College Sports

Who’s ‘Tennessee Jeff’?: Surfside Beach man going viral for his Urban Meyer rally

“Tennessee Jeff” Hamms admits he has a big mouth.

Within a matter of hours Saturday, it was like he was yelling through a bullhorn.

The Surfside Beach resident and avid Ohio State fan posted an emotional video around 3 p.m. Saturday that started to circle the wagons of Buckeye news outlets and fan groups. In the clip, he adamantly voices his support for embattled head football coach Urban Meyer and announced his plans to host a rally at Ohio Stadium at 6 p.m. Monday.

The message spread quickly, leaving many people on social media rallying around the man dubbed “Tennessee Jeff.”

“I’m talking minutes,” Hamms said of how quickly his video and his own popularity spread Saturday. “I’ve had over 300 friend requests and that’s just ridiculous. I don’t know any of these people. This guy’s huge, man. It’s Urban Meyer and people want to be a part of it to show that they support him.”

Meyer was placed on paid leave Wednesday as the university investigates whether or not he had knowledge of a 2015 domestic violence claim against former OSU assistant coach Zach Smith. During Big Ten media day, Meyer denied having knowledge of the claims by Zach Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney Smith, but on Friday he released a statement inferring otherwise.

Meyer, did however, say he has “always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student-athlete, coach or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels.”

When Hamms heard of the news, he waited to see what facts came out. When he heard Meyer say that he had followed protocol and looked on as media members, ESPN personality Paul Finebaum in particular, hammered the coach, he wasn’t going to sit on his hands.

“Well, wait a minute? If he reports it, who does that fall on then? If he reports it to the brass of Ohio State, now what? So then we’re talking [athletic director] Gene Smith? Who are we talking about now?” said Hamms, who was en route to Ohio via car Saturday night. “If Urban Meyer did his job reporting it, I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna do this.”

While Hamms said Finebaum’s comments lit his fire, he reiterated what he said in the video: The rally will not be about ESPN castaway Brett McMurphy, Finebaum nor Smith or his ex-wife.

“This is specifically to support Urban Meyer and that’s it,” he said.

Hamms asked others to join him at the North Rotundra, the north entrance of the stadium where the players enter the field on game days. He encouraged fellow fans to make signs (excluding vulgarity, he noted), wear Buckeye gear and paint their faces.

“I want Urban to see this. I want everybody in Buckeye Nation to see this. . . . Listen, man. We’re Buckeye Nation and we’re Ohio State strong, we’re Urban Meyer strong,” he said in the video. “This man has done nothing wrong period, and I wanna show support. That’s all it’s about.”

Hamms said the rally will last between 15 and 30 minutes. “It’ll be quick. It’ll be harmless,” he said.

The video on his Facebook page had 2,300 views and 95 shares as of 10:30 p.m. Saturday night. Other media and fan pages shared it as well, so the amount of views is likely a lot more.

“We might have 10 people. I don’t know how many people. I have no clue,” Hamms said. “I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve never been to a rally. I’ve never held a rally.”

Who is ‘Tennessee Jeff’?

Jeff Hamms, a Canton, Ohio native is now known widely in the state as “Tennessee Jeff.” The nickname came about when he had a cabin in Tennessee and would call in to 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, Ohio often, he said. The radio personalities latched on to the name, he added.

Hence, Tennessee Jeff was born.

Now, every Friday during football season the station does a short segment called “Pep Talk with Tennessee Jeff,” he said.

“I’m very opinionated toward our football team. I’m diehard, dude,” Hamms said. “There are a lot of diehard fans, but I promise you, dude, I’m right there.”

Hamms was born in Canton and now lives in Surfside Beach and works as a sales rep for AdvoCare. He said he’s called the Columbus radio station from different parts of the country while traveling. He even recalled dialing up the station during Hurricane Matthew two years ago.

Hamms is not affiliated with the school in any way despite having met some coaches and players over the years. He’s not an alumnus, but he grew up going to games and has most of his life.

“I’m passionate,” said Hamms, who travels by car to every game. “Everybody knows that I go to everything they do.”

As for the added fame that seemingly came out of nowhere Saturday, the talkative Hamms was nearly without words.

“Why me? Honestly, I have no idea,” he said. “I’m just a fan.”

Nonetheless, he said Saturday night he’s got about 30 hours to prepare for the rally, no matter how small or big it winds up getting.

“I was a little overwhelmed at first, but now I’ve got my game face on,” he said.