For more than 60 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.
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 26, 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.
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.