A Vol’s Best Friend

For more than sixty years, Smokey has been running the sidelines at football games and bringing joy to Vols young and old. Find out more about the blueticks that have come before and the hound whose howl now echoes in the stands.

SMOKEY’S HISTORY

The UT Pep Club ran a contest in 1953 to select a mascot for the university and it was decided that the new mascot would be a hound dog. The first Smokey was chosen during halftime at the Mississippi State game on September 27, 1953, by applause from the crowd. Brooks’ Blue Smokey, owned by Rev. W. C. Brooks, was last in the line of dogs vying for the title. The crowd cheered, Smokey barked, they cheered some more, and he kept barking.


A movement began in the mid-1950s to replace Smokey with a Tennessee Walking Horse. The alumnus responsible for the movement said the horse would “lend more dignity and beauty to half-time festivities at Shields-Watkins Field.” The idea never took off, but Tennessee Walking Horses began making appearances at games until the field was covered in artificial turf, making it too rough for the horses to make turns.


It’s pretty safe to say that Smokey II had the most exciting adventures of all the dogs. In 1955, students from the University of Kentucky kidnapped him for eight days. They dressed him in a blue and white blanket with a large ‘K’ and paraded him around at a Kentucky pep rally. Smokey’s captors returned him just before kickoff. A week later, three Vanderbilt students tried the same heist at the Brooks house, but ended up taking an old hunting dog instead. Finally, during the 1957 Sugar Bowl, Smokey II tangled with the Baylor Bear and came away unscathed—even though the bear took a swat or two at him.


Smokey III served the longest of any of the dogs (1964–1977), attending ten bowl games.


In 1980, Smokey V was a mere pup when he took over as mascot, but he kept growing and growing. Rev. Brooks’s wife, Mildred, made a total of five orange and white jackets for the hound in just a single season.


When Smokey IX took up his duties, it was evident that he had a different personality than his immediate predecessor. For nine seasons, Smokey VIII would “stand at attention, pose for every picture, and he would run perfectly.” Smokey IX was said to be a lot more playful, licking and nudging fans.

CARING FOR SMOKEY

Earl (brother of Mildred Brooks) and Martha Hudson, of Knoxville, took over as owners of Smokey from the Brooks family in 1994. The Hudsons’ son, Charles, began caring for Smokey IX in 2011 and currently owns and cares for Smokey X.

Since 1977, brothers from the agricultural fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho have been the sole candidates for Smokey’s handlers. Chosen handlers take care of Smokey while he’s on the job, and in return receive not only a small scholarship for books, but plenty of slobbery Smokey kisses.

Spirit Coordinator Joy Postell-Gee has been the liaison to the Hudson family since 1992 and helps choose all the student handlers. “I would like the fans to know that the Hudson family is very generous and trusting to allow their family pet to be shared with thousands of Volunteers.”

SMOKEY X

BIRTHDAY: February 2012

PARENTS & SIBLINGS: Smokey was one of eight pups born to Li’L Lucy Lulu and Blue Diamond Pokey Joe.

BIRTHPLACE: Davis Branch Blueticks, Shelbyville, TN

BECOMING SMOKEY: The pup that became Smokey X was the largest of all the pups ever born at Davis Branch, according to kennel owner Wendy Davis. He weighed twenty-six pounds at two months old. She picked Smokey not only for his size but also for his looks and temperament. “He just seemed like the right one,” Davis says. “Like he knew he was supposed to do something special.”

ON THE JOB: Smokey X is one busy hound. Since he began his official duties in 2013, he has obligations for every football weekend. He makes athletics appearances and attends some philanthropic events. Smokey’s game days are full of festivities like the Vol Walk. He also occasionally makes appearances at other non-football sporting events.

THE LEGACY: Davis says she’s honored each time a would-be customer asks for a dog like Smokey. “He makes a connection for those people who may not have gone to college but love UT football and want to be a part of the university,” says Davis. “They can be a part of UT by having a part of Smokey.”


History Source: Smokey: The True Stories Behind the University of Tennessee’s Beloved
Mascot by Thomas J. Mattingly and Earl C. Hudson (UT Press, 2012)

Photos by John Black Photography

smokey1

17 Comments on “A Vol’s Best Friend

  1. I would love to schedule a doggie pay date. I have a Bluetick named Knox. We are regulars at the Concord dog park in Knoxville.

  2. Margaret Randall said it and I agree: Best cover ever; absolutely suitable for framing and you should market those pictures. As owner and companion of two bluetick hounds, kudos for such a beautiful face for Torch Bearer!

  3. I would absolutely order a print of this to hang on my wall. Kudos to the photographer. Oh, and the subject too for being such a good doggie while his picture was taken.

  4. Hound dogs are beautiful, sweet, loving, and. hilarious. Our rescued red bone is an endless source of entertainment. I would also buy this print…so well done. Rescue a coonhound…it will enrich your life.

  5. I have the best looking Bluetick in Tennessee, he is a great dog and has been used as Smokey in pictures and paintings. His grand daddy is the Michael Jordan of Blueticks… “Hornet”…. I am having puppies this spring. Feel free to reach out to me. Got a great painting of my dog as Smokey Treeing Lane Kiffin! There are prints 😉 Go Vols!

  6. I had the honor of petting Smokey in 1997 at the Liberty Bowl in Mphs. when Peyton Manning & the Vols beat Ole Miss. I don’t know which Smokey “number” he was, but he had a white heart-shaped mark on the top of his head.

  7. I graduated from UTK in 1994 and started sportsfanimals.com because I couldn’t locate a UT collar for my beloved cat, Coco. I would love to send Smokey X some complimentary Vol pet gear to sport at the games (despite how beautiful he is without any Orange on!!)

    Sincerely,
    Mari

  8. I framed this issue I thought the photo of Smokey was so amazing. I would also love a print to frame for my brother.