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College Football: 14 Musicians Talk About Their Favorite SEC Teams

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With the World Cup come and gone, we here at Paste turn our attention to another kind of football near and dear to our hearts—college football. In particular, SEC football. As we prepare for the season, we decided to examine the cross-section of music and sports, taking a look at each Southeastern Conference (because conference pride, y’all) football team through the eyes of musicians who are fans. Paste rounded up a representative for each school and talked about Saturday pigskin in the South.

1. Alabama
Musician: Paul Janeway – St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Why he’s an Alabama fan: I’m named after Paul “Bear” Bryant so I think it was probably at birth for me. Being named after a famous Alabama coach, I had no choice. It’s the only thing I ever knew. My grandfather, aunt, uncle, other uncle, et cetera, all went to the University of Alabama.

Most memorable game: I was little, real little, but I went to the 1992 SEC championship game, the first SEC championship game. I remember Alabama intercepting the ball from Florida and everybody going crazy. I was also at the Rocky Block when Alabama played Tennessee in 2009, and they blocked the field goal at Bryant Denny [Stadium] and Alabama won the game.

Favorite player: Shaun Alexander. I always loved him. He’s my favorite player. I met him one time and he was just such a nice dude and I loved the way he played.

Most hated rival: There are no two ways about it. It’d be Auburn. One time, I wore an Auburn hat when I was about four years old, and my grandfather spanked me for wearing it. How about that? I was wearing the hat to be cute. I think I was being kind of a smart-ass. My grandfather took it seriously, and he gave me a spanking. I mean he didn’t beat me up or anything. He just popped me on the bottom and said don’t wear that again. I said “absolutely, yes sir.”

2. Arkansas
Musician: Todd Gill – Lucero, The Paper Hearts

Why he’s an Arkansas fan: My parents moved us to Fayetteville when I was in first grade. I remember my entire extended family being jealous that we were going to “live with the Hogs.” Arkansas has no professional teams or in-state college rivals, so the Razorbacks are the biggest show in the state. It’s hard not to be a Hog fan here. It’s infectious across the state, and in Fayetteville, it’s absolutely in the air. Arkansas is often portrayed as an underdog, and there’s nothing more fun than rooting for the little guy.

Most memorable game: Arkansas was ranked No. 10 and hosted No. 1 Alabama in Fayetteville in 2010. Aside from being one of the best matchups I’ve ever seen, it was easily the loudest game I’ve heard inside Razorback Stadium. I recently heard former [Alabama] Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy say the same thing. Arkansas was moving the ball down the field for the winning touchdown, but an interception in the final two minutes gave Alabama the win.

Favorite player: Without a doubt, Darren McFadden. It was so easy to be proud of him. He was an Arkansas native from Little Rock who chose to stay at home in spite of being recruited by a host of schools including Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee. He won two consecutive Doak Walker Awards as the nation’s top running back and was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy two years in a row which kept him and Arkansas in the national spotlight. D-Mac was so fun to watch. He could run and catch, and I think he even threw four touchdown passes here at Arkansas. I’ll never forget that guy.

Favorite game day tradition: Oh, that’s easy. It’s Calling the Hogs, for sure. Describing the Hog Call makes it sound ridiculous. You raise your arms, wiggle your fingers and call out a falsetto “Wooooooo” before screaming “Pig Sooie!” with a big, over-animated fist pump. It’s something I would hate with a passion if I weren’t an Arkansas fan, which is why I love it so much. When an opposing team’s players or fans hear it for the first time, they laugh. They honestly laugh, but who can blame them? It’s one of the strangest things ever. But after the fourth of fifth time, it becomes annoying—you can see it in their eyes. And once Razorback fans sense that, they get louder and louder which only amplifies the frustration. It’s weird. It’s awesome. I love it.

