KNOXVILLE — For today’s “Wednesdays with Wes,” we’ll chat with the pride of Paris.
No, not that Paris.
Paris, Tennessee. Population: Less than 10,000.
The tiny, tucked-away, upper West Tennessee town — located approximately 60 miles North of Jackson and 60 miles West of Clarksville, or two hours from Memphis or Nashville — is known for a few things. It has a 60-foot scale model of the Eiffel Tower. Its welcome sign is a big catfish. Every last weekend in April, it hosts “The World’s Biggest Fish Fry,” a festival that includes a parade, an arts and crafts fair, a rodeo, a “fun fair” and “catfish races.”
Catfish races, huh? I wish I’d have read that before this interview. Live and learn.
For such a small town, Paris has several notable native sons and daughters — former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Howell Edmunds Jackson; Grammy-winning gospel singer Bobby Jones; former Major League Baseball player Charles Gilbert “Chick” King; African American journalism pioneer Vernon Jarrett; and Tony- and Emmy-winning actress Cherry Jones, probably best known for her role as President Allison Taylor on the Fox series, “24.”
The great Bocephus, country rock legend Hank Williams, Jr., currently resides in the Paris area.
Paris might soon have another famous son in University of Tennessee cornerback Marsalis Teague.
Teague, a 5-foot-10 sophomore who played wide receiver last season, moved to corner just before the start of preseason camp and quickly established himself as a starter and a solid player. He has 24 tackles, six pass break-ups and six passes defended in the team’s first five games.
UT (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) visits Georgia (1-4, 0-3) on Saturday. It will be the first time since 1906 that both long-time rivals enter the game with losing records.
Listed below is the transcript from Teague’s turn at “Wednesdays with Wes.”
Q: On a scale of 1-to-10, how ready are you to move on from that loss at LSU?
TEAGUE: “I’m going to say 10, because I have to say 10. I can’t say 11, so I’ll have to say 10. We have to put that game behind us. It was a tough loss. It was the toughest loss I’ve ever been a part of as an athlete, to go from celebrating a big win to saying, ‘Wait, what in the world just happened?’ I’ll have to go with 10 on that one. That’s about as bad as it gets.”
Q: On a scale of 1-to-10, how bad was that pass interference call on you in the final minute?
TEAGUE: “(Laughter). I don’t think I can say anything about that.”
Q: OK, then. On a scale of 1-to-10, how disappointed were you with that call? You looked bewildered.
TEAGUE: “I’ll have to say 10 again. Honestly, I don’t know how that happened. But, you know, the ref made a call. Things happen. You can’t do anything but move on from it.”
Q: I don’t think that ball was catchable by any reasonable definition. Could Yao Ming have caught it?
TEAGUE: “(Laugher). I don’t know. Good question.”
Q: You were one of the 13 defenders on the field Saturday for that penalized play. As a starter in the base defense but not the goalline package, you ran onto the field — correctly, I assume — when coaches called for the base. You then looked toward the sideline and threw your hands in the air when you got on the field and saw that every receiver was already covered before the snap. Did you know there were too many guys out there?
TEAGUE: “Yeah, I kind of had the feeling something wasn’t right when were coming on the field yelling out our personnel and all that stuff. But ... you know, those kind of extraordinary things happen sometimes. It’s very unfortunate that it happened to us and caused us to lose a game, but we’ve just got to move on.”
Q: I was at Tiger Stadium, but when I got home and watched the tape I noticed CBS cameras got a great shot of you and Coach (Derek) Dooley celebrating when you thought the game was over. It was an epic man-hug. Did you run toward him, or did he run toward you?
TEAGUE: “I was just running around and going crazy, and I turned around and saw Coach Dooley just jumping up and down. I tried to chest bump him, but then he was like this (hugging), so I was just trying to hold him up and just make sure we both didn’t fall.”
Q: That would have been a terrible moment to get hurt. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
TEAGUE: “For real.”
Q: Today (Tuesday) was the team’s first practice since that game ended. Was it a good practice? Coach Dooley said it ended better than it started.
TEAGUE: “I feel like it was just a good day in general for us — you know, just getting out here and just clearing our minds and just going out here and competing again, just trying to get ready for this Georgia game. Georgia’s always a big game.”
Q: Speaking of Georgia, wide receiver A.J. Green is pretty darn good, isn’t he?
TEAGUE: “He’s definitely one of the top players in the country. You can’t knock that. You can’t find anybody who would disagree with that statement. Great players are going to make great plays, so we’ve just got to go out there and try to prevent him from making as many as he normally does.”
Q: He’s also a lot taller than you. I’m just saying...
TEAGUE: “(Laughter.) Yeah, yeah he is.”
Q: Do you get even more fired up to face a guy like Green? You seem like the competitive type. Do you have a little extra hitch in your giddy-up this week?
TEAGUE: “Oh, yeah. You know, I feel like I’m the type of competitor where I feel like if anybody lines up against me, I feel like I have to outwork them. I feel like I have to prove myself to them, or to anybody else that’s doubting me. But I feel like with that, it’s more of our whole defense trying to do that now. Our defense is trying to prove to people that we’re a great defense. Once we start playing like we know we can, we’ll be all right.”
