D190807 Tanner football (copy)

Tanner's iconic green helmets with the white "T" on the side have given way to a new look this season. [DAN BUSEY/DECATUR DAILY]

OK, I admit it. I have a thing for a good-looking football helmet.

Two years ago we did a cover for our football section that had 14 helmets from area high schools. I collected the helmets and kept them in the trunk of my car. Each time I opened the trunk, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. It was an awesome sight. I would catch myself just staring at those shiny pieces of head wear.

My favorite high school helmets are the ones patterned after college teams. Hartselle looks like Alabama. Decatur has the Georgia look. East Limestone is definitely Florida State. R.A. Hubbard also has that Florida State look.

Another favorite was the green Tanner helmet with the big white “T” on each side. It copied the iconic Tennessee helmet with the big orange “T” on each side of the white helmet.

Both helmets are special because of their simple design. They are also special for the success that followed those helmets for many years.

When Tanner and Tennessee were successful, it just seemed like football was a little more fun. Their fans enjoyed the success. The people who didn't enjoy their success, loved to cheer against them.

Even though Tanner plays in one of the smallest classifications, Class 2A, the Rattlers set the standard for success among area schools. Tanner won state championships in 2012 and 2013. The Rattlers had three straight trips to the state championship game, 16 straight trips to the playoffs and 11 seasons with 10 or more wins.

Right now, Tanner (0-3) is going through difficult times. The Rattlers have won four of their last 24 games. They are on their second head coach, Oscar Bonds, since Laron White left for Sparkman after the 2016 season.

Bonds coached for many years at Piedmont, one of the most successful small-school programs in the state. He knows what it takes to be successful. He’s got a small roster with a lot of young players. Better days are ahead. The program just needs some patience.

Back in the old days before there were two divisions in the Southeastern Conference, Tennessee games were the first big tests of the season for both Auburn and Alabama. Tennessee and Auburn played in September. Tennessee and Alabama played on the third Saturday in October.

When the SEC split into two divisions and started having a championship game in 1992, many thought the result would be an Alabama-Tennessee rematch most years. That has yet to happen and probably won’t for at least a few more years.

Since Tennessee last played in the SEC Championship game in 2007, the Volunteers have had five different head coaches. They had five in the previous 44 years.

Two games into his second season as head coach, Jeremy Pruitt appears to be on the hot seat after an 0-2 start. That seems really unfair. Pruitt has been a successful assistant coach at every stop in his career. He’s worked for some of the best head coaches. He knows the keys to success.

Yes, Pruitt is being paid a lot of money, but he can't use it to buy any players. That's what Tennessee needs more than anything.

Building the Tennessee program back up from the depths it sunk to is going to take time. The program just needs patience.

That word "patience" seems to fit both Tanner and Tennessee to a T.

 david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

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