If you’ve been to a basketball game at UT, you probably know Trennie Williams. He’s gained fame as a superfan and the character VOLstarter man.
But underneath the mask and cape, Williams—who graduates this week—is a well-rounded Volunteer. He’s a journalism and electronic media major. He plays the trumpet and serves as equipment manager for the Pride of the Southland Band. He also works as a marketing intern for UT Athletics.
More than 4,000 students, including 3,038 undergraduates, 805 graduate students, 96 in law, and 82 in veterinary medicine, will participate in UT commencement ceremonies this week. For full details concerning security, parking, ceremonies, and speakers, see the Spring Commencement 2017 website.
Williams, of Memphis, said he’s always enjoyed wearing school colors. He donned green and gray to support his high school, then replaced those colors with orange when he arrived at UT.
Williams fell in love with UT after touring campus. Auditioning for the Pride of the Southland sealed the deal.
“The atmosphere, the size of the campus, the tradition and culture sold me,” he said. “I could not pass that up—to play in a stadium that big. I knew I could wear orange for the rest of my life.”
While many Volunteers wear orange, Williams took it to a new level.
He won over the hearts of fellow students and UT fans by dancing in his vintage Tennessee gear at basketball games.
“People didn’t recognize me when I wasn’t wearing orange,” said Williams. “It felt really cool because it was like a secret identity for me—an alter ego.”
In time, Williams came to be known as a super fan, and he starred in several UT videos, such as one promoting Big Orange Fridays and one in which he appeared as the character VOLstarter man.
He said his superfan persona embodies what it means to be a Volunteer.
“Wearing orange and white every day, being a good student and making good grades, and then being a Volunteer outside of school—that’s putting it in a positive light just by your character,” he said.
“There are many outstanding people that I have met during my time at UT who have greatly represented the Volunteer name in their own ways. I’m proud to better the university alongside them.”
Williams isn’t going to retire his superfan status quite yet—he’s planning to attend graduate school at UT in the fall.
“I will keep going forward, representing the orange and white in graduate school and also for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’m completely grateful to the university for creating who I am as a person, as a fan, as a student, and soon-to-be alumnus.”