published Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Wiedmer: Wine, women usher in season for football Mocs

What goes well with a Barone Fini pinot grigio? A weakside safety blitz, of course.

At least that was the menu for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman's fourth annual Women's Football Clinic on Friday night.

For the first time ever, Huesman and his staff began the evening at the Stadium Club with a wine-tasting party courtesy of Athens Distributing. Four white wines -- including the Barone Fini -- shared the opening kickoff with two reds, including a 2010 Conundrum red blend.

"We all look forward to this [clinic] every year," Huesman said. "We've got a lot of moms, grandmoms, aunts and sisters with us this year. It's always good to hear their questions about what we do."

What Huesman didn't do was embrace the wine.

"That's more my wife's thing," he said. "I'm more a blue-collar guy, a beer-and-cheeseburger guy."

Said a smiling Amy Huesman: "Cheap beer, too."

This year's clinic was cheaper by the hour than its predecessors. With more than 60 women wanting to make sure the Mocs coaches were treating their children, grandchildren, nephews and brothers well, the evening understandably ran long, nearly four hours total.

But perhaps that's also a good omen for UTC's upcoming season, which everyone hopes will run at least one weekend longer than the past 28 campaigns, 1984 being the last year the Mocs made the NCAA playoffs.

"Oh, I would love to go to a playoff game," said Hobrina Taylor, whose son, senior safety D.J. Key, is expected to play a major role in making that happen.

"I really just came for the coaches. They don't just have a relationship with D.J. on the field; they have a relationship off the field, too. They really care about him as a person. I'm so pleased he chose to come here."

Taylor's mother, Clara Moore, made the trip from Centerville, Tenn., for the clinic. Though she planned to sample the red wines -- "I hear they're good for your blood," she said -- her main focus was the football.

"I plan to come to every home game," Moore said. "I can't wait."

She apparently learned so much about the game that she took home the Most Improved award, high-fiving the entire staff as she accepted her trophy, which was a pink plastic football bearing a UTC decal.

But she was far from the only award winner. Barbra Mullaney -- mother to incoming freshman Sam "Slam Bam" Mullaney -- finished second in the Punt, Pass and Kick contest. That is doubly impressive because when asked what she knew about football before the clinic, the Nashville-area resident said, "I know that you don't use a bat."

Joining her on her four-hour round trip from the Music City was Caren Teichmann, whose son Logan played with Sam Mullaney at Brentwood High and also will be a freshman for the Mocs.

"It just seemed like a fun thing to do," mom Teichmann said. "An excuse to come down from Nashville, drink some wine, meet the coaches."

Unfortunately for Amy Huesman, the fun is almost over. Preseason practice will begin soon, and her husband will become consumed by his job, leaving their home before the sun rises and returning after dark.

"This is a fun night, but it's also a little depressing because it's a signal that the season is about to start and Russ will be gone all the time," she said.

But for Friday night inside Finley Stadium's Stadium Club, no one was the least bit depressed. Football was right around the corner and most of the mothers were beaming like Mullaney, who said, "I learned all about linebackers tonight. I now have a much greater appreciation for what my son has to do."

Added Caren Teichmann: "I'm so glad we came. It was so much fun."

Now it's up to their sons, grandsons, nephews and brothers to make sure the fun continues for the entire Mocs Nation over the next five months. If it does, the next wine tied to the program will be filled with bubbles and answer to "champagne."

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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