Adam Vicars never expected to follow in his older brother’s paw prints when he got to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but he did. Adam, 22, who graduates in December with a degree in logistics, spent about 4 years–from 2003 to 2007–as UT’s costumed mascot, Smokey. Adam’s brother, Jason, ’01, was Smokey for 2-and-a-half years and won the Universal Cheerleaders Association Mascot National Championship in 2000 and 2001. Adam and Jason Vicars are the only brothers ever to have served as Smokey, according to Joy Postell, UT mascot director.
The bluetick coonhound became UT’s mascot in 1953. The hound won the Pep Club contest that year because he howled when the students cheered. Smokey IX is the current real-life mascot.
The Vicarses moved to Tennessee in 1984. The boys’ mother, Michele Vicars, saw her first UT game while she was 8 months pregnant with Adam. She says the family immediately became “diehard” fans. They have season tickets for football and men’s basketball.
Both Jason and Adam describe running through the “Power T” as an adrenaline rush. Jason says being Smokey was extremely rewarding, but also very demanding. Smokey makes appearances at home and away football games; men’s and women’s home basketball games; home baseball, softball, volleyball, and soccer games; bowl games and tournaments; and hundreds of appearances on behalf of the university.
“Being the mascot at UT is different from being the mascot anywhere else,” he says. “UT is one of the few universities in the country that recognizes the spirit program as a part of the athletic program. We were treated as student athletes, and it was a great experience.
“Many people think it’s just throwing on the costume for a football game. I wouldn’t be surprised if being the mascot requires more time than any other sport on campus.”
Both Adam, who graduated from Farragut High School in Knoxville, and Jason, who graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, received college scholarships for being Smokey. Being Smokey, however, wasn’t part of the original plan when the brothers applied to UT.
As a child, Jason dreamed of playing football for the Vols. “After enrolling in college I realized I wasn’t athletically gifted enough to play football, but I wanted to find a way to get involved and support my favorite team,” he says. “I auditioned for Smokey on a dare. I checked my inhibitions at the door and went for it.”
Adam didn’t decide to try out for the mascot position until after he had enrolled at UT. He asked his older brother for help. Jason warned him that it took up a lot of time, but he encouraged Adam by teaching him Smokey’s personality, dances, and signature moves.
“I never thought I would be Smokey,” Adam says. “I never had mascot experience prior to trying out. It is something I’ll never forget, and I am grateful for all the opportunities that I have received throughout my college career.” As part of the All-American Mascot Team, Adam traveled to Vancouver, Canada, to film commercials for ABC and ESPN. He also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Wheel of Fortune. “These are great experiences I will remember for the rest of my life, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been Smokey,” Adam says.
Jason, 29, is a territory sales manager for Newell Rubbermaid in Nashville. “[Being Smokey] is something that holds a special place in my heart,” he says. “Even though I’ve lived in many places since I graduated from UT, I always make it a point to get back to as many games as I can to support my Vols.”
Every Dog Has Its Day
Once a Smokey, always a Smokey–at least in spirit. We talked to alumni who portrayed Smokey during their college years to find out what they’re doing now. We also asked them to reminisce about their days in the bluetick hound suit.
’95, psychology. He served as Smokey from 1993 to 1995. A native of Oak Ridge, Broyles now lives in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago and works at DecisionQuest, a firm that offers trial consulting and research, strategic communications, and courtroom graphics. He and his wife, Jacky, have 3-year-old twin daughters, Josie and Emma.
Favorite Smokey moment: “There can’t be any sweeter moment then leading the team onto the field through the ‘Power T’ for the first time. The pure exhilaration and adrenaline I felt when the band parted and the crowd roared cannot be adequately described.”
’96, BFA, studio art. He was Smokey from 1993 to 1997. Patnode lives in San Jose, California, where he is the mascot operations manager for the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League.
Favorite Smokey moment: “In 1996 I became the first mascot to be ejected from an NCAA championship game. During the women’s basketball Final Four versus Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was abusing a giant stuffed bulldog that was won the previous day at a theme park. Punch, kick, elbow drop, and then rip. The seam along the bottom split. Unfortunately I did not know this until after I had swung it over my head releasing millions of tiny foam stuffing beads all over the court. These beads were too light to sweep up, and it took 15 minutes of dragging wet towels to get them up. Needless to say, the nationally televised game was delayed, and I was banished from the building, and not allowed to perform.
“By the way, we ended up winning the game by more than 20 points.”
’98, political science; ’00, psychology. He was Smokey from 1995 to 2000 and won the Universal Cheerleaders Association Mascot National Championship in 2000 with fellow Smokey, Jason Vicars. Devault lives in Nashville where he is the entertainment manager for the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League. For the past 7 years, Adam has served as Gnash, the Predators’ saber-toothed tiger mascot.
