You undoubtedly saw the GIF/video of the Iowa State student (see it below) throwing on a Tennessee basketball jersey over an Iowa State one at halftime of Saturday’s game.
He was a Twitter celebrity while the Vols throttled the Cyclones in the second half. While he might be now infamous in Ames, Vol fans, players and more are supporters.
Big Time Vol Fan 🤷🏾♂️ https://t.co/ACXDPNMgVj
— Admiral Schofield 🐺 (@admiralelite15) January 27, 2018
It be ya own bros 😂 https://t.co/5xptCnnnA5
— Kyle Alexander (@KyleJamal4) January 27, 2018
We caught up with the student, named Kyle, over the weekend. The Cyclones’ Benedict Arnold grew up in Arlington Heights, a northwest suburb in Chicago.
Kyle doesn’t have much of a tie to the Vols. Instead, his Tennessee fandom started as he watched ESPN growing up. One player in particular keyed his interest: Skylar McBee.
“Ever since then, just loved ‘em,” Kyle said of the Vols. “(McBee) and Wayne Chism — all the headbands they used back in the day.”
He applied to a host of colleges, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville included, but decided on Iowa State because the college was the best financial fit and offered him the best opportunities.
Since then, Kyle tried to adjust to Ames and become an Iowa State fan, but never could shake the Vols. Tennessee’s trip to Iowa State on Saturday inspired a simple idea: why not throw a Vols’ jersey on during the game if Tennessee gets up big?
“I called my friends, they thought it was pretty funny,” Kyle said. “I was pretty nervous.”
After Tennessee went into the locker room with an emphatic 31-19 halftime lead his “true colors” came out. Before the moment now famous to Knoxville and Ames’ Twitter worlds, Kyle wanted anything but Internet notoriety.
“I did not want to be caught on camera. I knew everyone else saw me, so I was fine,” he said. “I ref Ames Men’s League basketball and they gave me a bunch of crap there for bad calls, so I knew I was ready for the moment and getting ripped on.”
The immediate reactions were about how you’d expect: while his friends laughed, Iowa State students behind him jeered, some even waving as if to invite Kyle to a fight. Only four people knew the stunt was happening, but they were all in support around him for the big moment.
Unbeknownst to Kyle, so were plenty of Vols fans. He had more than four supporters after video of the shirt change went viral, and certainly more than his fair share of unhappy campers. NSFW language below.
The look from one student behind him says it all: his face shows a mix of discontent, frustration and helplessness. After building on a big halftime margin, the Vols’ lead never shrunk smaller than 16. In the meantime, Kyle’s phone was blowing up. His television appearance sparked texts, Snapchats and more from friends and family. Most were complimentary.
His mom, though?
“She was a little disappointed in me,” Kyle said with a laugh. “She thought it was hysterical that there were videos of me . . . It was her highlight of the game because Iowa State played so badly. She thought it was cool.”
After the jersey swap, he said the vibe from the Cyclone students was “hostile,” but that most were just sad about the game outcome. Some fans threw cups at him during a second-half bathroom trip.
In the waning minutes of the Vols’ win, Kyle rallied Iowa State students around him for one mission: Get Brad Woodson into the game.
“By the end of the game, we started a ‘We Want Brad!’ chant and everyone around me was doing that chant or ‘Let Brad Loose,'” Kyle said.
To his disappointment, Woodson never got any playing time. Kyle said the Tennessee bench kept his spirits up — when the Vols scored, players like Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams were pointing at him in appreciation and celebration. They even clapped along to the “We Want Brad” chants, he added.
After the game, Kyle waited a while leave Hilton Coliseum in order to avoid wading through a crowded, hostile crowd. Since Saturday, he’s spent plenty of time under a hood and behind sunglasses. However, the social media reaction from Tennessee fans and overall support has potentially inspired a follow-up performance.
“I’ve got a Tennessee football jersey too, so I might just become ‘Tennessee Guy’ and wear a Tennessee jersey to every single Cyclones game I go to from now on,” Kyle said.
He’s never attended a Tennessee football or basketball game in Knoxville, but he’s hoping too. He was in attendance for former Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs’ first and last starts — a 31-3 loss at Missouri in 2013 and a 38-24 win over Nebraska in the 2016 Music City Bowl.
As for basketball, he likes that Tennessee players under Rick Barnes hold themselves accountable for bad play or mistakes, even in a win. Does Barnes have his approval as the Vols’ head coach?
“He did until we started chanting at him and he didn’t put Brad Woodson in. Besides that, I think he’s an awesome coach.”