Following the shocking 36-7 loss to Missouri, Center Cooper Mays isn’t making excuses for how poorly Tennessee played on Saturday. On this week’s Vol Report, Mays discussed taking ownership of the mistakes his team made and shared how his maturation has helped to overcome life’s disappointments.
While it might be easy to point the finger at bad officiating or the challenge of playing on the road regarding this loss, Mays doesn’t agree. “I think the only way you can get better at anything in life is if you’re able to take accountability and put the blame on your own shoulders and figure out ways to fix it,” said Mays.
It’s going to take a little bit for the sting of this loss to go away. However, the Vols do not have the luxury of time to dwell on the defeat. They have the Georgia Bulldogs rolling into Knoxville next weekend. What kind of game does Mays expect it to be? “Super physical tough game. probably the toughest one you’ll get all year,” said Mays. “You know, we just got to come right and come prepared. We’ve got to have a great week of practice. And then we got to come with the right mentality and be physical.
A bonafide leader of the Tennessee offense, Mays is that person the younger players look to in times of adversity. Those leadership qualities didn’t develop overnight. He recalled that it wasn’t until the end of his sophomore year that he made the biggest “jump” in his football and personal life. Prior to then, Mays admitted there was a lot he did not know. “There’s just so much stuff that you are naive to, and you learn throughout (there are) different ways to do stuff,” Mays remembered. “I know I wasn’t attacking life the same way I am now when I was 18-year-old.”
At some point between his second and third year at Tennessee, Mays realized that he needed to take more control of his life. “My first two years at Tennessee, I played a lot of football and started a lot of games, but I wasn’t living the right way,” recalled Mays. “I wasn’t sleeping right. I wasn’t eating right. I wasn’t drinking enough water. Growing up and being a grown man is realizing you got to live a certain way if you want to achieve the results you want.”
“I realized what I wanted was way more important than what I was doing,” continued Mays. I know that there were a lot of sacrifices to be made. And there’s a point in everybody’s football career when it clicks for you, where you grow up and (think) I got to take this way more seriously.”
One of the biggest changes Mays made during that time was to ditch the roommates and live alone. “When I live alone, I can truly take control of my life a little bit,” said Mays. “It’s like everything’s on your shoulders, which for a lot of people brings stress to them. But for me, I love (it). Everything is in your control… and there’s something really liberating about that.”
“There’s just so much stuff that you can do to give yourself an advantage,” noted Mays. The best way to get over a disappointing loss is with a win over a dominant team like Georgia. Hopefully Mays and the Vols can take control of the Bulldogs next Saturday at Neyland Stadium.