Adam got married last summer, and another former Smokey, Andrew Carlton, was in the wedding party. (Adam had been best man in Andrew’s wedding.)
A famous prank occurred during Adam’s 4-year tenure as Smokey. After the Auburn game in October 1999, Adam packed up the mascot suit and went to his apartment. “Some Auburn fans followed me home and broke into my apartment when I went out to eat,” he said. They stole his Smokey suit. A local radio station offered a $1,000 reward for the suit’s return. Nearly 6 months after it was stolen, the mascot gear was found on the Auburn campus. The culprits were nabbed, but Devault declined to press trespassing charges. The thieves were given community service.
Favorite Smokey moment: “The best thing that happened during my tenure–besides the Vols winning the national football championship–was Smokey winning UT’s first spirit squad national championship.”
’00, communications. He was Smokey from 1995 to 1998. Born in Knoxville, Andrew now lives in Nashville where he is a Christian pop-rock-country musician. He’s had two award-winning albums, and his single “This is Faith” was a Christian Radio Weekly Top 100 Song of the Year and a Radio and Records Top 20 single. His third album, I Know Better, came out last summer in stores nationwide and on iTunes. Andrew also opened for Big and Rich last summer. For more about Andrew and his career, see www.andrewcarlton.com/about.htm.
Favorite Smokey moment: “The real Smokey dog cut in front of me as we were running the team through the ‘Power T’ against Georgia. I got caught up in his leash and almost fell on my face. My arms were whirling through the air so I could keep my balance. That night I got home after the close Tennessee win, settled in, and flipped on the television, only to find that the entire act had been caught on tape. The ESPN broadcaster used it to promo the game story, saying, ‘Up next, Tennessee’s close call.”’
’02, logistics and transportation. Smokey from 1999 to 2002, Jamie, along with fellow Smokeys Jason Vicars and Benji Gray, won the 2001 UCA Mascot National Championship. Jamie lives in Knoxville, where he is the vice-president of operations for Golden Rule Medical.
Favorite Smokey moment: “I proposed to my wife on the field at my last football game,” he said. It was November 24, 2001, and the Vols were playing Vanderbilt. Jamie made a big sign that said Natalie, will you marry me? and enlisted the help of his two co-Smokeys to hold it up at just the right moment. He clued in the coaches, the CBS crew, and the couple’s parents. He told Natalie he’d made special arrangements for her to come down to the field so they could have a photo taken together at his last game.
“She came down a couple of minutes before halftime,” he said. As the band took the field, Jamie–as Smokey–came out “and when she turned around, I was there on one knee in the end zone.” Natalie said yes–and Jamie’s proposal was shown on CBS and made ESPN’s “Top 100 Plays of the Year.” In February 2007, the Meadowses had twins, Eva Marie and William Lee.
’05, French. Gray lives in Knoxville and is working on a master’s degree in education at UT and Lincoln Memorial University. He plans to teach French and physical education at the high-school level. Gray was Smokey from 2000 to 2004, and he was the Volunteer-Davy Crockett mascot in 2005. Gray continues to work with the UT Spirit Office and is the national mascot director for the Universal Cheerleading Association.
“I train mascot instructors how to run camps and how to instruct younger kids how to be mascots.” He also coaches college mascots. “It’s like a mascot boot camp,” he said. He teaches how to walk like the character, establish a personality for the character, and interact with crowds.
Favorite Smokey moment: “Winning the UCA National Championship my freshman year [with Jason Vicars and Jamie Meadows].” Part of the competition involved the Smokey team coming up with a skit. Since it was the year of the chaotic U.S. presidential election, they did a skit about “hanging chads” that proved Smokey should have been elected.
’05, speech communications, minor in broadcasting. He was Smokey from 2001 to 2005. A Knoxville native, Lay now lives in New York City where he is an actorâ€“comedian waiting for his big break. He is a production assistant for VH1 and works for the show Best Week Ever. There’s more about him at www.joshlay.com/page/Main.
Favorite Smokey moment: “During the 2004â€“2005 football season, we were playing Auburn at Neyland Stadium. The ESPN GameDay crew was covering the event. The crowd was stoked, and the crew was ready to pick who they thought would win the game. Finally the time came for Lee Corso to crown himself with the head of that school’s mascot. I had a feeling he was going to pick Auburn, and he did. When he did, I ran onto the stage to show the fans that no one comes to our house and disrespects us. Lee was yelling at me to ‘get off the set’ and a production assistant was pulling at my leg. We ended up losing that game. Auburn went on to be undefeated. But the message was clear: ‘Do not come to Tennessee’s house and taunt our fans. We are the best in the country, and we intend to stay that way. Go Vols!'”