3. Auburn
Musician: Ben Tanner – Alabama Shakes, Co-founder Single Lock Records

Why he’s an Auburn fan: Total indoctrination from birth. I didn’t attend Auburn, but my parents and grandfather went there, so I was raised to be an Auburn fan. They’re pretty intense sports fans, so Auburn football was always a very big deal growing up. In my life, we’ve gone from being the football step-child in the state to being a legitimate rival of Alabama. That rivalry is so intense and amazing, and it’s hard to describe to anyone who isn’t from Alabama. In most recent seasons, both teams have been good, which raises the stakes even higher. Last year’s Iron Bowl was emotionally exhausting.

Most memorable game: Some of my best friends went to Auburn, so I’d often go down there for game weekends when we were in college. My favorite was probably when Auburn upset Florida in 2001. I jumped a barricade to sneak into the student section to watch the game with my friends. Florida was No. 1 and undefeated, and Auburn was unranked, and Auburn won on a last-second field goal, and everyone went insane, rushing the field, climbing the goalposts, getting pepper-sprayed – total mayhem.

Favorite player: It’s gotta be Bo Jackson. I was too young to remember watching him play at the time, but I’ve watched many of his old games, and he was just such a freak athlete, he made defenses look like they were in quicksand.

Favorite game day tradition: The eagle flying around the stadium is always breathtaking.

Final Thoughts: There’s nothing in my life quite like being an Auburn football fan. It engages a completely non-rational and emotional part of my brain. I know, intellectually, that it’s only a game played by 20-year-olds, but when the game starts, I can’t help but care a LOT—sometimes too much. But that’s also the beauty of being a sports fan, and we have something really special and unique watching college football in the South.

4. Florida
Musician: Ken Block – Sister Hazel

Why he’s a Florida fan: I’ve lived in Gainesville my whole life and still do. My father was a professor at UF when I was a kid, and I went there for college. I sold Cokes in that stadium when I was a kid. [Sister Hazel] has played Gator Growl, the world’s largest run student pep rally, three times and Drew [Copeland], and I even hosted it one year. We have been the grand marshals of the homecoming parade, and I have been going to games since the south end zone was bleachers. We bleed orange and blue and love college football, especially SEC football.

Most memorable game: The Sugar Bowl in January 1997. Florida beat FSU 52-20 for the national championship. FSU had squeaked out a three point win in Tallahassee just a few weeks earlier, so the redemption in the Sugar Bowl was, pardon the pun, SWEET! Danny Wuerffel was unreal, and Florida played a nearly perfect game.

Favorite player: Emmitt Smith. He was an absolutely incredible running back to watch. His highlight reel plays were obviously amazing, but it was how he could turn plays that most backs would lose yardage on or get stuffed at the line of scrimmage into impressive positive yardage that always blew me away. And that was without a stellar offensive line. I can’t say enough about how great a player he was at UF and then in the NFL.

Bigger rivalry – Georgia or Florida State: Very tough call but I’d have to say Florida State. It seems we recruit more against them too. But, I’ll add that the level of intensity towards either one rises dramatically if they are having a great year or if something big like a conference or national title is on the line.

5. Georgia
Musician: Thomas Johnson – Futurebirds

Why he’s a UGA fan: I’ve actually been a fan my whole life. Both my folks went to UGA. Actually, they both grew up in Athens also, so it’s kind of been in my blood I guess. My folks have always had season tickets, and my grandparents have too, so we grew up going to lots of games. I eventually went to school there also, but I was a fan long before my enrollment there.

Favorite player: David Greene. I always felt like Greene was an underdog story. He didn’t have the biggest arm and wasn’t necessarily a fast guy, but he was a guy that always made the right decisions. I always felt like if he had the arm of [Matthew] Stafford or the legs of [D.J.] Shockley, what could have happened? So yeah, he [David Greene], and David Pollock were great. Having them on the team at the same time was pretty amazing.

Most memorable game: For some reason most of the memorable ones for me are games we lost. But one of my favorite games, because of the context, was [in 2002] when we were playing Georgia Tech and we beat them 51 to seven. I happened to be sitting with my best buddies and we were in the small Georgia Tech section in Sanford Stadium. It was really awesome to see the heartbreak on their faces.

