KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s football program was in full swing on Saturday. In addition to holding a full-scale football practice complete with a live scrimmage, the Vols also hosted thousands of students for Student Appreciation Day, dozens of families for family day and a several top recruiting prospects.
There were several former Vols on hand, none more popular than Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who was recently named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year after overcoming cancer last season — he returned to the field and was named an All-Pro Former Tennessee offensive lineman Ramon Foster, who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was also in attendance.
Former Tennessee defensive back Inky Johnson spoke to the team and family members on Saturday. Johnson, who lost the use of his right arm after a violent collision in a game in 2006, is an accomplished motivational speaker. Former quarterback Sterling Henton was also in attendance, manning his usual spot at the deejay booth.
“You look around today, what a great day,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “You have Vols For Life like Ramon Foster and Eric Berry being back. You welcome over 300 members of your football family, your players’ families here today. We also had Inky Johnson who spoke to them on what it means to be a Tennessee Vol, a Vol For Life, being able to give them some NFL education and moving forward.
“Just a great day for our parents and our families, and it was Student Appreciation Day. Couldn’t ask for more with (DJ Sterl the Pearl) and all these students coming out. They’re very, very important to us.”
Berry’s mother, Carol, knows Tennessee well. Her husband, James, played running back for Tennessee. Her sons, Evan and Elliot, are currently juniors for the Vols.
After a scheduling conflict caused her to miss the event last year, Carol was
determined to be in Knoxville on Saturday for family day. She still remembers seeing a picture of her husband and three sons taking part in last year’s event.
“For me it was wonderful because I missed it last year,” she said. “Last year when I saw a picture of them, I broke down in tears.”
Berry said she was able to connect with other families during the event. She said it was an impressive event by Jones.
“The thing that I got from that is he’s about family,” she said. “For me it was about connecting with other families. It was all about family.”
It was also partly about recruiting as the Vols hosted over a dozen prospects that got to take it all in.
“We talked about that. That would have put me at ease as a mother of a recruit,” Berry said. “That would have made me think ‘I like it here.’”
Tennessee’s spring practice culminates with the Orange and White Game on April 16.