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Meet the first ladies of UT Football: The coaches' wives

Football is family, and that includes the coaches' wives.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Neyland Stadium on game day: It's filled with energy, action and the sounds of Rocky Top. Everyone knows that.

But something you might not know? In the middle of it all, at every single home game, there is a special group of women.

They are the wives of the UT football coaches-- they are the ones who take care of everything at home so the coaches can take care of everything on the field.

And these ladies have developed a very special friendship and bond unlike any other.  

The first ladies of Tennessee football are:

-Rebekah Hughes, wife of Director of Player Personnel Drew Hughes

-Carrie Friend, wife of Offensive Line Coach Will Friend

-Lu Rocker, wife of Defensive Line Coach Tracy Rocker

-Kila Rumph, wife of Co-defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach Chris Rumph

 -Toya Martin, wife of Wide Receivers Coach and Vols legend Tee Martin 

"We just met, and now we're best buddies," Rocker said.

Altogether, these women have been to 25 different cities, their husbands working at 25 different schools. 

It's not exactly easy being a coach's wife.  The coaches work long hours. They hardly see them on any given day, but they don't complain.

"I tell everyone we have one month together," Martin said. "Other than that, it's the season, then recruiting, signing, all that good stuff."

With all that time away from their husbands, the other women who are experiencing the same thing offer each other a source of comfort and understanding.

"It does take special women that can handle things, and we rely on each other.  That's where we go.  Our neighbor next door, they don't understand. 'Oh it must be so sad, your husband's never there.'  No, it's good. I got my friends," Rocker explained.

These women have become so much more than a friend group. They are family. 

"Like when you were in grade school, you meet somebody, you click instantly. It's just where you go anytime you get into the room, you look for that smile, and you're like 'Oh, there she is!  Hey. How was your day?'" Rocker continued.

"It was really good because it was super organic," Rumph added. "Nothing was forced."

The coaches' wives truly do life together, kids and all.

Hughes was 34 weeks pregnant with her first baby when they moved here.

"Right when I had my baby, I actually had only just met these girls probably two times, and they came and brought me food, took care of me, showed me the ropes of being a new mom," Hughes said.

They are even on each other's pick-up lists at school.

"It's like we are all on this boat trying to make it there," Martin said. 

They have a strong bond, both mentally and physically.  The group even works out together at BK X-Training.

Trainer Becca Kelly has gotten to know these ladies well.  They've become great friends, too.

"It's so neat to see their camaraderie together, and it makes you want to be like that in your own life, have these really great friendships where you lean people and help each other," Kelly said. 

Credit: Carrie Friend
From left to right: Carrie Friend, Krista McIntosh, Becca Kelly, Rebekah Hughes, Lu Rocker.

Local mom Krista McIntosh is also in their workout class, and loves to be around the group.

"They're precious. I just love them so much," McIntosh said. "I consider myself so lucky they're here in Knoxville."

The wives said they feel that, too. They said they've been embraced by the Knoxville community, and they love it right back.

"Knoxville is wonderful," Friend said. "We've lived in several different places, and Knoxville is the perfect size to me.  It's got plenty of things to do, great restaurants and the people are the best. You could not ask for better neighbors, better people to be around."

None of the wives had lived in East Tennessee before, including Toya Martin.

But her husband Tee Martin had. So, she said, she was excited to come to East Tennessee knowing her husband is so loved here, having been the quarterback of the Vols' 1998 National Championship team.  

"So, I'm not from Knoxville, and Tee and I met when he was with the Steelers, so I missed all of that," Toya Marton said. "Heard a lot about it, seen enough videos. Yeah, it's good to see what he really means [to everyone here], and it's good for my sons to see it too."

It's a feeling of love and support from the community in East Tennessee that all the wives said they've felt since moving here.

"The people here just embrace you  It's almost off-putting.  You're like, 'Whoa, are they that friendly?' And yes, they are that friendly," Rumph said. 

UT's first home game of the 2019 season will be against Georgia State on Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. 

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