As Chase McGrath’s kick split the uprights on Saturday night, Tennessee fans across the world celebrated.
For offensive lineman Cooper Mays, he was uncertain if the kick would go in at first.
“I was sitting there or standing there on the sideline and I was basically shoulder to shoulder with my O-line coach, Coach (Glen) Elarbee,” Mays told Off The Hook on Sunday. “Basically, we saw the kick go and I don’t know if it was tipped or something, but it looked like it was tipped. I was scared that it wasn’t going to go in”
Once the kick went in, and Tennessee beat Alabama for the first time in 15 years, Mays shared a special moment with his offensive line coach.
“Just Elarbee hugged my neck,” Mays said. “And I was basically picking him up and I think he was crying a little bit. It was a crazy experience.”
As “Dixieland Delight” blared on the speakers in Neyland Stadium following the big win, fans stormed the field and took down the goalposts.
Mays was forced to find a different path to the locker room to avoid the pandemonium that was taking place on Shields-Watkins field.
“I honestly saw I had to get up in the stands to walk back around because I couldn’t get through all the people,” Mays said. “I actually saw my high school O-line coach, Justin Anderson. He was in the stands and he was running after me. You know, he got me turned around and I was able to connect with him.”
For Mays, the opportunity to connect with his old coach following the massive win was emotional.
“I haven’t seen him in a while, so it was weird,” Mays said. “He hugged me and I got all flustered and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness’. Yeah, pretty cool experience.”
Dave Hooker talks to Tennessee C Cooper Mays on The Vol Report
Coming into Saturday, Tennessee was an underdog at home against the Crimson Tide. The Volunteers jumped out in front of Alabama early, but a late drive gave Alabama’s Will Reichard a chance to go up by three.
The kick sailed right, and Tennessee had a new life. For Mays and the rest of the team, there was no doubt they would upset the Crimson Tide.
“Yeah, I think we’re all very confident,” Mays said. “I mean, I think we’ve talked about this before, the expecting to win thing. And I think we’ve gotten to a point where, as a program, we expect to win every single game that we’re in, no matter who the opponent is.”
Following the Volunteers’ win, a video went viral of offensive lineman Jeremiah “J.J.” Crawford puking, and proceeding to nod at Alabama’s defense.
For Mays, he believes this sums up the offensive line’s mentality.
“I mean, we just have a really hard-nosed mentality,” Mays said. “You know, there’s a clip of J. J. Crawford out there and he was throwing up and then nodding at the D-lineman and he was smiling at him while he was doing it. It was just like, the epitome of what an offensive line is about. And, you know, I love going to war with those guys. It’s like the highlight of my life damn near.”
Anyone in Neyland on Saturday likely won’t forget that night for a while, and Mays is no different.
“Definitely a memory of a lifetime,” Mays said. “I don’t know. Just the whole experience is a lot to take in. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s like it hasn’t really fully hit me yet, but definitely a top experience in my life.