Monday, August 29, 2005

Congressman Ford Vists With UT Football Team

If Phillip Fulmer guides Tennessee's football team to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl game on Jan. 4, one of his dinner engagements is already set.

It will be with Congressman Harold Ford of Memphis, a special guest at the Vols’ Monday afternoon practice.

Ford addressed the team near the end of the workout, then described his visit as “an honor.”

Fulmer seemed just as honored to have one of the state’s rising political leaders in attendance.

“He had a great message for the team,” the Vol coach said, smugly adding: “He sounded a little bit like a fan.”

That’s because Ford IS a fan, a point he made quite clear during an informal post-practice gathering with Fulmer and a dozen or so media types.

“Coach came over to the sidelines and asked if I minded waiting a little bit (to address the team),” Ford noted.

“I looked at him and said, ‘Are you kidding? I’d be happy to wait around as long as you say.’ Like the coach said, I’m a fan as much as anything. I’m a politician in one capacity but I came here today as a fan.”

Ford described the Vols as “a great group of kids,” then expressed surprise at how calmly the team handled the recent announcement that sophomore Erik Ainge will start Game 1 at quarterback ahead of senior Rick Clausen.

“I was impressed with how the coach and the quarterbacks handled the quarterback choice,” the Congressman said. “Everybody showed the class that is associated with this program and this coach.

“I’m looking forward to coming back in January, maybe meeting him out in LA somewhere for dinner.”

“It’s a date,” Fulmer quipped, laughing out loud.