As usual, Vols braces for bad weather in Kentucky

JaVonta Payton was born and raised in Tennessee, but has spent the last four years in Mississippi.

If Payton had done things his way, he probably would have been in Knoxville for his entire college career. Things turned out differently, however. He spent two seasons at Northwest Mississippi State Community College and two seasons at Mississippi State before finally returning home and fulfilling his dream of playing for the Vols.

Being in Mississippi had its perks, however. He didn’t have to spend a lot of time playing soccer games in cold weather.

The main receiver didn’t flinch when asked after Monday’s practice how he feels about the cold weather – which, as usual, will be on the line when Tennessee hits the Interstate 75 to take on Beer Barrel rival Kentucky on Saturday night in freezing Kroger Field, with the low temperature currently entrenched in the mid-1920s.

” Me personally ? I hate it, ”Payton said. “I really hate this.”

(Photo: Calvin Mattheis, Knoxville News Sentinel)

The Tennessee-Kentucky game, which is played in cold, unpleasant conditions – especially the years when rivals play in Lexington – is a staple of the long-standing border battle. Legendary Flight Trainer Philippe Fulmer loved to approach reporters on the first cold training day of the year and joke, “This must be Kentucky week.”

Moving the game forward a few weeks in the schedule didn’t change that. When you sign up to play football for Tennessee, you sign up for uncomfortable weather games against the Wildcats. It’s non-negotiable.

Payton admitted he wouldn’t feel comfortable on Saturday night, but that everything will be fine as long as he can feel his hands. A wide receiver who does not feel his hands is rarely an effective wide receiver.

“As a catcher, you know, I tell my teammates all the time, I’ll say, ‘I’ll be straight,’ Payton said.“ Like, my legs might not be straight, my arms might not be straight, but my hands,… as long as I can keep my hands warm, I’m cool. “

Tennessee First Year Head Coach Josh Heupel spent the last four years in Orlando at UCF, but he’s certainly no stranger to the cold. He was born and raised in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and he spent the first three years of his college career in the state of Utah – two at Weber State in Ogden, then one at Snow College – before to become a two-year star in Oklahoma. . And speaking of Oklahoma, it gets really cold in the winter there.

Heupel also spent two seasons coaching in Missouri, the SEC’s other polar location.

Cold weather football is something Heupel got used to as a kid, and it’s something he tries to make sure his team is ready for every season. It’s easier to do in Tennessee than, say, UCF or Arizona, where he also worked.

Fall has been very hot in Tennessee this year, but temperatures have dropped slightly over the past two weeks – not on Monday, when temperatures were back in the ’60s, but at other times in recent weeks. Knoxville also offers springtime practices in inclement weather, and last spring was no exception.

“Yes, temperature for us is something our kids are exposed to, here in recent weeks especially, when they’re outside in cold weather,” Heupel said. “It should be pretty similar to what we see at the start of the kickoff on Saturday night. You talk about the experience from the start, your kids need to know it. You have to be the hottest team on the soccer field. Whatever the elements, man, you gotta be ready to compete.

“That’s why during Spring Prom we’re out every day, and when the elements hit, we try to get out inside, rain or whatever, to make sure your kids are alive. these experiences. Our children will be ready to face the cold here this week.

Payton said he could at least take comfort in his last encounter with football in bad weather. Payton’s Mississippi State Bulldogs collected 148 unusually low passing yards against Tulsa on Armed Forces New Years Eve in Fort Worth, Texas, but they won the game in a mid-year weather. 30.

“It was a pretty cold game, and you know, I was straight up in that one,” Payton said. “So playing these next few games in the cold I’m pretty sure you’ll be okay.”

About Jefferey G. Cannon

Check Also

Fran Saatzer – Brainerd Dispatch

Fran Saatzer (82), surrounded by her family, was introduced into the arms of Jesus on …