Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press UT's Denarius Moore (6) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass Saturday in the game against Ole Miss at Neyland Stadium.
KNOXVILLE — Standing next to the podium in Neyland Stadium’s ground-level media center Saturday afternoon, Tauren Poole couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
“Football is fun again,” Tennessee’s junior tailback said moments after a 52-14 romp over Ole Miss.
And what have many humans done, throughout time, when they’re happy?
They’ve busted a move. They’ve rhythmically moved their feet, hips, shoulders and hands. They’ve danced.
UT’s football team has been no exception the past two weeks.
The Volunteers, after winning just two of their first eight games, outscored Memphis and Ole Miss by a combined 102-28 score the past two Saturdays. And they’ve enjoyed nearly every second of it.
“You work hard to win, and you celebrate when you win,” senior defensive end Chris Walker said. “It’s great to have a little fun after everything we’ve been through the past few years, especially us older guys.”
The Vols’ primary dancing weapon of choice has been a simple circling of their fingers around their temples. It’s called going “loco,” the Spanish word for “crazy,” and it means just that. They’re going crazy.
Even first-year UT head coach Derek Dooley displayed the move to gathered media Monday afternoon, albeit with a different meaning of “crazy.”
“I never know if they tell me the truth,” Dooley said when asked what players told him about the dance. “They say they’re just going crazy, you know, out there. I told them I do that in the office when I watch the film and I see them line up wrong.
“In October, I spent a whole month doing this.”
Dooley then displayed the dance.
“I may do it when they mess up, and they can do it when they do well; then we’re even,” Dooley said. “I don’t know. If that brings them juice, then I’m all for it.
“I guess it’s kind of like, what was it, Nuke LaLoosh [in ‘Bull Durham’], when he was wearing the ladies’ undergarment?”
One reporter then interrupted Dooley, warning the coach that he tends to go a tad overboard when citing examples.
“Thank you. But I’m just referencing a movie,” Dooley said. “But if they think it’s the reason they’re playing well, then it is. Keep doing it; just don’t get a penalty.”
After asking nearly a dozen players — several of whom didn’t know what the dance meant — the trendsetter was located. It was senior wide receiver Denarius Moore, who said the dance came from a hip hop music video.
Fellow senior receiver Gerald Jones, who also does the dance after making big plays, said he heard “it was some Lil’ Wayne thing or something.”
It might also be “some Lil’ Wayne” thing, but the move is clearly spotted in another rapper’s music video. Yo Gotti’s “Loco” clearly displays the move several times, and it’s, of course, the name of the song.
Most of the Vols admitted they had no clue what it meant, but they simply saw teammates having fun and joined the dance party.
“Everybody else was doing it,” said true freshman wide receiver Justin Hunter, who caught three passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss.
“I don’t know. It looked like fun,” added freshman Tyler Bray, whose 10 touchdown passes in his first 10 quarters as UT’s No. 1 quarterback have sparked the offense.
“Loco” isn’t the only dance, though. Poole and senior fullback Kevin Cooper of Chattanooga invented their own little touchdown dance, called “The Barney.”
“You’re just kind of swaying back and forth, like Barney, that big purple dinosaur,” Poole said. “It’s dumb, but it’s kind of fun, too.”
Poole promised Cooper he’d do the dance if he scored a touchdown against Ole Miss, and the tailback actually scored twice. His second, a 35-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, gave the Vols a 51-14 lead.
“I promised Coop I’d do it, and he started running at me, and I knew what was up,” Poole said. “I just wanted to keep my word, and I did.”
A Southeastern Conference official was incredibly irritated with Poole, though.
“He was mad that we were celebrating when we were up,” the tailback said. “He said that’s something you shouldn’t do. He ripped the ball out of my hands. He was pretty mad about it.
“I apologized. I didn’t mean to taunt anybody, but it wasn’t the right time.”
Dooley said the unspecified official then approached him with a direct order.
“The official yelled at me and told me to yell at [Poole] the way I yell at them,” Dooley said. “He said, ‘And if you don’t, then I’m going to call a penalty.’ So I yelled at him the way I yelled at them, and he apologized to them.”
Poole, one of the Vols’ most popular players in the locker room, was so ashamed that he opened his postgame news conference by apologizing to Ole Miss and its fans.
“I wasn’t intending to taunt anybody, but I just wanted to put it out there that I was just celebrating with my teammates,” Poole said. “But we were up big, and that wasn’t the classiest thing to do. Coach Dooley doesn’t teach that, and he kind of talked to me about not doing that in situations like that.
“It’s an instinct to have fun when you get a touchdown, but that’s no excuse. I wasn’t raised like that, and I wasn’t coached like that.”
Dooley probably wouldn’t admit it, but trading an occasional celebration penalty for an explosive offense isn’t history’s worst deal.
“You should never get carried away or anything, but football’s supposed to be fun,” Jones said. “And it’s really fun when you’re winning.”