Converting more and more fans; Tennessee athletes find success at UK

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ALCOA, Ky. (WVLT) - It's no secret UK Head Football Coach Mark Stoops and his staff have transformed the culture at UK but even before then, recruiting picked up right in the middle of Vol country.

Coach Leslie Stevenson leads the Alcoa High School cheerleaders. She grew up a University of Tennessee fan and graduated from UT, but she's been known to cheer on the Cats.

"Where our students are, I'll root for their college as well,' said Stevenson.

These days, there are not many Volunteers to cheer for.

"The football coaches could tell you a little more about that, but they're missing out!" Stevenson said.

"You can look at our Mr. Football board and look at those guys that cared more about the team than they did themselves, so I think sometimes you have to look - this guy's a five-star recruit, but is he coming from the UK or UT or himself?" said Brian Nix, Alcoa High School Strength and Conditioning, Defensive Coordinator.

Big Blue fever caught on about 10 years ago, starting with Alcoa High School alum Kyrus Lanxter. Soon to follow was Randall Cobb.

"You see it here even with Green Bay because of Randall, he's done so well there," said Nix. "I think kids coming from an area and going to a school creates some allegiance there."

As more state championships followed behind these great recruits, Alcoa became a UK hub. Tyler Robinson, Darrell Warren, Cody Lewis and even Maddie Sharp all converted more and more fans inside Tennessee's borders.

"As you get the hometown kids going a school, you start getting that loyalty in a dominate UT area but you see a lot of people around here do cheer for UK because of the success those kids had," said Nix.

Only a few Alcoa players have gone on to play for UT - Jaron Toney and Derrick Brodus are the most recent. So the big question is, will UT start looking in its backyard for these great players?

"Jeremy knows what he's doing. He cares about kids and they way he runs things, and I'm sure he's going to do what's best for the University of Tennessee," Nix assured.

UK will travel to Tennessee for their final SEC game. It kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Cats haven't won in Neyland Stadium since 1984.

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