Tony Vitello- Super Regional

KNOXVILLE, TN - June 13, 2021 - Head Coach Tony Vitello of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates after winning the 2021 NCAA baseball tournament super regional game between LSU Tigers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Vol Calls, the official statewide radio show for the Tennessee Volunteers, debuted its first show of the 2021 season on Wednesday night.

The voice of the Volunteers Bob Kesling and Vol Network contributor Brent Hubbs hosted the show from Calhoun’s on the River in downtown Knoxville. During the hour broadcast, Kesling and Hubbs broke down the latest news and information on Tennessee Athletics, including interviews with two head coaches and two important faculty members.

On Wednesday, Vol Calls featured a star-studded panel, including live interviews with Athletic Director Danny White, Chancellor Donde Plowman and head baseball coach Tony Vitello. In addition to the live interviews, a special recorded interview with head football coach Josh Heupel led off the season debut.

Heupel said he is excited about the progress his team has made leading up to the season opener against Bowling Green.

“I am really proud of the coaches and players with what we have done here over the last three weeks preparing ourselves,” Heupel said. “They’ve competed in a really good way, they’ve strained, and we've grown so much on the field and off of it. You're never an end product, coaches are always going to always try and push you forward. Excited to get to game week and find out about our team on kickoff.”

Most coaches solidify their starters closer to week one, but Heupel said a position group can never revolve around one guy.

“The strength of one position can never be one guy, I don’t care if that's quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, D-line, linebackers, DB’s (defensive backs),” Heupel said. “It’s got to be a cultivation of the entire group. You've got to have the mentality one guy goes down, next guys up, and you're not gonna skip a beat. You've got to prepare and compete at a championship level and you've got to prove you're gonna play at that level.”

Ahead of the football opener on Thursday, Sept. 2, White is just excited to see Neyland Stadium full of fans and student athletes.

“The potential here is almost limitless, I am really excited about what we can build, and I am excited to see this football team,” White said. “They've worked so hard this offseason. Josh has built an unbelievable staff and I think the culture has come so far. I am looking forward to seeing those student athletes in front of a packed Neyland Stadium and perform.”

Students are a huge part of the gameday experience on Rocky Top, and White expects them to be rocking in Neyland Stadium all season.

“The gameday experience starts and stops with our student section,” White said. “We have to have them in the stadium packed, the entire game. We need their engagement, we need them having an awesome time.”

After having very few students on campus last year, Plowman was determined to have campus full once again this year. She accomplished that feat and is happy to see campus full of life again.

“It's been great having everyone back,” Plowman said. “The energy is so positive and the students are thrilled. It's been a wonderful few days. Kinda crazy, but it's been wonderful. ”

Plowman differs from other chancellors in her interactions with athletics. She believes it connects many people to Tennessee.

“I believe athletics is the front porch to the University, and it connects people in the state to this place,” Plowman said. “I want the student athletes to know that what they do is important. They work very hard everyday. They have been through COVID and have been leaders every step of the way.”

This past season, Vitello and the baseball team brought Vol fans the enjoyment they so desperately craved after a hard year without athletics.

“There were a lot of kids that bled orange and it showed up on the field, but there were a lot of kids that were there through the thin times,” Vitello said. “As things got better the fans that watched them grow up cherished the fact that they turned the program around.”

Before Vitello came to Rocky Top, the baseball team had not reached the College World Series since 2005, but now with this past season's success, everyone in college baseball has the Vols on their radar.

“It was awe striking this summer to go to places and hear the feedback from some people and have random people come up, who cheer for Kentucky, come and say how they appreciated the way our guys played,” Vitello says. “A lot of different compliments and a great vibe. Also, a lot more interest from people who matter the most, the recruits.”

Next week’s Vol Calls will air on Monday at 8 p.m. ET ahead of the football season opener on Thursday.

Heupel will be live on the air with Kesling and Hubbs to answer questions from callers and discuss the season opener against Bowling Green.

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