KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football seniors Corey Vereen, LaTroy Lewis, Malik Foreman and Joshua Dobbs spoke to reporters on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s upcoming game against Missouri when they will play in Neyland Stadium for the final time.
The seniors spoke about how the program has grown over the past four years and what they hope their legacy will be.
The Vols (7-3, 3-3 SEC) are receiving votes in the latest AP Top 25 and Coaches Poll. Tennessee will play Missouri (3-7, 1-5 SEC) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will feature a live broadcast on CBS, featuring the crew of Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Allie LaForce.
#50 Corey Vereen | Senior Defensive Lineman
Four years ago, it would have been almost unimaginable to picture a late-season scenario where the Vols were in position to compete for the SEC East crown. Today, Tennessee needs two wins and a Florida loss to earn its first trip to the SEC Championship Game since 2007. Vereen spoke about what it would mean if Team 120 was able to achieve this major goal.
“It would mean everything. That’s what we work towards every day. That’s what we worked towards in the offseason. Everybody was talking about it, including the media. We took it upon ourselves to make sure that we work hard in the offseason. It’s here, so we have got to go take it.”
#4 LaTroy Lewis | RS Senior Defensive Lineman
Tennessee football has come a long way from the 5-7 season Lewis experienced when redshirting as a freshman back in 2012. Lewis and several of the senior leaders on Team 120 have played a major part in returning Tennessee football to national prominence. “Brick By Brick” was Butch Jones’ rallying call back in 2013. These seniors helped lay the foundation for the program that thrives today.
“We have established and built a culture that exceeds what we do on the football field. That’s something that I’m excited to come back and see. It’s bigger than myself. It’s bigger than Cameron Sutton. It’s bigger than all of us. We have something that lasts.”
#13 Malik Foreman | Senior Defensive Back
An East Tennessee native, Foreman has been a consistent performer during his four years on Rocky Top. After intercepting a pass in his collegiate debut back in 2013, Foreman has appeared in 41 games over his Tennessee career and has made good on his initial promises to head coach Butch Jones and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez to fight to return Tennessee to national relevance. Speaking to the media for the final time before Saturday’s Senior Day celebration, Foreman took the opportunity to look back on his four seasons in the orange and white.
“I feel like I’ve matured over the last four years. I feel like I struggled early on in my career but as I’ve matured and got to learn football and got to know the game more. I got better as a person and a player … There’s going to be some ups and downs in your career and in life. You can’t let them set you back. I just feel like I just kept my head down and kept on pushing and I’m content with where I’m at right now.”
#11 Joshua Dobbs | Senior Quarterback
As Dobbs winds down an impressive Tennessee career as the Vols’ starting quarterback, he continues to climb UT’s career stats charts. With 370 total yards against Kentucky, he now has 8,145 yards of total offense, becoming just the fourth Vol (Peyton Manning, Casey Clausen, Erik Ainge) to achieve that feat. Dobbs, who has won 21 of his 32 career starts, has been instrumental to the Tennessee turnaround in recent years.
“The time flew by. It feels like I’ve been here a while, but it also feels like it has flown by. It has been enjoyable and I’m just trying to keep everything in perspective. I’m just focusing on preparing for Saturday and not try to get too emotional or anything.”
More Sound Bites
“Really, Coach Shoop is a straight forward guy. If he tells you to do it, he expects you to do it. I just attack things, head-on. I go as hard as possible every single play. When he saw that and my work ethic, I feel like we gelled pretty well.”
(On what he will remember from playing in Neyland Stadium)
“I’m definitely going to remember the crowd noise, the wins and the tough losses, unfortunately. Definitely the crowd noise and the energy from the fans, year-in and year-out.”
(On teammate LaTroy Lewis moving inside to play defensive tackle)
“That is a true testament of perseverance. You see LaTroy Lewis, a self-made guy who comes to work every day. He just went in there. You didn’t even have to ask him. He just took it upon himself to do it.”
RS Senior DL LaTroy Lewis
(On how much he had worked at defensive tackle in the practices leading up to the Kentucky game)
“I worked it here and there in practice. I didn’t know I was going to get that many exclusive reps on Saturday or I would have repped it even more (in practice). We always talk about cross-training. When Coach Stripling teaches or he’s coaching up Kendal Vickers, Quay Picou, Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle and all of the inside guys, he’s always saying, ‘Hey, I’m talking to you ends too because you never know if we will need somebody to go inside or an inside guy to go outside.’ We always talk about that, the whole cross-training method and being able to do everything.”
(On what it means to play in the atmosphere of Neyland Stadium)
“I guess being in there with my teammates. For us, we train 24-7 in the athletic complex and we do that year-round for six, seven opportunities to do it at Neyland. So it’s really special and this will be one last time I will actually be able to share that experience with my team.”
(On the bond he has with the guys left from the 2012 freshman class and if they are starting to realize that their UT careers are coming to a close)
“Especially Kenny Bynum and Jason Croom and myself. Those are actually two of my best friends. Probably one day when I get married, they will be at my wedding. It’s crazy. We look back and say we remember when we were moving into Gibbs (dormitory). Jason and I were roommates. Then when you look over across the street, Gibbs is gone and it’s a whole new building up. How things have changed over time. It’s really interesting to look back on.”
“Whenever I texted Cam or called him after he got hurt he was like, ‘Bro, I’m going to be back. I don’t know how, but some way I’m going to be back.’ He’d be in the training room from the minute he could get in until he had to leave. So I never doubted Cam one bit. I knew he’d be back out there with us.”
(On his last-ditch forced fumble late in the game at Texas A&M)
“It kind of defined my season. Things were going good for us in that game, but somehow we’ve got to find a way to persevere and show the fans that we’re not going to give up no matter what happens.”
(On balancing the emotions of Senior Day with a big game vs. Missouri)
“Just look at the big picture. I’ve had many chances to play in Neyland Stadium and it’s one of the last coliseums. I’m going to cherish this last opportunity for sure. But just knowing that we’ve got more to play for helps push me and the whole team to just keep our heads down.”
Senior QB Joshua Dobbs
(On how Tennessee has continued to run the ball effectively these last few weeks)
“We have playmakers in the running game and in the throw game as well. At the end of the day, the goal is to get the ball in the playmakers’ hands.”
(On Missouri’s defense)
“Missouri’s defense is a very physical defense up front. They do a lot of things that makes up several fronts, different coverages, so we have to be locked in. Each and every time we have played them, it’s been a physical game, it’s been a slugfest. We are going to have to come out ready to play to be victorious this weekend.”