Which team he’d rather beat: Florida, Auburn, or Georgia Tech: That’s a tough one. I’ve always talked about this growing up with my brothers or my dad or my friends. It seems like no matter what’s happening, no matter how good a team we had, we could never beat Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, and Tech in the same year. It was always one or two of them who got us… But Florida, they carry some importance for some reason…it’s got that importance that none of the other ones quite have, although they’re all great rivalries.

Final thoughts: You need to go to a good game at Georgia or LSU or Alabama or Auburn or Tennessee or Florida; some of these schools that have such great traditions and the mania of game day. It’s different at every school, but I know each one of those schools has really cool traditions. Just walking around the town, even, before the game: tailgates going on everywhere. The craziness of it all. It’s something to see. Even if you’re not a sports fan, it would be eye-opening.

The Futurebirds will release an EP on August 26. They’ve also partnered with Athens-based coffee Jittery Joe’s on a special roast, Baba Java. The EP will be given away with cans of Baba Java and will also be available separately.

6. Kentucky
Musician: Nate Kremer – The Delta Saints

Why he’s a Kentucky fan: Like my father before me, I was born into the Big Blue Nation. I love UK football because not only am I privileged/obligated by the pure blue blood coursing through my veins and not just because I happened to attend college there, but because I simply believe I will live to see them ascend to their rightful position alongside other SEC elite teams. It’s only a matter of time. We will simply become self-actualized and go grab what is to be our destiny.

Most memorable game: The most memorable game has to be [in 2006] when UK beat then-No. 1 LSU at home after three overtimes. It’s one of those special games you hope you’re able to experience as a student. And I’m glad to have taken part in the revelry that followed. Although we didn’t burn any couches. We save that for basketball season.

Favorite player: From Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen, Derek Abney to Wesley Woodyard and Stevie Johnson it’s hard to pick a favorite, although Randall Cobb is a beast for my favorite NFL team.

Favorite game day tradition: There’s nothing quite like waking up on a Saturday morning with the sole purpose of getting your ass to that tailgate with all your loved ones and friends. You find some form of bourbon to lubricate your vocal chords, which will inevitably be torn apart by the ludicrous screaming and howling to follow. There’s some real beauty in these tailgates and many fuzzy memories.

7. LSU
Musician: Marc Broussard

Why he’s an LSU fan: I’ve been aware of LSU football prowess for most of my life, but it wasn’t until I started touring with my drummer, Chad Gilmore, a former member of the LSU marching band, that I really fell in love with LSU. Especially under Coach Les Miles, the Tigers have made Saturdays a whole lot more fun.

Most memorable game: I’d have to say LSU versus Florida in 2007. It was an incredible back and forth game. Both teams were highly ranked. And we were overseas in Africa, I think, on a U.S. military base watching the game in the middle of the night on a tiny TV in officer’s quarters. LSU won of course.

Favorite tradition: Every home game the Golden Band from Tigerland marches through campus to the stadium. As they near the stadium, they come over a small hill and play “Pregame [Salute]” and ”Touchdown [for LSU],” which are traditional LSU songs, and the fight song. The crowd goes absolutely nuts! It’s a great way to get fired up for the game.

Which rival he hates more – Alabama or Ole Miss: Yes
Final thoughts: LSU is an amazing game day experience. You’ve gotta take in a game at Tiger Stadium, no matter who you root for.

On his new album he just released: I’m extremely proud of this record. The songs are very personal and have come directly from my life. I had so much freedom creatively while being restricted financially, in comparison to my previous work, which actually made for a more efficient recording process and cut out a lot of second guessing. In the end, what was done was done very well and with focused intent. Unfortunately, by the time I hit the road with the Southern Soul Assembly, this album was good and done. I predict that not only will my future projects include those men, but be heavily influenced by them as well.
Broussard’s A Life Worth Living was released July 29.

8. Mississippi State
Musician: Damien Bone – The Weeks

Why he’s a Mississippi State fan: Being from Mississippi and its lack of any professional sports teams, everyone’s favorite sports teams falls on the college teams within the state. Pretty much everyone chooses from three teams in the state between Ole Miss, Southern Miss, and Mississippi State. I think that once I realized that State had cowbells and bulldogs, I knew I would be a fan.

