Soon after being named coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, Derek Dooley created the multi-faceted “Vol for Life” program, led by former UT defensive back Andre Lott, that focuses on four areas of personal growth for players: character education, life skills, career development and spiritual growth.
    
“When we put in that tag-phrase ‘Vol for Life,’ it’s something that’s not a creation, it’s real,” Dooley told The Daily Beacon. “These guys, when they leave here, they consider themselves Vols. It’s the whole ‘Once a Vol, always a Vol.’”
    
So what does the term “Vol for Life” truly mean?
    
“I think it’s one: recognizing and appreciating the three-to-four year experience (players) had at Tennessee, and all that Tennessee gave to them,” Dooley said. “Then, when they leave, there’s a continual bond that the player has with the program and that the program has with the player. It’s so important not to ever feel a disconnect between program and former players because they are the ones that made this program the special program that it is and I’ll always remember that.”

    
Down 21-0 at halftime, Tennessee turned to Rick Clausen on the road at LSU in 2005.
    
But Clausen was more than just the Volunteers’ backup quarterback, and that game was much more than just a college football game, even for SEC standards.
    
Hurricane Katrina forced the game to be postponed from its original date on Saturday, Sept. 23, until the following Monday, Sept. 26, and Clausen was a former Tiger, having spent two seasons in Baton Rouge, La., before transferring to Tennessee in 2003.
    
Clausen rotated with sophomore Erik Ainge at quarterback for the first two games of UT’s season, but Ainge was named the starter heading into the Monday-night showdown in an electric Tiger Stadium.
    
“Obviously, I wasn’t too excited with that decision that he made, but I understood it,” Clausen said. “I was going in thinking I wasn’t going to play, just trying to take in the excitement and the atmosphere that was going on in Tiger Stadium that night. It was the first game after Hurricane Katrina and there was a lot of emotion in the stands.”
    
The Tigers rode that emotion from the opening kickoff, dominating the first half to take a three-score lead into the locker room.
    
To start the second half, then-UT coach Phillip Fulmer made the decision to go with Clausen under center. The move paid off and Clausen led the Vols on an improbable comeback to win 30-27 in overtime.
    
While UT fans mostly remember Clausen for that night in the Bayou or for being the younger brother of Casey Clausen, for UT’s quarterback from 2000-’03, who’s only behind Peyton Manning for nearly every passing record in school history, Rick’s time in the orange and white was as much about the off-the-field experience as it was about the times in Neyland Stadium.
    
“Tennessee, it’s a family and it’s a close-knit group of guys,” he said. “If you’re part of the Tennessee football teams, you basically become part of the family. Whether you live on one side of the country or not, you still have that bond with those guys. It’s a great experience to venture out of your comfort zone and go to school some place a little bit different, experience some things you probably wouldn’t normally experience.”
    
Though he didn’t initally come to Knoxville out of high school, the decision to leave California and venture to the SEC was an easy one.
    
“We always, as a family, would sit around and watch SEC football,” he said. “Just the pageantry and the excitement that went along with football in the South was something that kind of drew myself and Casey to the South.”
    
After two years at LSU, Rick decided to follow in his brother’s footsteps and did a rarity: transfer from one SEC school to another.
    
“Casey had quite a bit of success at Tennessee. I had been up there quite a few times visiting Casey while I was at LSU so I was pretty familiar with the town and pretty familiar with the players and coaches,” Rick said. “It was just a good fit to go to college with Casey for a year and then I had my sister coming as well. She was a freshman when I was a junior or senior. It just was a good fit, not only for myself, but for the rest of my family, not only from a football standpoint, but also socially.”
    
Rick spent the 2006 season as a graduate assistant coach at UT.
    
Now, he works in his family’s insurance business, but he is still coaching, serving as the quarterbacks coach at his high school, Oaks Christian in California. Casey is the team’s offensive coordinator.
    
“I’m still enjoying football and that aspect of my life and trying to help kids as much as possible,” he said.