On the wall of Reynolds' room is a large jeep poster. Piled neatly on the floor under the poster are stacks of soap. After last season's Vanderbilt game Reynolds and Denbo removed a box of Dial soap from the locker room and carried it home to Knoxville. Soap collecting has now become a ritual to Reynolds. After every practice he collects up to 40 bars of Safeguard and, using tape, puts them in a neat bundle and deposits it in his room. "I'm saving them for the winter," Reynolds explains.
Reynolds is ribbed constantly about the soap and the jeep, Denbo about his intellect, Kiner his predictions, Kell his passion for weights and Tight End Ken DeLong his dislike for practice. DeLong appears in the trainer's room on Sundays with untraceable ailments that, more times than not, keep him from heavy practice. "I'll be working in pads hitting people," says Kiner. "I'll look over and see him standing there on the sideline smiling at me. But no one minds because he plays so well on Saturdays."
In this age of frequent disharmony between players and coach Tennessee is a definite exception. Doug Dickey is a popular man with his players. " Coach Dickey is an aware person," Kiner explains. "He can communicate. He allowed us to have sideburns this year, for example. He and his assistants trust us. We know when our hair is too long, and when it is we cut it. We are treated like adults."
"We work hard, but not unusually hard," Dickey says. "There is a certain amount of drudgery in football because of its repetition and conditioning. We try to make the game fun to play. We all seem to enjoy each other."
"I'm having more fun playing this year," Kiner attests, "and it's not just because we're winning. We were winners last year, too. But now I know there are 10 other guys on our defense who are busting their tails as hard as I am. Last year I couldn't say that, and sometimes I got depressed."
Tennessee had no cause for depression in the locker room. Word arrived that the SEC's two other undefeated teams, Florida and LSU, had been beaten, putting Tennessee alone at the top of the conference standings. In the eyes of Vol rooters it had been No. 1 all along—not just in the SEC but in the nation. Happiest, perhaps, was Reynolds. Lon Herzbrun, the linebacker coach, had offered to help him find a jeep of his own. Even PR man Haywood Harris was smiling. The scene had been friendly, despite omens to the contrary, and he expected the skies to clear so the Martin 404 could whisk the team safely home to Knoxville.