Most memorable game: A few years ago I went to [Sylvester] Croom’s first game as a coach. It was also the first game I went to at State. I had an incredible experience. … It seemed fitting to indulge myself with a substance that can be found in fields that conveniently surround Starkville. Making all my senses fire on all cylinders that definitely made that day one to remember. State won the game giving it the perfect ending along with my arm cramping from shaking a cowbell and my cheeks sore from grinning excessively.

Favorite game day tradition: My favorite game day tradition would have to be the barbecues and drinking games that happen prior to the games. As long as there is food on the grill and beer in my cup, I know that I’m going to have a great day.
On naming their album after a famous player from a different school: I consider myself more of an SEC fan over anything else. So naming the album Dear Bo Jackson was a pretty easy decision to make. We love that Bo considered himself a good ballplayer over a football or baseball player. We would like to consider ourselves a good band as opposed to a rock or indie band.

9. Mizzou
Musician: Collin Herring

Why he’s a Mizzou fan: I became a Missouri Tigers fan by osmosis about four years ago. The most amazing woman I’ve ever met, my girlfriend, is from Springfield, MO, and her entire family are diehard Mizzou fans. They’re such great people. The excitement is contagious. I’m sure we’ll all be watching some games together this year.

Most memorable game: Watching the Mizzou vs. A&M game last December was pretty awesome. It was a deserving victory for Mizzou and a memorable one at that. This game showed that Mizzou is more than capable of pulling off big wins in the SEC. Being able to keep Johnny Manziel in check was an accomplishment in itself, and Mizzou did more than just that, even though that was our only non-double digit win of the season.

Favorite player: I’m going with Henry Josey. He’s exhilarating to watch and has a lot of heart. He’s the second player in Missouri history to have two 1,000 yard rushing seasons. Henry Josey also has a great comeback story. In 2011, a horrible knee injury nearly put him out of the game forever. Three years later he shows up at the NFL Combine with the third fastest 40-yard dash among running backs. Also, he’s from my home state.

Favorite game day tradition: Being in Texas for most of the Missouri football season keeps us out of the “tradition” loop, but I will say we have our own tradition of texting and staying connected to our loved ones in Missouri. Most of these texts involve the use of swear words.

10. Ole Miss
Musician: JoJo Hermann – Widespread Panic

Why he’s an Ole Miss fan: I landed in Oxford, Miss., in 1987. I just went to visit and was just kinda crashing on people’s couches. I fell in love with Mississippi and Oxford and Ole Miss, so I never left. I think the one game I remember the most back then was 1988 when we played Alabama, and it was in Tuscaloosa. We beat Bama on their homecoming. The whole band Beanland, my band at the time, was down there, and I’ll never forget that game. I think I really turned into a fan at that Alabama homecoming…And I’m an Ole Miss alumni now.

Favorite coach: I gotta go with Billy Brewer. He was the guy. He was there when I was there, and he’d come down to Proud Larry’s and talk football with everybody and was just a great guy and just great with the fans. He’s one of the legendary coaches.

Favorite game day tradition: The Grove, pretty much THE game day tradition. The Grove is the quad, which dominates the center of the campus, and it’s just a big field of grass and lots of trees. Everybody comes in the night before the game and the morning of and puts all their tents up, and it turns into a big barbecue. Everybody just breaks out their grills and starts barbecuing before the game… Only the SEC does it like that. And I have to say my one other biggest association with pregame Ole Miss games would be bourbon and Cokes. It was all about the bourbon and Coke. Not anymore, but back then, yeah. My dentist told me I had to stop drinking Coke.

Bigger rival – LSU or Mississippi State: LSU no doubt. That LSU rivalry is the real deal. It gets pretty ugly. I really don’t have anything against Mississippi State. But LSU/Ole Miss I think is the real rivalry. It can get pretty ugly at those games.

