Smokey VIII carrying on UT tradition of 50 years


By ELIZABETH A. DAVIS, Associated Press
Smokey VIII leading Vols
Smokey leads his Volunteers thru the T for battle, on every given Saturday in Knoxville.

Smokey bounds out of the tunnel and through the T formed by the Tennessee marching band, straining his leash the whole way.

Once the game begins, the bluetick coonhound starts to howl, growing louder as the crowd noise rises.

A Vols football game hasn't been complete without Smokey, the mascot tradition that began Sept. 25, 1953, when crowd applause annointed the first hound.

Now the Vols are represented by Smokey VIII, and he's continuing the tradition of his bloodline with his good-natured friendliness with people and occasional mischief.

"He's been an ideal pet and mascot," said Smokey's owner, Earl Hudson.

That is, if you overlook how Smokey scarfed down a hotel washcloth the day before the 1998 national championship game.

Many university teams have real animal mascots obvious in their connection to the team nickname: Georgia's bulldog Uga, LSU's Mike the tiger, and Texas' Bevo the longhorn.

Other mascots such as Southern Cal's horse named Traveler and Oklahoma's Boomer and Sooner, the white ponies that pull a covered wagon, aren't part of the team nickname but linked to the overall theme.

Tennessee students decided in 1953 they wanted a hound dog mascot to go with the Volunteer motif, which also includes a student in a coonskin cap and buckskin suit to resemble Davy Crockett.

Smokey I 1953
The UT Pep Club held a contest in 1953 to select a coon hound, a native breed of the state. "This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn' Dawg' in the best sense of the word."

They distributed fliers seeking entries to be judged at the Mississippi State game.

"This can't be an ordinary hound. He must be a 'Houn Dawg' in the best sense," the fliers read.

The Rev. Bill and Mildred Brooks entered their dog "Brooks' Blue Smokey." The dog that got the loudest cheers was to be the winner. Smokey was the last to be announced.

"He barked. And they cheered for him. He barked again," Bill Brooks said in a 1985 interview.

Hudson, who is Mildred Brooks' brother, and his wife, Martha, took over caring for the Smokeys in 1993 after his sister, then a widow, became too frail. Mildred Brooks died in 1997.

There's an interesting tail - make that tale - behind each of the Smokeys.

Smokey II was kidnapped by Kentucky students in 1955 and returned before kickoff. Vanderbilt students tried the same thing, but accidentally stole Brooks' other dog, Rusty, a hound who was half bluetick and half plott.

Smokey VI was listed on the team's injury report after he suffered heat exhaustion at the UCLA game in 1991.

The black sheep of the family was Smokey VII. He was forced into early retirement after he lightly bit the same tuba player during consecutive games in 1994.

Smokey VIII
Earl Hudson, owner of Smokey, the University of Tennessee mascot, poses for a photo at his home Monday, Sept. 22, 2003, in Knoxville, Tenn. The bluetick coonhound is number eight in the line of mascots since the first Smokey was chosen at a football game in 1953. (AP Photo)

"It's the only time in 50 years it's ever happened," Hudson said.

Smokey VIII came in as his replacement.

Smokey lives the life of a pampered pooch, sleeping inside the house at night. He gets a whole bench seat in a van to sprawl out on while riding to road games, and he gets hotel, not kennel, accommodations when traveling.

Like a movie star, he is surrounded with special assistants. Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity helps take care of Smokey, and two members are chosen to be his handlers during games and at public appearances.

But Smokey still knows how to act like a dog.

Sometimes, Smokey spends the night at the fraternity house on campus, and his handlers, Travis DeLozier and Scott Walker, have learned not to leave Smokey alone with a pizza.

Walker was the one holding Smokey's leash when the call of nature struck the hound while running onto the field at this year's season opener.

"Luckily it was on the sideline, not the middle of the field," Walker said.

A close call came in 1998. The day before the Fiesta Bowl, Smokey got so sick his handlers had to take him to a vet.

X-rays showed an obstruction in the dog's intestines. But the vet, in consultation with Hudson, determined Smokey didn't need immediate surgery and could make the game and the trip home.

"He went through that game, and you didn't even know anything was wrong with him," Hudson said.

The next day, veterinary surgeons removed a hotel washcloth from the dog's intestines.

Apparently, not every lesson at Diane's Canine School of Charm rubbed off on Smokey.

"We don't do a lot of obedience," Hudson said. "It's not in his repertoire."

