KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Vols fans will never forget the magical ride that was the 1998 college football national championship that Tennessee claimed over Florida State, 23-16.
A pivotal moment from that season came in the spring prior to the regular season according to former Vols quarterback Tee Martin. Head coach Phillip Fulmer really challenged his team after a bad practice.
"The chip got on our shoulders in the spring," Martin said. "We had a terrible, terrible practice. Coach came in and he was hot. He was mad. He was livid. He said, 'You know what? You all are like a 6-6 team right now. You guys have to show us and prove to us that you guys are better than that.' We sat back and were like, 'What? 6-6? That's what you think?' So we had a chip on our shoulder. He said the right thing. That is what was always good about coach is he knew how to push the right buttons at the right time."
The Vols didn't lose a game, finishing a perfect 13-0 and winning the SEC Championship game as well. Martin thinks back about that season and reflects on how hard it was to be undefeated champions.
"Coach Fulmer told us this after the national championship game. He said you guys aren't going to realize what you've done until you get much older," he said. "Every year it doesn't go by with schools around the country, you realize how important it was to be a part of an undefeated national championship team. It's just special. You can't recreate it and it's a memory we'll have for the rest of our lives."