Smokey #8
Mascot for the University of Tennessee Volunteers

4 (in September)

80 lbs.

Diane's Canine School of Charm

Favorite Foods:
Hill's Science Diet, Pro Plan

Little-Known Facts:
Really loves to go to the vet, has never actually coon-hunted, often tries to eat things made out of cloth, prefers to sleep on a concrete floor in the basement, is banned from games in Arkansas.

Chasing squirrels, running around with Smokey #9, rooting.

Most Revealing Anecdote:
The night before the big Citrus Bowl game, he nearly O.D.'d on a loose sock in his hotel room. Thankfully, he passed it the next morning and was able to make the game.


He's more than a hound dog: up close and personal with Smokey #8

by Coury Turczyn

Ensconced in the living room of his comfortable North Knoxville home, Smokey #8 leans back in the soft brown leather of his sofa, a bemused smile appearing briefly at the corners of his mouth. Outside, it's a bright summer day of green leaves and chirping cicadas—hardly the time of year for all these pesky questions about college football and bowl games. But that's his job, to put up with reporters and photographers even when another season of gridiron glory seems so very far away. In fact, it's in his blood. Before us are scrapbooks of yellowing news clips detailing over 40 years of his family's involvement as the UT Vols' official mascots, a proud heritage of spirited leadership and community involvement.

Now, however, all Smokey wants to do is press his wet nose against the picture window behind the couch, staring off into the shady front yard. Unlike his raucous public image, in private he is quiet and reserved; this is one 80-pound blue tick hound dog who cherishes his personal life. And now, caught up in a reverie about chasing squirrels, he is silent except for the occasional pant. Our interview is over before it even begins.

Thankfully, his managers, Earl and Martha Hudson, who also live with him, are a lot more talkative. In fact, they've had a long history with the Smokey dynasty themselves. Earl, a 72-year-old retired pharmacist who often refers to himself as Smokey #8's "owner," says UT's mascot tradition began in 1953. The university had decided that it needed a mascot indigenous to the state, and the hound dog was selected. Earl's brother-in-law, W.C. Brooks, entered his champion blue tick hound into the tryouts held during half-time at the first game of the season. Each dog was introduced and would then howl. The crowd would cheer, and the competing dog would howl some more. Brooks' dog won paws down and was mascot until 1955, when he got out of his lot and was run over by a car on Rutledge Pike. Until his own passing in 1994, Brooks cared for each new Smokey, up through #6; then the responsibility fell to the Hudsons. They inherited #7 from Earl's sister, who—with the help of some neighbors—had acquired it from...out of state.

This temporary abandonment of the local bloodline did not bode well. Especially when #7 bit one of the marching band's tuba players.

"Well, Smokey 7 nipped the ol' boy—he probably stepped on [Smokey's] foot, to tell you the truth," Hudson confides. "There was not much said about that, 'cause that was just the first time it happened. Next week, he got the same boy in the same way! So Coach Dickey says, 'Hey, maybe we ought to get a new one,' so we did, and we haven't had any trouble. That's the only time we had anything happen like that, and this'll be the 45th year. So we went back to the original bloodlines."

Where those bloodlines originate, Hudson won't say ("We don't disclose our locations."), but 4-year-old Smokey #8 has assumed his role with aplomb. "He's worked out real good," says Hudson. "He has a good personality for the job of mascot because he loves kids, he loves people. Plus, he doesn't get scared when they shoot off the fireworks and the cannon."

Cannon shots aside, Smokey's job is a demanding one. The day before a home game, handlers Willis Jetson and Patrick Hamilton from the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity will arrive to take Smokey away to stay overnight in their frat house, where he is often bathed. Security is of utmost importance as well; scurrilous students from other schools have been known to actually kidnap UT's mascot (those brainy kids from Vanderbilt, however, managed to grab the wrong dog one year). Game day itself is a flurry of media appearances and photo ops as Smokey leads the team to the stadium on their traditional walk. Then, at the start of the game, he charges through the "T," usually baying, before he retires to the sidelines to cheer the team on. At half-time, he makes his rounds along the sidelines to greet fans and pose for pictures.

This much public exposure has made it difficult for #8 to keep a low profile, and he's often recognized when out shopping or going for a walk.

"He's the most recognized dog in the state, I guess—maybe the South," says Hudson. "Sports Illustrated tried to give the Georgia dog, UGA, a lot of credit, but he's ugly, ugly, ugly. Maybe he's supposed to be. They confronted each other last year down at the Georgia game, and Smokey just stood there, and UGA turned his back and walked away."

This amazing self-confidence almost led to Smokey #8's downfall, as it usually does for so many celebrities caught in the fast lane who think they can abuse their bodies without any consequences. In Smokey's case, this meant ingesting a man-made substance of the worst sort—a work glove.

Hudson remembers the day clearly: He was working on the sunken swimming pool in the back yard, and had laid one of his work gloves down beside him. Before he knew it, Smokey # 8 had grabbed the glove and run off with it into the yard.

"I went down there to get it, but he had already swallowed it," Hudson grimly recalls. "On occasion, he had swallowed such things as sweat bands and socks, but the glove never did come through. I kept watching to see if he passed it, and he never did. One morning about three days later, he was nauseous and vomiting, so I took him up to UT Vet Hospital. They X-rayed him and said, 'Yup, we see it in there. We'll have to go in and get it.'

"So they cut him. He's been operated on, but you can't tell it. He's got a scar all the way from here to there..."

Since then, #8 has been straight and sober (well, except for that small relapse with the sock incident at the Citrus Bowl), and has dedicated his life to helping others. On his off days, Smokey often makes public appearances at charity events or at nursing homes, bringing cheer to those who love him.

At this rate, #8 should remain on the job for at least another eight years or so. Meanwhile, Hudson is keeping #9—a much larger, brooding hound—in reserve. But for fans, there will always be only one Smokey—the one on the playing field in the little orange cape with the big T.