Tennessee will likely lose a rival when the SEC shuffles its schedule in 2024. Nothing will be sacred once Oklahoma and Texas enter the conference. However, there is one rivalry that a certain Vol thinks stands out above the rest.
“I probably have to say Florida,” Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren said on The Vol Report when asked who is UT’s biggest rival. “I think Florida as of right now is the biggest, like, we-don’t-like-those-guys rival. Obviously, we got to win last year, but Florida is the game that we go in, like, these dudes aren’t good…like we’ve got to go beat them. And it just means so much to win that game.”
Florida has always been a fierce rivalry since the early 1990’s when the SEC split into divisions and former Gator coach Steve Spurrier had a penchant for riling up UT fans with his winning streak over the Vols and classic one-liners that poked fun at Tennessee.
“Obviously you got all types,” Warren said of rivalries. “South Carolina is a rivalry now like Kentucky’s a rivalry. Alabama is a rivalry. Vanderbilt’s a rivalry. Like all these, it seems like every single game we play is a rivalry game…It builds up some juice about the game and kind of puts a little bit more pressure on it.”
Tennessee has always had more rivalries than an average school. Still, for Warren, Florida stands out because of his upbringing in Knoxville and his ties to the Vols. His father and uncle both played for UT. Yet, there was another reason within his family to dislike the Gators.
“I remember my oldest brother always used to wear like Florida gear to school just because he wanted to start stuff,” Warren said. “He just wanted to be that kid that was different.”
Eventually, Warren followed the fashion trend.
“So naturally I was like, Oh, I kind of want to be a Florida fan, like my brothers before,” he said. “I just did everything he wanted to do. So, we grew up and we’re trying to just be little bad kids. And so, we’d wear Florida jerseys to school and stuff like that. And so, I guess that might may have stemmed from that. But yeah, just even from me being here and…I’m not saying that they’re all bad people on their team because they’re not. I’m sure they’re all just like us. And they got a good group of guys, but it just seems like every time we play them, man, it’s just there always is just something that really gets under my skin.”
Warren said he sees opposing players as equals. Both are doing the same thing, just for different schools. However, Florida players seem to come across a bit differently. The Gators certainly had something to talk about before the Vols beat them last year. Florida had previously won five consecutive games and let Tennessee’s players know about it. Warren isn’t a big fan of trash-talking from other players.
“And a lot of them are generally from Florida,” Warren said. “And I’d hate hearing it because it’s just so annoying because finally, we beat them. And I know I’m getting on a tangent, but finally, we beat them and then it’s like, ‘Okay, finally. Now I can actually feel like I can talk back to them. You just run into a lot of just trash-talkers. And I’m not a fan. I can get right back, but man, just play the game, dude. That’s what we’re here to do is play the game.”