Super Vols: Carter, Darr, Worley talk huge opportunity
For a trio of departing University of Tennessee football players, they'll finish their careers as Volunteers in the January 2 Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., home of the NFL's Jaguars, and immediately begin final preparations for Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix, Ariz.
Justin Worley, the Vols' injured quarterback, will be joined at the NFL's annual championship by teammates Jacob Carter and Matt Darr as volunteer works in part of a University of Tennessee program featuring a dozen current students and staffers Debbie Mackey and Brian Russell called the 'Big Orange Combine.'
Ever-prepared, the signal-caller Worley already has his business cards ready. Sort of.
"I think it's going to be huge, me being a sports management major and being in the graduate program, I've always thought I might want to work in sports or for an NFL team; something like that," said Worley, a Vol Scholar whose senior season on the field was cut short by a shoulder injury. "Just being able to see how everything operates behind the scenes would be huge, and just to be able to network and give out business cards would be awesome.
"Basic information [on the cards], who I am, where to get in touch with me. I probably need to get some more professional ones before we go out there."
Added Carter, "They've been doing it the past few years, but now they're getting some former athletes involved and we're going to be able to go with a few students from the business school. Our first experience, theirs as well. Justin and I majored in sports management together, and now he's in the grad-school program and I'm in H.R. (human resources) program. We were thinking about doing sports after college, coaching or the business side of it, so this is kind of our first real experience to have behind the scenes. We've always been on the front side of it, playing football. Now we're going to be able to work the Super Bowl. What a great stage to do that at. Just to see that side of it and how everything operates is going to be awesome."
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones touted the benefits of the program to VolQuest.com --- both now and moving forward.
"Well, it's a very big opportunity and we're excited to have that joint partnership for many years to come. What a great experience, and it will be a life experience for many years to come," said Jones, the head ball boy in Super Bowl XXV when the New York Giants edged the Buffalo Bills. "For these individuals to get to actually go and see the inner workings of the Super Bowl, be involved in all the dynamics that go into the planning and the preparation that goes into the Super Bowl, it's invaluable."
Prior to the trip out there, the group have been raising funds to cover the approximate $15,000 cost of the venture. They were sponsored by the university-wide VolStarter (https://volstarter.utk.edu) program, which selects a certain number of student ventures to promote annually, to help get a jump-start on the costs of the Super Bowl trip.
"We were shooting for about a thousand dollars a head, we said $15,000 was our goal," said Worley. "I think right now we're sitting at $10,000. We pay for flights there and back; lodging. Really the only expenses we're going to have coming out of our pockets hopefully is food.
"We've done a good job raising some funds, and UT has the Vol Starter program which is kind of a fundraiser for these different programs. Our program or another program for students to take a mission trip."
For the Vols' punter Darr, who's likely to simultaneously be training for NFL tryouts a few months later, the opportunity in Arizona was too promising to ignore.
"I'm really looking forward to being out there the whole week leading up to it and helping out with the events leading up to the game. I think it's going to be a great opportunity to network with business professionals who are going to be at that particular event," Darr said, "and it's going to be neat to see all the facilities out there and to see all that goes on into putting on such a big event.
"To have kind of a real-life applied internship in an event like this is going to go a long ways in my business future."
Carter believes the trio's experiences this year could even wind up as a recruiting tool for Tennessee football moving forward.
"You watch the Super Bowl every year growing up, see it on TV and see all the cameras flash and the confetti; you just kind of see it like it's a movie," Carter said. "Now we're going to be able to experience and it's a dream come true. It's going to be fun working it. …
"I think it can be used as a recruiting tool. If you can use something as recruiting, you're going to use it. I think us being former athletes here a month out of playing our last college game, less than a month actually, working in the Super Bowl, you'll definitely be able to use that as a recruiting tool for some guys. It may not be like the facilities or some of the other big recruiting tools, but for some guys that may make it happen."