last semester, DeVault’s Smokey suit was stolen from his apartment after an Auburn game. DeVault thinks maybe some Auburn fans followed him home and took the suit when he went out to the deli.
Fortunately, Smokey had another suit, but DeVault took it hard.
“The costumes cost about $3,500 and take forever to make,” he says.
When word of the theft made national headlines, former Smokeys from all over the country called to express their condolences.
“The Smokeys have a pretty close-knit fraternity. We all care about the integrity of Smokey.”
DeVault comes from a “long line of great mascots” at UT. Michael Kennedy and Tim Padnoe, both former Smokeys, have gone on to mascot positions for professional teams—Kennedy as Sourdough Sam for the San Francisco Forty Niners and Padnoe as Sharkie for the San Jose Sharks hockey team.
DeVault, who calls himself a homebody, has had a few offers to go professional, but would prefer to stay in East Tennessee. With an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration, he hopes to work in local government.
The best thing about being Smokey?
“To run through the T,” says DeVault. “It’s just living a dream. That was a dream of mine growing up, but I never thought it would be with a dog head instead of a football helmet!”
Oh, and just so you know, the new Smokey will be Jason Vickers.
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