KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The University of Tennessee’s Big Orange Caravan made its fifth and final stop of the spring in the Tri-Cities on Wednesday.

Vols head football coach Josh Heupel, Lady Vols head basketball coach Kellie Harper and Director of Athletics Danny White all took the stage at the Meadowview Convention Center. They signed autographs and answered fan questions in front of a decked-out crowd.

Both Heupel and Harper said the support they receive from this corner of the state is unlike anywhere else.

“The passion of this fanbase up here is really strong – last year it was the biggest and best stop that we had on our tour,” Heupel told reporters.

“They’ve been Big Orange fans for years – generations,” Harper said. “You can just feel that energy from this group.”

The fans, young and old, showed up and showed out again in 2023. It’s hard not to be excited of the season Tennessee football had this past fall. The program finished with a record of 11-2, winning the Orange Bowl over the Clemson Tigers.

Five Big Orange players were selected in the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft this past weekend. But, aside from that, very few players are leaving Tennessee via the transfer portal.

“That happens because you create great culture – one that guys want to be in,” Heupel said. “It also happens because you’re developing guys inside your roster. Guys feel like – even if they may not be starting – they’re continuing to grow as a player.”

For Harper, it was a very happy birthday spent in Northeast Tennessee, as members of the Tennessee cheer squad presented her with a cake on stage.

After receiving a contract extension through 2027-28 this offseason, it appears she’ll be celebrating a few more birthdays in the Volunteer State.

“You just see the support,” she said. “Obviously, our administration supports us at an elite level. Our athletes feel it, our staff feels it. It’s a big piece of what we do. I think we have the best administration in the country.”