A Word of Thanks

Our family moved back to Knoxville a year ago now. I often joke that I need a side gig with the chamber of commerce, because I’m not sure anyone is happier to be here.

In that time, it’s been a delight to watch our church and our children grow. My son is getting ready to go to kindergarten; his sister just turned three. We took him to his first game at Neyland last fall, where Tennessee set the school record for total yardage. It won’t always be like this.

And in that same year, as you know and love, Tennessee returned to the national conversation in football, then finished off maybe their single greatest academic year in all sports. Everything is everything.

If you’ve followed along here or at Rocky Top Talk through the years, you’ve probably heard me talk about becoming a blogger around ten days after I became a pastor. It wasn’t anything I planned, I just moved away from Knoxville for the first time in my life, and more than anything, I missed talking about the Vols with my friends.

That was 17 years ago this month. And maybe it’s appropriate: that initial version of it, just me writing when there was time and interest with a small community of dedicated readers…that’s not too dissimilar from what this site is today.

So first, a word of thanks for all of those who’ve read the site(s) for any or all of these years.

And also a word to say: things are slowing down around here.

You probably knew that to some degree already; Joel and I have often said that “write what you want when you want” is what kept these blogs and their authors healthy all these years. I’ve been so grateful for the community at Gameday on Rocky Top these past six years after initially slowing down in leaving Rocky Top Talk.

And one of my favorite parts about the last year of success has been sharing some of those conversations – a few on this site, many more behind the scenes – with some of our old writing staff. We wrote at RTT for eight football seasons, nine in basketball. During those years, the football team won 52% of its games, the basketball team 58%.

And it was fun. I’m so grateful that it’s always been fun. 

It still is, of course. In some ways more than ever; winning, it turns out, is great!

Living in Knoxville, I’m just also finding a version of the very thing I missed that sent me to the keyboard all these years ago. It’s such a gift to even begin to find it with my kids.

And maybe most of all, we are deeply enjoying and deeply grateful for the life and community we find through our church (if you’re on the north side of town, come say hey sometime!).

I don’t think this is the last thing that will ever be written on this site or anything like that, though this is probably the first time I’ve felt like that was a possibility. I still have no idea how to be a pastor and not do this.

But as I’m aware of the changing rhythms in our lives, I wanted to let you know, and make sure to take the opportunity to say thank you, so very much, for being here. Those who’ve read the site over all these years helped create a very real sense of community for us, and I hope for you. I cannot tell you how meaningful it’s been for me, and how important it was early on when I was far from home and the people I loved. You’ve helped me grow up as a person and a pastor. And I still get such a kick out of sharing this together.

I remain just a kid who grew up in Knoxville who loves the Vols. Thanks for the privilege of doing that together, through all the wins and losses.

Grace and Peace and Go Vols,

Will

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HT
HT
10 months ago

The gratitude should be flowing from US to YOU, Will. Thank you for all your work over the years. I know it is a labor of love, but it is labor nonetheless. I shall continue to look forward to reading you again whenever and wherever.

Sam Hensley
Sam Hensley
10 months ago

I have truly loved this site, and the one before it. Will, you and Joel have not only given me a place to keep up with news on my favorite teams, but have influenced and changed what it means for me to be a fan. You have helped foster hope, joy with winning, peace and positivity with losing, and mindfulness with reminders to enjoy each game as it comes. I don’t comment on many articles, but I read every single one. I check the site almost daily to see if there is anything new. I’ll continue to do so, and,… Read more »

Joel Hollingsworth
Admin
Joel Hollingsworth
10 months ago
Reply to  Sam Hensley

Hey, Sam! Yes, I’m doing well. I am fortunate that the mental health issues I suffered back in 2021 were a direct result of a temporary traumatic brain injury and have almost completely resolved along with the injury. I hated the experience, but in many ways, I am also now grateful for it. It literally hit me over the head with the realization that anxiety, depression, etc. is not a weakness (which I am ashamed to say I ignorantly believed for much too long) but a condition that is primarily, if not purely, physiological. It has also granted me much… Read more »

Tom Turley
Tom Turley
10 months ago

Although I’ve seldom commented, Will, I’ve always enjoyed your columns both here and on Rocky Top Talk. You were a voice of hope during the “lean years,” and I admired your positivity even when I couldn’t manage it myself. Thanks for all you’ve done for UT sports fans. I’m glad to know this won’t be your last column. Football season wouldn’t be the same without you!

Isaac Bishop
Isaac Bishop
10 months ago

Thanks for everything Will! I’ve followed you and Joel for several years now since the RTT days. I have fond memories of interacting with y’all in the comments, listening to weekly podcasts, participating in T-shirt design contests and pick ’em games, searching the racks for the upcoming season’s edition of the GoRT magazine, and many others. I have been guilty of contributing to the off season drought, but I’m glad that I came back in time to give my heartfelt thanks and wish y’all well on your endeavors. The last decade has not been kind to Vols fans. Even at… Read more »

Mr B
Mr B
10 months ago

Thanks Will. Incredible content always. Enjoy your time and your family.

Benjamin Smith
Benjamin Smith
10 months ago

Will, We don’t really know each other (we had a mutual childhood friend growing up), but I’ve loved reading your posts on RTT and Gameday. I too moved away from Knoxville, and reading your posts – and even the comments – has provided me with a similar feeling of staying connected to the team and community I love. So I just want to say “thank you.” You’re a great writer (seriously you should apply for Tom Mattingly’s job as Vol Historian when he retires). Also, reading your writing is like listening to an old friend who reminded me to cherish… Read more »

memphispete
memphispete
10 months ago

Let’s hope this isn’t the last time you post. Great years of enjoyment from reading about our Vols. Pastor dudes like learning from other pastor dudes, so you may want to check out Mission Church Memphis on spotify. Wil Franco is amazing.