11. South Carolina
Musician: Darius Rucker

Why he’s a South Carolina fan: Well I guess I became a fan when I started going there. I went there when I was 18 years old, and you can’t not be a fan. My freshman year was one of the best seasons we had ever had in college football. Back in 1984 we actually got to No. 2 in the country that year before losing to Navy, which was the most depressing game. So I’ve been a gamecock ever since I set foot on campus. I love the gamecocks. They mean a lot to me, and I’m proud to be from that university.

Favorite player: My favorite player of all time in Carolina history is probably Sterling Sharpe. We went to college together and knew each other in college. And he was just a stud. He could catch everything he was passed. He was big. He was just a great guy and my friend.

Favorite game day tradition: I love going to the games. My favorite tradition is driving my bus up to Columbia and parking right next to the stadium and tailgating with all my college buddies. We all get together every game and just have a great time. But then I love taking my boy and sitting in the seats and watching South Carolina football. My son is a bigger fan than I am. We love to just go sit and watch the Gamecocks play and yell and scream, and it’s been so good lately. It’s great to go and see us win. Probably my favorite tradition is taking my boy to watch games.

On watching games while touring: We usually have a TV right off the stage and somebody shouts out the score between every song.

Who he’d rather beat – Clemson or UGA: Clemson: You can ask pretty much any Gamecock fan you know, and they’re gonna say Clemson.

His prediction for South Carolina this season: Same one as every season—national championship. I say that at the beginning of every year. One of these days I’m going to be right.

Rucker is in the process of recording a new album and is releasing a Christmas album in October.

12. Tennessee
Musician: Justin Hoskins – The Dirty Guv’nahs

Why he’s a Tennessee fan: I was born a Tennessee fan. I grew up an East Tennessean, so there’s no hiding from the Big Orange. As the years passed, my interest in UT sports grew and grew. I am a UT graduate and my passion for all things Vols is as deep as ever. I may or may not be checking out the latest recruiting update after I finish this interview.

Most memorable game: It’s hard narrowing it down. I’ll go with one of my favorites from childhood—the 1998 victory over Florida at Neyland Stadium. In those days, the September matchup versus Florida essentially cleared the path to the eastern division championship. UT had been title contenders for several years, but the early season losses to [Steve] Spurrier and the [Florida] Gators were too big a hole to dig out of. Finally, in 1998, we broke through. I was just starting my sophomore year of high school, and at the time my family’s tickets were in the south end zone behind the goal post. When Florida missed a field goal right in front of me to give us the victory, the students began rushing the field. Although I wasn’t in college yet, I went straight to the field. I managed to get to the bottom of the goal post and held on for dear life as the older, crazier kids tore it down. The Vols were on their way to a national championship at last. I took part of the field home with me that night, and I still have it.

Favorite player: The correct answer for anyone who has grown up in these parts is Peyton Manning. He embodies everything you could want out of a football player. He’s such an inspiring student of the game. Besides that obvious choice, I’ve always really liked Al Wilson, Peerless Price and Eric Berry.

Favorite game day tradition: College football is so much more than just the actual game itself. I like waking up early and getting down to Neyland to maximize the tailgating time with 100,000 of my closest orange-clad friends. On the prettiest days, you show up on your boat as a part of the Vol Navy. It’s essentially a huge party on the Tennessee River right beside the stadium—the largest boat tailgate in the country. Make sure to leave time to get over to the Vol Walk and cheer on your coaches and players as they march into the stadium before the game.

13. Texas A&M
Musician: Robert Earl Keen

Why he’s a Texas A&M fan: I was a Texas A&M fan just as far back as I can remember. My father was a University of Texas graduate. And consequently, on Thanksgiving we would always go either to College Station or Austin and watch the annual Thanksgiving Day Texas A&M/University of Texas game. Even though I was very proud of my dad, and I love my dad very much, I seemed to always find myself rooting for the Aggies.

Favorite player: Well, my favorite player of all time is Johnny Football. I just think he’s so creative. I think that’s where I have this connection because writing songs and doing what I do and getting on stage, and changing the set right in the middle of it. I feel connected to that sort of thinking. So when I see that guy doing something really out of the box and changing it midstream I can totally connect with that kind of thinking.