50 Years Of Smokey

The photos are by:
Smokey's Trail, UT Sports, Football Time in Tennessee, Robin Hood and Barry Parker

50 Years of Smokey

By Tom Mattingly, Volunteers Magazine [August Edition 2003]
The date was September 26, 1953, in the days before ESPN Sports Center (before television on a large scale, really) and the wall-to-wall coverage of the Vols sports was a few years away, back in the day when the newspapers carried a complete hour-by-hour summary of the day's radio programs. Vols football was big, but nothing like today. Was that day memorable?

Rev Bill & Mildred Brooks
"He was a prize-winner, a show dog. Old No. 1 was my favorite because I loved him so much before he became the mascot. They had the contest, and he was the last dog in the line."

No and yes. It was a day the Tennessee Vols lost a game. It was the day the Vols gained a mascot.

That was the storyline when Tennessee and Mississippi State squared off on Shields-Watkins Field to open the season 50 years ago, the first on The Hill in forever without the legendary Gen. Neyland on the sidelines. The General was still Athletics Director, but had turned over the reins of the Vols program to Harvey Robinson, who was making his debut as head coach. Mack Franklin was the Vols captain. The attendance that day was estimated at 25,000. Johnny Majors was a freshman tailback. Phillip Fulmer was just over three years old 135 or so miles away in Winchester. Most of the parents of today's players had not been born.

Kickoff was at 2 p.m., as it should be, and the selection of the new mascot by the UT Pep Club was a big deal as a sidebar to the game. This was in those halcyon days in which the Vols opened on the last Saturday in September, played their 10 games and went home.

The Maroons of head coach (and former Vol) Murray Warmath won 26-0 that September afternoon, but a bluetick coonhound named "Brooks' Blue Smokey" stole the show and there has been a "Smokey" on the Vols' sideline ever since. (The selection, it should be noted, was not actually made until the Duke game the next week, but everything, including the press reports from the game, indicated that "Blue Smokey" was the consensus choice.)

Smokey VI
Smokeys I through VIII have been the "top dogs" on campus for 50 years. You don't mess with any of the Smokeys. A lot of people, including Scott Hunter and the Baylor Bear, found that out the hard way.

The names of Rev. W. C. Brooks and the Hudson family of Knoxville are not household words in the UT vernacular, but they should be. They have supplied the Smokeys over the years and have joined the brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity in contributing mightily to the Tennessee tradition.

Over the years, it was Rev. Brooks, his wife, Mildred, and brother-in-Iaw Earl Hudson who have raised and trained the eight Smokeys who have graced the sidelines of whatever venue where the Vols played.

"He was a prize-winner, a show dog," Rev. Brooks said back in 1985, less than a year before he died. "Old No.1 was my favorite because I loved him so much before he became the mascot. They had the contest, and he was the last dog in the line.

"When they came to him, they said, 'This is old Smokey.' The students were supposed to cheer for the dog they wanted. He barked. And they cheered for him. He barked again. He'd just throw his head back, and he had an awful voice anyway."

Smokey won a bark-off over 19 other dogs and the rest is, as they say, history.

Rev. Brooks had begun raising dogs when he was discharged from the Army in 1945. "He was a hunter and sportsman," Hudson said. "He was the founder of the Volunteer Rescue Squad, a man who liked to do things for people. He loved hunting, coon hunting, specifically."

Here are some highlights in the careers of the eight Smokeys.

Smokey I, who served from 1953-54, got out of Rev. Brooks' garage and was hit by a speeding car on Rutledge Pike on a cold night in January 1955.

"Bill didn't latch the garage door open and Smokey I got out," Earl said. "You have to stay with them. You can't let them roam. They get on a scent and don't let up."

Smokey II got crossways with the Baylor Bear at the 1957 Sugar Bowl. In addition, University of Kentucky students also dognapped him, if that is the proper word. "He had a real fine history," Hudson said. "A week later after Kentucky returned Smokey II, Vanderbilt decided they would do the same thing. They went in and got a dog, but got the wrong one. There's a lot of history there."

It was Smokey III, the longest serving Smokey, however, who caught the attention of an Alabama Bear, this one named Bryant. The year was 1968.

"We were warming up before the game and one of their cheerleaders kept letting Smokey, their mascot, come over close to us and bark," Scott Hunter, then an Alabama quarterback, said. "I got tired of it and took a kick at that old hound.

Smokey VIII
Scott Walker [left] and Travis DeLozier [right] are 2003 handlers for Smokey VIII.

