SEC Media Days 'once in a lifetime opportunity' for Tennessee players

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones speaks to media at the Big Orange Caravan's stop at the First Tennessee Pavilion on Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The event gave fans the chance to meet Tennessee Athletics coaches and new athletic director John Currie.
photo Kendal Vickers (39) plays defensive tackle for Tennessee. The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles visited the Tennessee Volunteers in NCAA football action at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on November 5, 2016.

KNOXVILLE - Speaking to reporters on a regular basis is one of many frills that come with being an on-field contributor for a major college football program like Tennessee.

Speaking to hundreds of them in a single afternoon eight weeks before football season in the annual frenzy known as SEC Media Days is regarded as a rare honor, however.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," former Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker said Thursday. "It was absolutely one of the greatest honors I had as a Tennessee Vol, was to be able to go represent my team at SEC Media Days."

Tennessee's Emmanuel Moseley, Jashon Robertson and Kendal Vickers have that honor today as the Volunteers, Arkansas and LSU take the stage on the first day of the four-day event at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.

The three players, all seniors, likely will face questions about whether Tennessee has the firepower to make a run at an SEC East title.

They may also be asked what they think about Vols coach Butch Jones' usage of phrases such as "five-star hearts" and "champions of life."

But Walker, who played for the Volunteers from 2007 to '10, would suggest Tennessee's players have fun with the interviews and try not to take things too seriously as they are ushered from room to room to meet with print, radio, television and online news outlets.

"Engage the reporters," Walker said. "Don't get offended at questions that you get asked, because we always have to answer questions and sometimes answer tough ones. I think it's one of those things where you enjoy the process and the opportunity you get to represent your university."

Walker spent the past six years directing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Last month, he accepted a similar role at his alma mater, Tennessee.

It's a position that requires speech and communication skills. Those same abilities came in handy for Walker when he made the trek to Hoover for SEC Media Days in 2010.

Lane Kiffin had bolted Knoxville after one season as head coach and Walker was about to play for his third head coach, Derek Dooley. Two other seniors, Nick Reviez and Luke Stocker, completed Tennessee's 2010 SEC Media Days delegation and were in the same situation after signing out of high school to play for Phillip Fulmer.

Naturally, reporters spent plenty of time inquiring about Kiffin's exit.

"Honestly, a lot of the questions were that way, but there were a lot of questions about what we thought about Coach Dooley, his style and all of that stuff, and comparing and contrasting the three coaches I had. It was interesting. It was really cool to see the different perspectives and different interviews as they were."

Tennessee's day starts with a flight from Knoxville to Bessemer, Ala., a few miles away from Hoover. The day does not end when the Vols' media obligations are complete, however. The Tennessee representatives will then head to Nashville for the third stop on this year's Big Orange Caravan tour before returning to Knoxville.

Walker recalled a similar stop during the 2010 trip.

"It's a madhouse," he said. "It's so crazy, just the process of the whole day. It's one thing where you look back and see that some people could get overwhelmed. For me, it was like I was at home and it was fun to me. That was a really cool part about it."

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