The theme for the past year at the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce was to be Proud, Positive, Persevering and Passionate. Coach Philip Fulmer also taught those same P’s to his teams at the University of Tennessee.
The National Championship winner and College Hall of Famer was the featured speaker during the Chamber’s 103rdAnnual Meeting and Banquet on Friday.
Fulmer shared stories and lessons learned on the field while updating an all-Vol crowd inside the Walters State Community College gymnasium on what he’s been up to lately.
He said when thinking about those P’s, there’s a phrase he would use with his teams that he shared with the chamber audience, “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”
After hearing the multiple accomplishments of the past year by outgoing Chamber Chair Randy DeBord, including the acknowledgement of more than a million dollars in new local economic development investments, Fulmer said it seems the Chamber is well prepared.
Fulmer mentioned another big “P” as part of his coaching era, being Peyton Manning. While Peyton, who will lead the Denver Broncos in the upcoming Super Bowl, wasn’t part of the 1998 National Championship team, he was very much a part of the foundation that was laid out for that season.
Fulmer said when Manning was at UT, he was always the first on the practice field and the last to leave. Manning always challenged and pushed the receivers and those around him for their best effort at all times.
Fulmer challenged the audience to be like Manning and to continue to be the leaders who help and support the community, laying a foundation for success.
Fulmer noted that a lot of special players he had the opportunity to coach came from Morristown including James “Little Man” Stewart. He also acknowledged his longtime assistant coach, Randy Sanders, the only coach to win two BCS National Championships at different schools.
Fulmer said many might think that his favorite team over his 17-year coaching career would obviously be the 1998 Championship team. He admitted that he had at least three teams more talented than the team of that year (1995, 1997 and 2001), but the ball didn’t bounce the way it needed to reach the top those years.
He said his favorite team was the 1994 season. Heath Shuler left early for the NFL giving the quarterback job to Oak Ridge native Jerry Colquitt.
In the seventh play of the first game of the season against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, Colquitt tore his knee and was replaced by Todd Helton, while the Vols came back they fell short and lost.
In the next game against Georgia, “Little Man” was one of three backs to rush for 100-yards to win the game.
UT loses its next two games and racks up multiple injuries. As a second year head coach, Fulmer’s back was against the wall.
“It was a really tough time. One of those spots where your backs against the wall. We’ve all had those moments where you come to a crossroads and a decision has to be made which way you’re gonna go,” Fulmer said.
To turn things around, he first got his staff together and they evaluated themselves. Then he had a “come to Jesus” with the team.
After that meeting, the team went on to win seven of the next eight games including a bowl. Fulmer said most importantly that team laid the foundation of what was the best era of Tennessee football in modern history.
“You’ve had some success. It seems things are going well in Morristown, but sometimes that seems to be the hardest time to be the very best that you can be. Whatever it is be the best you can be,” Fulmer said.
As far at UT Football, Fulmer said he believes it will get back to where it needs to be under Butch Jones. He said Jones’emphasisis on tradition and recruiting is what will get it there.
After UT, Fulmer has been able to have many enjoyable experiences including being a part of the movie, the Blind Side and working for CBS Sports Television.
He shared about his frequently getting misidentified for his good friend, former senator and actor Fred Thompson.
Fulmer said he’s been blessed to spend more time with his family, which has expanded with five grandchildren. He is also helping to rebuild the East Tennessee State University football program, which he asked for support for the future team.
Sharing a life lesson, Fulmer said it’s very important to know who your friends are and who to trust when times are tough.
“You’ve got something special in this community and I encourage you to continue to support that,” Fulmer said.
Community support was also a topic for DeBord as he individually thanked each chamber staff member and remarked on the accomplishments they helped to bring to the community and its growth.
Each year, the chamber sets out to honor individuals who take time to make the community the best it can be with the Meritorious Award.
Recipient Leah Taylor of Jefferson Federal Bank exemplifies the award as a Morristown native serving the community in many capacities.
Taylor is active with the Morristown AM Rotary Club, is a mentor with tnAchieves and volunteers with Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief.
Through the Chamber, Taylor serves on the membership committee and is the President of the Downtown Crossroads Partnership where she worked to gain a key grant for the Farmer’s Market.
The Chamber’s Ambassador of the Year Award was given to Gregg Harrell of Community National Bank for his tireless work in not only attending but also helping with functions such as ribbon cuttings, ground-breakings, membership breakfasts and orientations.
Aside from Harrell’s service as an ambassador, he is a volunteer for the United Way of Hamblen County, member of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild and an actor with Encore Theatrical Company and the Morristown Theatre Guild.
The R. Jack Fishman Community Service Award is given to individuals with a track record of improving the quality of life for others in Morristown.
This year’s winner, George Haggard has a keen interest in helping make Morristown a better place to live, work and play.
Haggard first moved to Morristown in 1962 to join Gluck Brothers Furniture as its finance officer.
He serves as chair of the Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System Foundation board and of the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation.
He was instrumental in building St. Patrick Catholic Church and is a board member for entities such as First Tennessee Bank and the Helping Hands Ministry. He is also an active supporter of local arts, including Rose Center and Encore Theatrical Company.
- By Chris Phipps, Tribune Staff Writer