"When we were walking to the dressing room, Coach Bryant walked up beside me and said, 'Scott, we've got enough trouble up here without you trying to kick their dog.'"

Smokey IV served 1978-79 and was kept here at UT, and, like Smokey I, got out and was killed in a traffic accident.

Smokey V served from 1980-83 and, in Hudson's words, was a "good one, one that looked like Smokey VIII."

Smokey VI was in on three SEC titles from 1984-91 and died in 1991 of an inoperable brain tumor. When he went down due to a heat stroke in the 1991 UCLA game and missed the Mississippi State game the next week, the Tennessee Sports Information Office was deluged by queries about his condition.

Smokey VII, who served from 1992-94, was the first one out of blood line, He was kicked off the team in the fall of 1994 for nipping at the heels of a band member when the team ran through the "T" before a game, "They used a substitute dog named Woody much of that season," Hudson said.

Back in the bloodline, Smokey VIII has served since 1995 and has two SEC titles and a national championship under his belt.

Earl Hudson

Earl Hudson and Smokey VIII
Earl Hudson, brother-in-law to original Smokey contributor Bill Brooks, has kept up with Smokey VII and Smokey VIII after Bill and Mildred died, Bill in 1986 and Mildred in 1997.

When you visit a friend's house, it's not often surprising there's a barking dog in the house. When you visit Earl and Martha Hudson's home in North Knoxville, that barking dog is Smokey VIII.

Hudson, brother-in-law to original Smokey contributor Bill Brooks, has kept up with Smokey VII and Smokey VIII after Bill and Mildred died, Bill in 1986 and Mildred in 1997.

You'll find Earl in Neyland Stadium on the First row behind the Tennessee bench on the east side of Shields-Watkins Field. A retired pharmacist, Earl has a treasure trove of material about the eight Smokeys and his recollections of his brother-in-law and sister are priceless.

"Bill was the head of missions for the Knox County Baptist Association," Earl said. "He spent a lot of time building new churches in West Virginia, Montana, North and South Dakota and in Bolivia. He was a lay minister who did a lot of good for a lot of people.

"Mildred made all the vests for the Smokeys. I think it was Smokey V who grew so fast she made two or three vests for him over a threemonth period."

Now 77, Earl spends a lot time with Smokey VIII and the relationship between man and dog is inspiring to watch.

While Bill said he loved No.1 (see accompanying story) like no other, Earl told us that No. VIII is his favorite although Smokey III, the longest-lived Smokey, was close. "He's right up there with No. VIII," he said.

Happy Birthday to a line of Smokeys that now numbers nine.

Smokey VIII is the winningest Smokey, having compiled a record of 91-22, with two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship.

UT Mascot, Smokey VIII, has died

By Tonja Burk
March 17, 2006

Smokey VIII passed away earlier Friday

 Born Nov. 10, 1994, Smokey VIII began his reign in 1995 and retired after the 2004 Peach Bowl in Atlanta after being diagnosed with a nasal tumor in December 2003. He underwent radiation treatment and then chemotherapy. The expected prognosis, with treatment was 13 months. Smokey VIII more than doubled that at two years, four months.

"Smokey VIII responded very well to radiation treatment and chemotherapy for his nasal adenocarcinoma, surviving over a year beyond his expected prognosis," Dr. Kate Stenske, Smokey's vet at UT Veterinary Hospital, said. "He always came in with his tail wagging and a friendly howl, and he will be missed by all his friends at UT Veterinary Hospital."

Smokey VIII is the winningest Smokey, having compiled a record of 91-22, with two SEC titles and the 1998 national championship.

The line of Smokeys began in 1953 when the late Rev. Bill Brooks entered his prize-winning blue tick coon hound, "Brooks' Blue Smokey," in a contest to pick the school's new mascot. Rev. Brooks supplied UT with the line of canines until his death in 1986 when his wife, Mildred, took over the caretaking role. She did so until 1994, when her brother and sister-in-law, Earl and Martha Hudson of Knoxville, took over responsibility for Smokey VII and eventually Smokey VIII, with Smokey IX now carrying on the banner of the Smokey lineage.

"My relationship with Smokey VIII was special," Earl Hudson said. "I got him when he was two months old. He served with distinction, weathered storms, cold and heat. He came through it all real well and was always rearing to go. He was a great mascot."

One of the most beloved figures in the state, Smokey is famous for leading the Vols out of the giant "T" prior to each home game.

Smokey remains on the travel roster for the Vols' upcoming game against South Carolina.