Favorite game day tradition: Well, I like the kissing the girls on the scoring, man. Every time you score—with a field goal or even a safety. Boom, throw your hands up in the air, and then you kiss your girl. Does that happen anywhere else? And if you took a date to a football game and it was a new date and you never kissed her before, it was like, this great, exciting moment for you thinking “oh this is gonna happen, or I hope this happens.” So it was a sure way to get a kiss.

The bigger Aggie football fan—him or Lyle Lovett: I would have to say Lyle is. He knows all the yells. There’s a lot of them. And to get to know the yells you have to know the hand signs to do ‘em, right? And Lyle knows all of those, and I’m always amazed that he does. Because I’m like yeah I know that one and that one, but I don’t know all these. So I have to say that he would rank at least on paper higher than I would.

His new bluegrass album he just completed: I have some great guests. I have Lyle singing on a song with me; Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks singing a song; Peter Rowan, who is a bluegrass icon; Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek, playing the fiddle, and Danny Barnes [banjo]. I have an incredible set up of great, great people. I chose all the songs. They’re all traditional bluegrass songs, and they range from Flatt and Scruggs to John Hartford.

Keen will release his bluegrass album, Happy Prisoner, February 10, 2015.

14. Vanderbilt
Musician: Marshall Chapman

Why she’s a Vanderbilt fan: I was a student at Vanderbilt from 1967 until I graduated in 1971. I remember attending some of the games. My roommate was from Gadsden, Ala., and when Vanderbilt played Alabama, she’d pull for the Tide. I didn’t understand this at the time, but now I do. I vividly recall seeing Bear Bryant stride onto Dudley Field, in his trademark houndstooth hat, with his team. My date pointed toward him and said, “see that man right there? That’s God.” I didn’t understand that at the time either, but now I do. Homecoming my freshman year, Vanderbilt played Kentucky. I was all dressed up like I was going to church with a corsage and everything…

Most memorable game: The most memorable game I ever watched was Jay Cutler’s last as a Commodore. With Vanderbilt trailing 24-21, Cutler engineered a last-minute drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Earl Bennett for the victory. I feel like that moment was a turning point for the program.

Favorite player: Well, Cutler would definitely be in the mix and Pat Toomay, who played while I was a student before he went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys. Toomay has written a couple of books, one of which I recently read [On Any Given Sunday]. My recent favorites are running back Zac Stacy and wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

Favorite game day tradition: For about 10 years, I had an all-access press pass for Vanderbilt sports. As a result, I created my own game-day tradition. I would sit atop the press box to watch the games. The view from up there was incredible! The only other people around were cameramen, and that was only for televised games. One time Kenny Chesney was up there with some guys. He wasn’t wearing his trademark cowboy hat. We were playing Tennessee and I could tell he was rooting for the Vols, even though he was being cool about it. Anyway, when the games weren’t televised, I’d pretty much have the roof to myself. For a while, I had my own canvas lounge chair up there with my name scrawled on it. Once I took my yoga mat up there. I was a sight—practicing yoga while watching guys bang the shit out of each other below. Talk about a balance of yin and yang! But then everything changed after the bowl win in 2008. I got a letter from the athletic department revoking my press pass.

Final thoughts: Being a southerner, I’ll leave you with a story. For years, my seats at Vanderbilt Stadium were directly behind the late, great Owen Bradley. This was during the DiNardo era when Vanderbilt played great defense. Their defense was ranked No. 1, but the offense sucked. Every time Vanderbilt would do something great, like make a goal line stand, they’d turn around and fumble on the next possession. And every time something like that happened, Bradley would say, “Prosperity in the land of the poor is short-lived.” In closing, here’s my favorite football quote which is attributed to Marino “The Godfather” Casem, longtime coach at Alcorn State: “In the East, college football is a cultural exercise. On the West Coast, it’s a tourist attraction. And in the Midwest, it’s a form of cannibalism. But in the South, it is religion and Saturday is the Holy Day.”

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