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The Construction Crew: How, Why Fans of Rival Teams Went ‘All Out’ For Tennessee on Saturday

HOOVER, Ala. — Whether you were at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Saturday night or watched the Vols rout Kentucky from home, you may have noticed an odd group seated in the first row behind the Wildcats’ dugout.

Orange construction hats, orange bandannas and orange spray-painted T-shirts served as a common thread for four young men. Two others in the row wore Sharpie-drawn mustaches — an attempt at recreating “Mike Honcho” — while one wore a Nike Tennessee shirt.

The final group member mentioned above was the only one donning the correct shade of Tennessee orange. 

It didn’t matter — they drew eyes and awe anyway, becoming instant celebrities around the stadium.

The difference between these guys and actual celebrities is stark, though. For example, no one has to ask Brad Pitt what his name is.

But, when pressed for their own moniker, the group huddled together for a decision before declaring confidently, “The Construction Crew.”

And, with only one member of this “crew” being an actual Tennessee fan, the friends had to build their outfits — and plan for next year — from scratch.

The Framework

A few hours before the Vols took the field against Kentucky, the lone Tennessee fan — Brycen — was at church with his friends.

He mentioned in passing that he would be headed to watch his beloved Vols, the first time he’s seen them play this season.

As teenagers do, the other friends and a couple little brothers decided to tag along.

Did it matter that the other boys prefer cheering for Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and even a Kentucky team that wound up losing by 10 runs?

Maybe during football season. But apparently it didn’t on Saturday.

“I’m mixed both ways,” said Conner, one Alabama fan in the group. “I’m a lover, not a fighter. Tennessee’s got some beautiful jerseys, and I’m all about some beautiful jerseys.”

The Gear

Speaking of clothing, the plan to attend the game quickly ballooned into more elaborate getups before the group arrived in Hoover.

“Immediately when we knew we were going to dress up, we said, ‘We’ve got to go all out,’” said Brycen.

So the friends made their way to Hobby Lobby (home of “just about everything you can think of”), where they purchased the shirts, bandannas and hard hats.

What about the paint, which they used to scrawl “Daddy Dingers” and Power T’s on two of the plastic helmets?

“A lot of (the Hobby Lobby paint) was toxic,” said Conner. “So, we went to Wal-Mart.”

Problem solved.

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The Game

At the time of the interview, Tennessee and Kentucky were tied at 2.

Things didn’t look bleak for the Vols, but on a late night, they didn’t look great, either.

Soon enough, though, Tennessee snapped into top-ranked form.

Luc Lipcius started off with a single, the Vols plated two runs off Kentucky errors, and Cortland Lawson hit a two-run RBI double to break the game open in the eighth inning.

Then, after the Vols tacked on a couple insurance runs in the ninth, Blake Burke smacked a no-doubter into the trees beyond right field for the final advantage: a 12-2 win.

By that point, the rout was such that members of this “crew” — even a group comprised of some fans who proudly said “War Eagle” and “Alabama all the way” — were asking how to get down to the field so they could shake hands with the Vols.

“It makes you want to get better, honestly,” said Conner, who plays baseball at the group’s school in Harpersville, Alabama. “Because these guys are pretty good. They’re fun to watch.”

And what did they think of Burke’s moon shot? 

“Neil Armstrong kissed that thing on the moon,” quipped Conner. “I couldn’t even see it.”

The Aftermath

Are they fun enough to watch again on Sunday? Maybe for Conner, since Tennessee overcame its rocky start to finish in emphatic fashion.

The lone Tennessee fan in the group is taking a different road, though.

“I don’t think so, because we’ve got church (on Sunday),” Brycen said. “And that’s a pretty important thing for us.”

Whether they come on Sunday or not, though, the friends are already making plans for the tournament next year.

“I’m thinking a whole new getup, whole new style,” said Conner.

Still Tennessee-themed, or can the outfits be based on any team in the tournament?

“The No. 1 seed for next year, if they’re still in it by the time (semifinals) come around, we’re coming out decked out in that team’s colors,” clarified Conner. “We could be Florida fans next year. You never know. We’ll still be pulling for our teams, but whoever’s No. 1, we’re just going all out.”

Such blatant bandwagon-ism may not sit well with some fans.

What will resonate, though, is Brycen’s biggest win of the night: leverage.

“I can say I’ve got blackmail on them,” he said. “Whenever they start talking trash about that big Power T, I’ll say I’ve got that picture of all of us standing there, decked out in orange.”