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On Rocky Top: A Front-Row Seat to the End of an Era Hardcover – August 18, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Clay Travis’s On Rocky Top is the best book on college football I’ve read in a generation. A truly masterful look at the passion, intensity and--quite often--insanity of America’s unofficial national pastime. If you love college football, you’ll love this book.” (Jeff Pearlman, New York Times bestselling author of Boys Will Be Boys and The Bad Guys Won!)

“On Rocky Top combines the fan’s passion of Fever Pitch with the inside access of A Season on the Brink. The result is a compelling portrait of one of the SEC’s premier football programs—and one of college football’s most beloved coaches. A must-read for every sports fan.” (Warren St. John, nationally bestselling author of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer and Refugees United)

From the Back Cover

There is no college football team more zealous and competitive than the University of Tennessee Volunteers

When Clay Travis, acclaimed author of Dixieland Delight, decided to spend the 2008 season up close and personal with UT football, he—and every other college football aficionado—thought he was in for a rollicking ride with one of the leading contenders for the national title. After all, when the Vols kicked off the season on September 1, the defending SEC East champions were ranked 18th in the country. As head coach Phillip Fulmer prepared for the game, he reflected upon a coaching career that included an astounding 147 victories, two SEC championships, and a national title. With 34 years at UT under his belt as both a player and coach, the Tennessee native had just signed a contract extension that projected to keep him at the university long enough to become the winningest coach in program history.

But when the Volunteers lost their season opener and the losses continued to mount, it became clear that 2008 was going to be a season on the brink for UT football. By December, the team had suffered its second-worst season ever, and Fulmer, the most beloved and recognized man in Tennessee, had been fired.

Based on exclusive interviews with Fulmer, UT athletic director Mike Hamilton, university boosters, team personnel, players and their families, and fans, On Rocky Top recounts in vivid detail how a season of promise tragically ended an era of college football. Enlivening the narrative is a diverse cast of supporting characters, including 65-year-old "Good Time" Charlie Harris, who has driven the UT big rig for almost 10 years; star running back Arian Foster, a fifth-year senior striving to become the all-time leading rusher in Volunteer history; and multimillionaire booster John "Thunder" Thornton, who defended Fulmer till the end.

A lifelong Volunteer fan whose grandfather played for the team during the 1930s, Travis reports from the locker room to the sideline, and has created a fascinating and loving chronicle of an impassioned state, a celebrated football culture, a beloved coach, and the sensational collapse of a once-mighty juggernaut.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; First Edition edition (August 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061719269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061719264
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Hickerson VINE VOICE on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The 2008 football campaign is one that most University of Tennessee fans are eager to put behind them and forget about. It started off with great promise, only to see it all coming crashing down in a manner of weeks, leading to a free fall that saw the Vols drop from defending SEC East champs to the termination of long-time coach Phillip Fulmer.

When writer Clay Thomas agreed to write a book chronicling the season of the 2008 UT Volunteers football season, he had visions of a trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game and possibly the chance to celebrate the 10th anniversay for the 1998 national title by competiting for another one. Instead, what he got was the story of a season in turmoil and a program at a crossroads. And all of that is chronicled in his new book, "On Rocky Top: A Front-Row Seat to the End of an Era."

Thomas' chronicle of the 2008 season from a fan turned journalist perspective is a fascinating one. It may be hard for a lot of UT fans (myself included) to relive the horror that was last year. Thomas has some fascinating insights in the book, including one that stated he felt more comfortable in the stands, pulling for the team than he did on the sidelines watching as things unfolded. He also examines some of the aspects of the passionate fans--both himself and others--wondering if they know how the players view the games they play each Saturday and the impact what they say and how they act have on the players. Thomas talks to Arian Foster and his family at several points in the unfolding narrative, looking at how Foster entered the season with the chance to become the leading rusher in UT history and ended the season as a goat of sorts and possibly having his chances for an NFL career go up in flames.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderful insight into one of the most painful decisions in Tennessee Volunteers history. It is amazing that the project was intended to be one thing, but as the year progressed, so did this project. Seven years removed from the decision to fire Philip Fulmer, this book can become even more painful to read knowing that the grass was not greener, and the turmoil that has plagued the Volunteers ever since. Georgia and LSU fans can use this as a perfect example of how your current coach might not be that bad, and the impact a change can have on the players, coaches, families, and fans.
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I really enjoyed this book--read it in record time. It's an excellent read, even essential--if you're a fan of University of Tennessee Football. If you follow Southeastern Conference football, or college football in general, you'll find it interesting. If you don't care much at all for college football, you'll probably want to give it a miss.

For the record, I'm a Vol football fan. Always have been. Always will be. I graduated from UT in 1979 at the start of the Johnny Majors era. In my four years there, I went to most of the Vols' home games--it was sort of a requirement for those of use who lived on campus, where Neyland Stadium constantly dominates the landscape. My years as a student with easy access to live home football games were not exactly the high point of Tennessee football successes. I saw a lot of great wins and a lot of bad losses. But it was always Tennessee Football--with a loyalty that passes a lot of understanding. That is the particular part that I thought made the University of Tennessee different; what I thought made UT a family. We learned to support our school and our teams, not to slink off after a loss like we were looking for the nearest pity party after a lecture on Kafka.

As Travis very successfully, and very clearly, points out from a variety of angles--the coaches', the players', the trainers', the managers', and even the equipment big-rig driver's--that is the part that has changed. Like it or not, Vol Fans (and I'm one of those who absolutely detests the development), college football has become a business, a BIG business. At major universities in the United States, it has become the business that supports academics, research, project development, and almost every other aspect of the university program.
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If you are a huge Tennessee Vols fan like myself, this is a great way to relive the season that Phillip Fulmer was fired from. And to top it off, it was written by an ordinary Joe who wrote the school asking to follow the school around and they granted it!

You really get emotionally tied to the team and the players and feel the emotions they go through, throughout the season. It was a great read, and I would definitely recommend to any Tennessee fan, and maybe even a few of my Bama buddies as stocking stuffer. Haha!
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The book is suppose to be about Phillip Fullmer's last season as coach at Tennessee, but it is designed to look back at the author's recollections of his love affair with the school. He does not go into the problems of what the program went through..
I have read books in the same style of what Travis wrote, but this is an OK book at best
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I was a freshman at the University of Tennessee during the 2008 season and a steady stream of cheap beer blocked out most of these memories. Reading this with 6 years of perspective...it reads like a Greek tragedy knowing how everything with the football program would go between then and now. This book was excellent, however. Travis gave a thoughtful and honest look at the most difficult year the Vols have experienced in recent times. Required reading for an Vol fan.
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