KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Fads and fashion trends come and go, as Alvin Kamara’s nose ring illustrates, but one thing that never goes out of style at Tennessee is beating Florida.
The 5-foot-10, 215-pound Kamara, one of the most dynamic playmakers in the SEC, said he and his Vols’ teammates got a better understanding of the rivalry with the Gators from former UT players.
Kamara said Jamal Lewis and Deon Grant, two of the stars from the 1998 national championship team, put things in perspective when it comes to what beating Florida is all about.
“I’ve kinda got a better taste for it, with some of the older guys, like real VFLs Deon Grant and Jamal Lewis coming and talking about what that game means,” said Kamara, who teams with Jalen Hurd to give UT one of the top backfields in college football. “That’s what makes it resonate in my head. To me it’s as much a rivalry now as it was back then, when those guys were playing.
“It’s the respect given to those older guys, I think we’re taking it seriously.”
Considering Florida has won the past 11 in the series and stands between Tennessee and playing for an SEC championship, it’s a good bet UT would be taking the game seriously, anyway.
But for Lewis and Grant — players who went on to win Super Bowls in the NFL — beating the Gators was even more personal.
From all indications, the former Tennessee stars let the current Vols know they need to approach the game the same way.
The offensive approach from UT offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, however, could be different when the Vols play host to Florida on Sept. 24.
Especially where the dynamic Kamara is concerned.
Kamara had only five carries in UT’s 28-27 loss at Florida last season, though he did catch three passes against the SEC East Division champion Gators.
“Coach DeBord, it was his first year, he had to figure out his personnel and what guys do what things,” Kamara said. “Now that he has a year under his belt, I feel it will be an exciting year.
“Now, he’s like the Mad Hatter, he can play with whatever he wants to play with.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.