Q: You played wide receiver last season, as well as spring practice and the entire summer, and then you moved to cornerback just before preseason camp started. How long did it take you to feel like a DB?
TEAGUE: “Honestly, I would say within the first couple of weeks, I kind of started feeling myself getting back in the groove. The first couple of days, I kind of started to feel it, but with the reaction time and all that stuff, I’d say it probably took me about two weeks to get really honed in, like, ‘Hey, I’m a corner now.’ That became my mind state, but at first, I was like, ‘I’m a receiver playing corner for now.’ But after two weeks, it was like, ‘I’m a corner.’”
Q: How long did it take you to talk trash like a DB? The best talkers on most teams, as a group, are almost always the DBs.
TEAGUE: “Really, I didn’t start talking until the first game of the season. Of course, when we had our scrimmages in fall camp, the receivers were jawing, and I was like, ‘Hold on, now. Hey, hey.’ But once we started the season, I started to talk back. Things change. I’m not a receiver no more, man. I get after those guys.”
Q: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever said to an opponent on the field, or that an opponent has said to you?
TEAGUE: “(Laughter.) I don’t know if I can repeat that stuff.”
Q: Good idea. The TFP is a family newspaper.
TEAGUE: “Yeah. I can’t think of nothing, then. I honestly can’t think of anything like that.”
Q: Lame. But here’s an opportunity to redeem yourself: Tell me something incredibly embarrassing that no one outside the complex knows about one of your teammates.
TEAGUE: “Oh, I could say some things, but I don’t want to get too embarrassing.”
Q: Yes, you do. You definitely do. I can see it your eyes. You want to go there.
TEAGUE: “(Laughter.) Woo-hoo. You trying to get me to really throw somebody under the bus?”
Q: Yes, I am. That’s the point. Throw it. Throw it hard. You were a good baseball player back in the day. Bring the heat. I have faith in you. You can do it.
TEAGUE: “OK, OK ... let me think of something good. Give me a second, man.”
Q: While you’re thinking about it, does anyone on the team have a Britney Spears CD?
TEAGUE: “I don’t know nothing about no Britney Spears CD, man.”
Q: Are you lying to me? There are nearly 100 guys on this team. I’ll get an answer.
TEAGUE: “(Laughter.) Naw, man. Naw. I’ll get you something. I will. Just give me a second. I’m trying to think of who I can say something about; who I want to get.”
Q: The clock is ticking.
TEAGUE: “I’m getting there. OK, I’ve got one. No ... wait ... he doesn’t go to school here, anymore.”
Q: Has to be a current player.
TEAGUE: “OK, OK. I’ll think of something.”
Q: Who is the best club dancer on this team? Who takes over the dance floor when you guys go out on the town?
TEAGUE: “Oh, I’m the best dancer.”
Q: Really? There are nearly 100 guys on this team. What are the odds I’m randomly talking to the best dancer?
TEAGUE: “No doubt. Me. I’m the best. Well ... actually ... it depends on what kind of dancing you’re talking about.”
Q: It’s not like you guys go out line-dancing, man.
TEAGUE: “(Laughter.) Naw, man. But, like, Janzen (Jackson) and Prentiss (Waggner) got their own little dance, and it’s hilarious. When Prentiss does his part, it’s hilarious.”
Q: Is this choreographed, like when one person throws a fake fishing pole, the other person gets hooked and then reeled in? I rocked that move when I was in high school, and I graduated in 2000.
TEAGUE: “Something like that. Sometimes when we’re all around, just hanging out or whatever, we start dancing to music. Prentiss has this little dance he does, and it’s just hilarious. It’s just ... it’s just ... it’s stupid, really. But it’s hilarious.”
Q: Who is the worst dancer on the team? It has to be a lineman, right? I know former guard Vlad Richard could sing and dance like a mad fool, but most big guys can’t dance.
TEAGUE: “I have to say the funniest person I’ve ever seen dance is (redshirt freshman offensive lineman) JerQuari Schofield.”
Q: Bingo. It’s always a lineman.
TEAGUE: “Yeah, big Scho. He’s so big, man. And when he moves, he gets so low to the ground. It’s just like, dang. It’s something like this (tries to simulate the move). But I can’t even do it, really. I’m not some 6-7, 300-plus-pound dude. He moves it, though. I’m not sure what’s going on, but he’s moving it.”
Q: What would you call Big Scho’s dance? Every great dance needs a name.
TEAGUE: “I don’t know, man. I have no idea what to call that. I’ll give you something the next time I talk to you.”
Q: I’ll hold you to that. You’re from tiny Paris, Tennessee. If someone was there for a weekend, what would you recommend doing for fun?
TEAGUE: “Really, we, uh ... we, uh ...”
Q: Sounds like a great time. How did you ever leave?
TEAGUE: “(Laughter.) We’d probably go to the movies, go get something to eat ... depends on what you like to do, really.”
Q: Did you guys have to go Nashville or Memphis to go to the mall?
TEAGUE: “Naw, man. We’d just go to Jackson. It’s like 25, 30 minutes down the road. Or Clarksville. That’s about the same distance, really; about 30 minutes. (Paris) is fun. The only difference is there’s more places to go (in bigger cities), like as far as clubs and all that type of stuff.”
Q: Thanks for your time, Marsalis.
TEAGUE: “No problem.”