The story of Jeronne Maymon, SoCo the boa constrictor, Gus Manning and a film student from Knoxville

Too dramatic? Over wrought with hyperbole? Way, way over the top?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And because of all that, Tennessee’s new video feature staring Jeronne Maymon is solid gold.

The first in a series of mini music videos aimed at churning the UT fanbase’s preseason excitement, the above Maymon video is not your average production from a university sports information department or public relations wing.

It includes the following: Maymon posing with a 7-foot Red Tail Sun Glow Boa Constrictor, Gus Manning reading a revised version of Johnny Cash’s spoken-word piece “Mean As Hell” and dramatic footage from the boiler room of Thompson-Boling Arena.

Added together, the video has the emotional nuance of a gong shot.

But how did this all to come to be?

UT sports information director Tom Satkowiak (@TomSatkowiak) said Tuesday he wanted to create a series of these videos that include “an aspect of each guy’s personality.” Not surprisingly, the debut video, which dropped Monday and now has over 3,300 views, addressed Maymon’s year-long rehabilitation from a litany of knee problems.

Back when the video was just a brainstorm, Satkowiak mentioned to former Vol Sylar McBee that he was looking for a talented film student to work with. McBee mentioned a classmate, Conner Harville (@ConHarv), and connected the two. Harville is a Knoxville native from Bearden and a UT senior studying film.

Satkowiak broke it to Harville that he couldn’t offer any money, but said Harville could include his name on the video as director and make a valuable addition to his portfolio. The pitch worked. Harville jumped onboard. The two got to work, along with UT graduate assistant Nate Bain.

Next came the issue of how to secure a giant snake. Satkowiak wanted to include a live serpent in the video to conceptualize Maymon’s injury and struggle. He took his search to Twitter and after a few dominoes dropped, he was contacted by WBIR’s Kris Budden (now of Fox Sports fame), who recounted doing a story on odd pets. She told Satkowiak that Kyle Sanders, the boyfriend of Lady Vol softball star Madison Shipman, owns two huge boa constrictors.

(Seems oddly easy to secure a 7-foot snake nowadays, no?)

Of the two boas – one named SoCo, the other named Lime (COLLEGE!) – SoCo was selected because of an edge in length. Maymon, ever-imposing at 6-foot-8, 260 pounds, was not keen about a boa slithering along his shoulders (pssh, it’s non-poinonous). He was scared, as any normal person would be. Satkowiak, playing the role of Paul Serone, was in charge of keeping the snake away from Maymon’s face.

Everyone survived the film shoot.

Keeping with his snake-devil-injury theme, Satkowiak then rewrote portions of Cash’s “Mean As Hell” – a ballad of God bestowing the desert to the devil to make it hell. Among Satkowiak’s edits …

“Many years past and he let the kid be, then we he needed it most, he struck his left knee.”

“So when did the devil lose control of it all? As soon as he challenged the heart of a Vol.”

Gus Manning  (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the News Sentinel)

Gus Manning (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the News Sentinel)

Needing a narrator with penetrating pipes, Satkowiak then called on Gus Manning. As one would expect, the legend killed it.

So with Manning narrating, clips of Maymon playing and Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave,” the film’s leitmotif, dipping in and out, Harville delivers quiet the video montage.

Then comes some quick highlights of Maymon pre-knee injury and him flexing in the Thompson-Boling Arena boiler room. All the while, Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” thumps in the background.

The video concludes with three words: HE … IS … BACK.

Subtle? No. Awesome? Yes.


Postscript: Satkowiak said UT fans can expect the next video sometime around Sept. 15. Asked which player will be featured, he said, “I can’t spoil that.” I’m thinking Jarnell Stokes arm-wrestling a polar bear or Jordan McRae using a wasp nest as a speed bag.