With a score of 31-17, the New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Several former Vols played key roles in the Super Bowl XLIV win: Three members of the Saints once donned the orange and white.
Wide receiver Robert Meachum, a 2007 first-round draft pick for the Saints, was a communications major at UT. Cornerback Jabari Greer joined the Saints last March after a five-year stint with the Buffalo Bills. Greer, who also ran track at UT Knoxville, graduated with a degree in psychology. And former Vol Marvin Mitchell, one of the Saints top special teams players and a member of the linebacker corps, contributed to New Orleans’ success in his third NFL season.
Another famous Vol was also on the field Sunday night leading the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning just completed his 12th year in the NFL. In addition to one previous Super Bowl, in which he was named MVP, Manning holds numerous honors and records in his NFL career—including MVP for the 2009 season—and likewise his career as a Volunteer.
While the UT alumni on the field were working hard, there were also some current Vols working behind the scenes at Super Bowl XLIV.
The six students, all of whom want careers in sport management or journalism, spent 10 days learning how a large-scale sporting event is prepared and carried out by working directly with the National Football League at various Pro Bowl and Super Bowl events. This is the fourth year that a team from UT Knoxville has gone to the Super Bowl. TEAM UT participated in Super Bowl XLIII in Miami, Super Bowl XLII in Arizona and Super Bowl XLI in Tampa, and is scheduled to assist in Super Bowl XLV, which will be held in Arlington, Texas, at the new Cowboys Stadium. The team has been asked back each year by the Super Bowl Host Committee.
“TEAM UT has set a high standard for working these types of elite mega-events and adds tremendous brand equity to our university and respective programs,” said faculty advisor Fritz G. Polite, a professor of sport management who is founding director of the Institute for Leadership, Ethics & Diversity (I-LEAD) and director for community outreach and global engagement in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.
“Working at the Super Bowl is a one-of-a-kind leadership experience for these students,” Polite said. “Many former TEAM UT members cite this experience on their resume as a reason for being employed today.”
Any UT Knoxville student could apply to be part of the team. Members were selected after writing essays about their career plans and being interviewed.
“This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us. We plan to take what we’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to one of the world’s largest mega-events,” said Elizabeth Pangle, a junior interested in sports broadcasting, before leaving for Miami with TEAM UT. “We are looking forward to working with the NFL and networking with people from around the country.”
At the conclusion of the Miami trip, TEAM UT members must write a reflection paper on their experiences with TEAM UT and Super Bowl XLIV.
Team members are:
- Sean Hensley, of Knoxville, is co-director of TEAM UT. A senior in sport management, Hensley has spent two years interning at the Vol Network and has been a Sports Illustrated On-Campus Consultant.
- Lauren Wey, of Brentwood, is co-director of TEAM UT. She is finishing her master’s degree in sport management. She is a graduate assistant for the Lady Vols marketing and promotions department and has been a Sports Illustrated On-Campus Consultant.
- Chris Borns, of Greenbrier, is a freshman Chancellor’s Honors student in sport management with a triple minor in business administration, political science and American studies. He is the first freshman to be selected as a member of TEAM UT.
- Elizabeth Pangle, of Loudon, is a junior majoring in journalism and electronic media, concentrating on sports broadcasting. She plans to go to graduate school to pursue a degree in public relations. Pangle is an active member of Tennessee Athletic Hospitality.
- Genna Pinto, of South Plainfield, N.J., is a senior in journalism and electronic media with a concentration in news and sports journalism and broadcasting. She currently is interning with the Lady Vols media relations department and serves as a Partners in Sports game day student assistant. She is an anchor and news writer at WUTK radio.
- Daren Stoltzfus, of Johnson City, is a senior in journalism and electronic media with an emphasis on sports journalism and broadcasting. He is president of The Volunteer Channel, the student television network at UT Knoxville.
“The Super Bowl project combines all the elements that constitute successful teaching and learning,” said Bob Rider, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences at the University of Tennessee. “The TEAM UT students have spent hours preparing for this experience and will spend many more hours of on the job training. Experiential learning is authentic learning and contributes significantly to the overall educational experience for the student.”
TEAM UT paid its own way to Miami. Team members raised funds to help defray their expenses.