‘Peyton Manning retweeted me’: Vols super fan in viral photo not phased by pandemic changes

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – On any Friday before a home game on Rocky Top, hours before the Vols take the field, there’s a group of fans set up in Calhoun’s parking lot ready to go.

They are “Tristar Tailgating” and they’ve been in, or near, the same spot for 20 years. For the “boss”, CJ Jackson, two decades of tailgating and a lifetime of celebrating the Vols is in his DNA.

“I’ve been doing this since the year 2000, it’s something we love to do and can’t stop,” said Jackson.

Jackson lived all over the U.S. when he was a child, but shared a love of the Vols with his Dad. A photo of the two of them hangs in the tailgating trailer that he opens at every home game.

Inside, a treasure trove of collectibles. They all have a purpose and a story.

“The only thing that’s different is the amount of people that are here, because no one’s really going to the game and the traffic in the parking lot, the visiting fans passing by they’re not here,” said Jackson.

A shirt signed by Phillip Fulmer, an autographed photo of Rick Flair, Jackson’s family Sports Illustrated covers with the Vols, a jar of grass from a memorable Vols win against Florida, and then some.

Jackson can tell you where each piece came from and why it matters to him.

Perhaps the most noticeable piece of Vols history: the photo of Jackson emblazoned on the door of the trailer. It was taken at the Taxslayer Bowl in 2015 and has since gone viral.

“Peyton Manning retweeted it… during that game, it was trending. It was just on the SEC message board last week,” said Jackson.

He’s proud of the Vols, proud to be a Vols fan.

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