Tennessee Has Gone Up In Smoke Vs. Alabama Since 2007 – Is This The Year It Lights Up Again?

Imagine that you love smoking cigars with a passion. And you had to give it up for 15 years.

Now, imagine it is seconds after your beloved Tennessee Volunteers football team just beat Alabama on Saturday, Octber 15, 2022, in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, for their first victory over the Crimson Tide anywhere since 2006.

Here’s a Habano with an orange and white checkerboard label. Enjoy!

These Habano cigars were packaged special by former Tennessee tailback Jabari Davis for Tennessee Volunteer football players to smoke Saturday evening if they beat Alabama at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee
These Habano cigars were packaged special by former Tennessee tailback Jabari Davis for Tennessee Volunteer football players to smoke Saturday evening if they beat Alabama at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee (3:30 p.m., CBS).

Or just savor the aroma of all the Volunteers smoking victory cigars wafting through and above Neyland.

RELATED: THE TENNESSEE-ALABAMA SCENE SETTER

“Oh, man, it’s going to be a big moment,” former Tennessee star tailback Jabari Davis told OutKick Friday afternoon. “It will be a celebration of something that hasn’t happened in 15 years. It will smell sweet.”

No. 3 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) and No. 6 Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC) kick off at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS in sold-out, 102,455-seat Neyland Stadium. The two teams are each undefeated entering this game for the first time since 1989 when No. 10 Alabama beat No. 6 Tennessee, 47-30, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The Crimson Tide are nine-point favorites according to DraftKings.

Davis, who is the president of the Legends of Tennessee non-profit organization and camp that unites former Tennessee greats to help youth, knows the feeling and the smell of his cigar post-Alabama. Playing four games against the Tide during his career as a Vol from 2001-04, he smoked victory cigars three times while gaining 1,228 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns during his playing days.

Tennessee Is Ready To Put Alabama Up In Smoke

Davis has packaged more than 100 special edition Habano cigars with orange and white checkerboard labels and additional labels that say, “Legends of Tennessee” for Tennessee’s football players.

“Any time you pull out a special cigar for a wedding or an anniversary or the birth of a child, it marks the moment,” he said. “You’ll never forget it. And I hope we celebrate all night.”

It would be a long time coming. Tennessee’s last win over Alabama was by 16-13 on Oct. 21, 2006, at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was done after two more seasons, and the Vols are on their fifth coach since in second-year head man Josh Heupel.

Alabama coach Mike Shula was fired after a 6-6 regular season in 2006 season and replaced by Nick Saban, who is 15-0 as the Tide’s coach against Tennessee and 17-1 overall, counting his five seasons at LSU (2000-04).

Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. enjoys a victory cigar after the 52-24 win over Tennessee last season.
Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. enjoys a victory cigar after the 52-24 win over Tennessee last season.

Saban doesn’t smoke cigars, but he has been lighting up Tennessee with gusto lately. The Vols have not been able to see through the smoke of less than a three-touchdown loss since a 19-14 defeat in 2015. Alabama’s average win since 2016 is 48-17, and the Tide has hit half a hundred in two of the last four games – 52-24 last year and 58-21 in 2018.

Alabama tailback Derrick Henry enjoys a victory cigar with coach Nick Saban after win over Tennessee in 2015.
Alabama tailback Derrick Henry enjoys a victory cigar with coach Nick Saban after win over Tennessee in 2015.

But this could be the year for Tennessee. Alabama struggled to beat unranked Texas, 20-19, early this season and just got by unranked Texas A&M, 24-20, last week. Heisman Trophy-winning junior quarterback Bryce Young sprained his right, throwing shoulder at Arkansas two weeks ago and missed the A&M game. There is a chance he starts Saturday, but he is not expected to be at 100 percent. His backup is a redshirt freshman – Jalen Milroe.

Tennessee, meanwhile, has the No. 1 total offense in the nation with 547.8 yards a game, and it is No. 1 in scoring with a 46.8-point average. Senior quarterback Hendon Hooker is No. 1 in the SEC and No. 7 in the nation in passing efficiency at 179.5 with 1,432 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But Alabama has also packed about 200 Casa de las Estrella cigars, courtesy of Reagan Starner, who owns R&R Cigars, aka the Cigar Mansion. near Bryant-Denny on Sixth Street.

Waiting for Alabama’s players are these Casa de las Estrella cigars, which were made by Regan Starner, the owner of R&R Cigars in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. PHOTO courtesy of R&R Cigars in Tuscaloosa.