Smokey IX accused of biting Alabama player

By Associated Press
October 26, 2006, 3:55 PM ET

 KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Earl Hudson is worried his dog, Smokey, is getting a bad reputation. Smokey IX, Tennessee's bluetick coonhound mascot, has been accused of biting an Alabama player before last week's game at Neyland Stadium.

Crimson Tide receiver Mike McCoy fell on the 3-year-old dog during pregame warmups after jumping out of bounds for a pass near where Smokey was standing with the cheerleaders.

What the dog did next is up for some debate. Alabama coach Mike Shula says Smokey bit the player. Smokey's owner says he didn't. As for Smokey, he only howls.

"It was over his head and he couldn't catch it, but he came down right on top of Smokey," Hudson explained. "Now what dog worth his salt wouldn't defend himself?

"Smokey did not bite him. The article in the paper said he bit the player. He got a little of his uniform, didn't break the skin I was told, but Alabama made a big deal out of it I understand," Hudson said.

When asked if McCoy was bitten, Shula told reporters on Sunday, "I can confirm that. I wasn't an eyewitness, but I did see that it drew blood in pregame warmups."

McCoy, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound freshman, was off-limits to media after the game, but he did play. UT officials said there was a hole in McCoy's pants. Tennessee won the game 16-13.

One thing is for sure. Smokey was not injured.

"Of course it startled him. I don't accuse Alabama of trying to stir up a problem," Hudson said. "I was upset when they told me about it, but after they told me what happened I can see why he did that."

The Vols travel to South Carolina on Saturday, and Smokey remains on the travel roster.

Smokey was taking it easy Wednesday. After a walk with Hudson, Smokey was curled up in his favorite recliner, maybe even dreaming about the big game.

Smokey is handled during games by two members of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and is restrained by a leash. Before arriving at the stadium last week, Smokey wandered through the crowd gathered for the procession of players to the game and was petted by many children.

"He's never hurt anybody. He's very gentle, very calm," Hudson said. "He loves to be there."

The Smokey tradition began in 1953 when a dog named Brooks' Blue Smokey won a contest to be the mascot. He was owned by the late Rev. Bill and Mildred Brooks, whose brother is Hudson. Hudson took over caring for the Smokeys in 1993.

Not all Smokeys have passed doggie charm school. Smokey VII was forced into early retirement after he nipped the same UT band member during consecutive games in 1994.

"That fellow had obviously stepped on his foot. Nobody ever explained that in the paper," Hudson said. "That's the only dog we used that was out of the blood line."

The seventh Smokey was replaced by Smokey VIII, who stepped down in 2003 after he was diagnosed with a nasal tumor. He survived the cancer but died in March from high blood pressure and kidney disease. Smokey IX replaced him.

Video footage from a South Carolina game a few years ago showed a player landing on Smokey and Smokey reacting as if he was going to bite the player, Hudson recalled. In another game, a UT player knocked an opposing player out of bounds into Smokey.

"There was nothing said about that. We just noticed it on film," Hudson said. "It's just something they show occasionally to show that Smokey is loyal to his own team."

A Tradition Of 58 Years
Smokey IX Mascot Is On The Job

Smokey's Reigns
    Smokey I [1953-54]

  • Prize-winning show dog named Brooks' Blue Smokey
  • Also Brooks' coon hound
  • Hit by car

  • Smokey II [1955-64]

  • Three months old when inherited reign
  • Abducted by Kentucky students in 1955
  • Returned unharmed at kickoff of Kentucky game Nov. 19
  • Fought with Baylor Bear at 1957 Sugar Bowl

  • Smokey III [1965-77]

  • Won two SEC titles
  • Had record of 105-39-5
  • Retired in 1976

  • Smokey IV [1978-79]

  • Served just two football seasons
    Smokey V [1980-83]

  • Became mascot in 1980 as 12-week-old pup
  • Outgrew five jackets in one season
  • Hit by car

  • Smokey VI [1984-91]

  • Won three SEC titles
  • Had .722 winning percentage
  • Served time on injured list due to heat exhaustion vs. UCLA
  • Died of brain cancer

  • Smokey VII [1992-94]

  • Was a pup from North Carolina
  • First mascot not from Tennessee
  • First mascot cared for by Earl and Martha Hudson

  • Smokey VIII [1995-2003]

  • Won two SEC titles 1997, 1998
  • Won 1998 national championship
  • Compiled a 91-22 record
  • Died March 17, 2006

  • Smokey IX [2004-Present]

  • Pending...

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