April 13, 2024

Tuesday Traditions: The Rock

This week on Tuesday Traditions, lead staff writer Sam Forman takes a look at one of the most visually recognizable traditions at UT.

Junior Payton Miller has definitely left her mark on The Rock. Photo by Danielle Whaley. Photo By Danielle Whaley

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When it comes to traditions at the University of Tennessee, there may be none more visually interesting than the rock. Day to day, as the paint becomes thicker, the messages displayed on the rock continually change.

TNJN’s Triple Play host Danielle Whaley recently did a feature on one of the rock’s most well-known painters, Payton Miller.


The rock was first unearthed in the 1960’s and has grown in size over the years, not only from thousands of layers of paint, but also from relocation.

The rock originally sat on the corner of Pat Head Summitt Street and Volunteer Boulevard where the new student health center is. To make room for the new student health center, the decision was made to move the rock diagonally across the street. It now sits in front of the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center.

Since the 97.5-ton rock was safely moved to its new home, the tradition of painting it has lived on. The rock continues to display messages ranging from hello’s and goodbye’s to happy birthday’s and marriage proposals.

It is also popular to show pride for Tennessee sporting events.

This summer, a large chunk of paint fell off the beloved rock, allowing current UT students and alumni alike to start a clean slate on an old tradition.

The rock plays such a large role in day-to-day life at UT that WUTK 90.3 FM. one of the university’s radio stations, calls itself ‘The Rock’ and its sports department is known as Rock Solid Sports.

Today, the rock has reached such a pinnacle in UT tradition, students can even buy miniature models around campus.

Featured image by Danielle Whaley

Edited by Cody McClure

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Sam Forman is the lead sports staff writer for the Tennessee Journalist and is a senior studying Journalism and Electronic Media with a focus on sports broadcasting and reporting. He has been with TNJN since the fall of 2014. He is also a DJ for WUTK 90.3 fm. and a member of the Rock Solid Sports team. Sam has spent six years marching in the Pride of The Southland Marching Band. When he is not covering or talking sports, you can find him outdoors, playing music or hanging out with friends. You can find him on twitter: @samWforman