Starner has been supplying Crimson Tide football players with cigars for the Tennessee game since 2015. In the spring of 2013, he opened his spacious, two-story upscale cigar bar at its current location with several lounges equipped with inviting leather chairs, a spacious wraparound front porch and multiple wide screen televisions.

“When we first opened, the cigar tradition of the Alabama-Tennessee game was not that big of a deal,” Starner said. “A lot of the players and students didn’t really know about it.”

The Fire Of Alabama-Tennessee Cigar Tradition Was Going Out

That changed in 2015 when Starner began making cigars for the team. Former Alabama assistant coach Mike Locksley (2016-18), who is now Maryland’s head coach, also began dropping by along with other Tide coaches.

“Once we started doing cigars for the team in 2015 is when it really took off here,” Starner said.

R&R Cigars owner Reagan Starner (second from left) next to then-Alabama quarterback Jake Coker at his left in cigar lounge in Tuscaloosa in 2015.
R&R Cigars owner Reagan Starner (second from left) next to then-Alabama quarterback Jake Coker at his left in cigar lounge in Tuscaloosa in 2015.

Last Saturday, the place was packed before, during, and after Alabama’s win over Texas A&M. Some of Alabama’s assistant coaches dropped by after the game.

“I feel like we breathed life back into the cigar tradition of Alabama-Tennessee in recent years,” Starner said. “It’s become a thing again, and it’s one of the more adult traditions in college football.”

It doesn’t involve toilet paper (Auburn), burning furniture (West Virginia) or tossing goal posts into the Tennessee River, which happened after the Vols’ beat Florida in 1998.

Saban is always talking about having a class program. He criticized his team on his radio show Thursday night for not showing that.

Could Alabama Or Tennessee Grace Cover of Cigar Aficionado?

“We had a couple of personal fouls,” Saban said of the Texas A&M game. “Guy pushes me, so I feel like hitting him back. You get a 15-yard penalty. We score a touchdown, you’re dogging a guy so we get a 15-yard penalty. All these things are not the kind of things that I think a classy team has.”

What’s classier than a cigar after a game? Who knows? Alabama or Tennessee could be the first college football team to grace the cover of the Cigar Aficionado magazine.

The Alabama-Tennessee cigar tradition is no newbie either like so many ridiculous uniform ensembles being displayed in recent years. It started in 1961 when Alabama and coach Bear Bryant broke an 0-5-1 streak against the Vols. Alabama trainer Jim Goostree, who was from Clarksville, Tennessee, and really wanted to beat Tennessee badly, started the tradition by distributing cigars to all the players after the game.

These were no Casa de las Estrellas, though.

“The way I heard it was he bought a bunch of those Hav-A-Tampas,” said 247 Sports/Bama Online’s Kirk McNair, a Birmingham native who was an Alabama sports information director from 1970-78. “Back then, though, the cigar tradition wasn’t like anything it has grown into in recent years. I didn’t notice it until the 1971 game. I was surprised because I had never heard of it.”

The cigar tradition was lit out of Alabama’s, Goostree’s and Bryant’s burning desire to beat Tennessee, which owned Alabama from 1948-60 with a 9-1-3 mark, including three straight shutout wins from 1955-57 before Bryant’s arrival in 1958.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young celebrates with a cigar after win over Tennessee last season.

“It was really a big game for Jim Goostree,” McNair said. “And Bear wanted to beat Tennessee because it was always a big game for Alabama, but he had also never beat them when he was Kentucky’s coach.”

Early On, Bear Bryant Tried Too Hard To Beat Tennessee

Bryant was 0-6-2 as Kentucky’s coach against Tennessee from 1946-53, then lost two of his first three games with a tie at Alabama from 1958-60.

“I remember him talking about how when he first got to Alabama, he wanted to beat Tennessee so bad that he over-prepared,” McNair said of Bryant. “He said he had his team ready to go on Thursday, but they were too tired on Saturday. So he learned to back off.”

From 1961 until Bryant’s last season at Alabama in 1982, he was 16-5-1 against Tennessee, including 11 straight before a loss in his last one.

“Bear would have recordings of “Rocky Top” playing at practice, and he’d dress the scout team in orange with a ‘T’ on their helmets,” McNair said. “He didn’t do that for the other teams.”

But like Saban, Bryant didn’t smoke the victory cigar. He preferred Chesterfield cigarettes.

“Bear hated the smell of cigars,” McNair said.

Regardless of what happens Saturday, the smell will emanate from the field at Neyland Stadium. The question is just from which team.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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