Once lost, now found.
The University of Tennessee’s Smokey Grey Adidas football uniforms from 2014 resurfaced by means of the New England Patriots Twitter account Friday afternoon.
The team’s official account tweeted out a photo of Pro Football Hall of Famers Aeneas Williams, Joe Montana and Andre Reed posing for selfies among youth and high school football teams in Israel. The former players are there with Patriots owner Robert Kraft as part of a week-long ambassador trip to Israel.
But looking closely at the photo of Williams and Reed, Twitter users saw the familiar second version of Tennessee’s alternate Smokey Grey Adidas uniforms.
Tennessee originally unveiled its Smokey Grey alternate uniforms in 2013. The jerseys were worn twice that season, against Georgia and Vanderbilt.
In September 2014, apparel stores sold what appeared to be a second version of the Smokey Grey jerseys. The uniforms were modified to have an orange checkerboard pattern on the shoulders.
However, the fan reaction wasn’t so pleasant. Tennessee didn’t wear the 2014 version of the jerseys that season, nor did they wear the original version from 2013.
In September 2014, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Athletic Department told 10News that no decisions were made on the Smokey Grey uniforms for the season and couldn’t confirm what the alternatives would have been if they had worn them.
So where did the 2014 version of the jerseys go? Apparently to a youth team in Israel.
Tom Satkowiak, Tennessee’s Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations, said former Vols punter Dale Schneitman orchestrated the donation in 2015. At the time, Scheitman’s church, First Baptist Church Morristown, did a lot of missions and outreach work with another church in Israel.
Schneitman knew Tennessee was in the midst of making the switch from Adidas to Nike and reached out to a good friend of his — Tennessee’s equipment manager Roger Frazier — to see if there was any excess gear the Vols would be willing to donate to his church.
There was. Frazier said he would hate to see the unworn 2014 Smokey Grey alternative jerseys go to waste, so they decided to send them over to Schneitman’s church. From there, the church was able to send it to Isreal, where it was donated to an Israeli youth football team.
Because of NCAA rules, Tennessee couldn’t give the jerseys to U.S. middle schools or high schools. Instead, the team donated a surplus of gear such as sweatshirts and T-shirts throughout the country.
Adam H. Davis, a coach of the youth football team the jerseys were donated to, tweeted in response to the New England Patriots tweet showing off the jerseys, “I coach of the youth team pictured — jerseys were generously donated by @Vol_Football to our leagues in Israel. We’re all #Vols fans now :)”
The youth team in Israel is called the Ramat Hasharon Thunder, with participants ranging in age from 13 to 17 years old.
Tennessee unveiled the Nike version of the Smokey Grey alternate uniform in 2015.
Requests for comment from Adidas have not been returned.