Vol fan hasn't missed a home game since 1961

Vol fan hasn't missed a home game since 1961

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Tommy Lillard, 70, hasn't missed a home game in 52 years. He is a die-hard Vols fan, and win or lose, will always be a Tennessee Vol. Tommy Lillard, 70, hasn't missed a home game in 52 years. He is a die-hard Vols fan, and win or lose, will always be a Tennessee Vol.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

NEWPORT (WATE) - It's a big game for the Vols Saturday as the team is gearing up to host Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium.  

Many Big Orange faithful will be in the stands at Neyland, but there's one fan in particular that will be there no matter what.  

Tommy Lillard, 70, hasn't missed a home game in 52 years. He is a die-hard Vols fan, and win or lose, will always be a Tennessee Vol.  

Lillard has attended 344 consecutive home games at Neyland.  He hasn't missed a single game since he was a freshman at UT in 1961. 

"I've seen a lot of ups and downs over the years. It's been exciting," said Lillard.  

Lillard, who lives in Newport, has also taken his 34-year-old son with him to each game since he was a little boy.

Lillard arrives at every game when the gates open and he doesn't leave until the game is over.

Not much will prevent him from going, even a car accident on the way to the game. Lillard recalls one time during the 1970s when he was involved in a car accident while driving to a game with his friend.  

"Of course we didn't sell the tickets or anything. We went on to the game, we made a short stop to the emergency room, but went onto the game," said Lillard.  

Lillard attended his first game in 1957, and says the best game he ever saw was the infamous 1959 Tennessee-LSU game.  

He also remembers the 1998 game against Florida, when the Vols beat the Gators on a last second field goal in overtime. The fans rushed the field, and so did Lillard.  

"That was the only time I ever ran on the field. I jumped over the wall in the south end zone before I realized I was out and running all over the field," said Lillard.  

The opposing coach during the game was former Florida and current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.  

Lillard and Spurrier both attended Newport Grammar School. When Lillard was a third grader at the school in 1954, he says he saw Spurrier, then a fifth grader picking on a boy on the playground.  

"I told him he shouldn't be doing that, but he didn't want to listen to me, so we tangled. I said I must have whipped him a little bit, because 12 years later he won the Heisman Trophy," said Lillard. 

Lillard wrote a letter to former Coach Fulmer telling him he was 1-0 and against Spurrier, and even offered his protection against Coach Spurrier.  

Fulmer wrote back saying he hoped to improve his record against Spurrier and hoped it would be as good as Lillard's.  

Lillard has seen nine different head coaches during his attendance streak, and the current, Butch Jones, is among his favorites.

"I think we got the right coach. I thought a lot of Fulmer, but I think Butch is going to be a good one, too," said Lillard.

Saturday's Vanderbilt-Tennessee game will be the 345th consecutive game he will attend.

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