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Big Tom's Tailgate

Hey everyone, Dave here! This blog post was going to be just about the 3rd Saturday in October and the Tennessee rivalry, but then I got to thinking about my family and how we've done football, and I figured I would go even broader. You'll see a YouTube vlog later this week on the Bama/UT game, so now, enjoy the story of Big Tom's Tailgate.

Tailgating has been something that my family has done for most Alabama home games for the past 20 years. We've seen a lot of milestones come and go at our little spot of land in Lot A in Tuscaloosa! We've seen five head coaches (DuBose, Franchonie, Price, Shula, and Saban), five national championships, seven SEC championships, and two Heisman Trophy winners. And that's just the Alabama football milestones, heck, my brother even proposed to his now wife at the tailgate! When we started making it a family affair back in 1999, it was just Dad, Mom, me, and my brother. Now our family of four has grown to TEN! Dad, Mom, myself, my wife and two girls, my brother, his wife, and their two girls. That doesn't even count our normal tailgating external family. On any given week, we could have anywhere from 10 to 30 people at Big Tom's Tailgate.

From very humble beginnings. This was how we tailgated in 1999, out of the back of a 1997 Ford Explorer. This is Mom (Ellise) helping me get into my band uniform.

I started at Bama in the fall of 1999 and joined the Million Dollar Band. It was always my dream to find a way to get on the field at Bama and I hadn't played football, so the only way was to join the band. This next fact will tell you how down Alabama football was. When Mom and Dad dropped me off at band camp in mid August, Mom informed Dad that she had to see me march on the field, and we didn't have season tickets at that point. In fact, I had only been to two live Bama games ever. Well, Dad obliged, knowing in the back of his head that this was a fool's mission. Much to his shock, he was able to secure 3 tickets in Tide Pride for the season that was coming in just a few weeks! That year, we just did it simple - no huge menu, just a cooler, a folding table and an actual tailgate. I don't even think we had many visitors to the tailgate just because it was a rough year in my family (I know I've mentioned on the show about losing my Papa during my Freshman year).

My brother, Jonathan, sitting on the ground, wrapped in a blanket. We didn't even have tailgate chairs yet!

The next year we moved from the band parking lot over to a side street near the Ferg (the UA student center) and very close to my dorm at Paty (where Adam and I actually met). There, we became a little more elaborate. We had a few tables, planned menus, and we started inviting friends and other family to come with us. I brought some of my band friends and when Jonathan joined the band, he did the same. But then, the university decided that no traffic was allowed on that street, or any near the Ferg, so we had to come up with a new place to tailgate. That is when we landed on Lot A, near the soccer field.

As our tailgate grew, so did our menus!

Lot A has seen three different versions of the tailgate. The first was just more of the same "primitive" tailgating with just a slight wrinkle - this time, we added a tent, still no tv and no way of keeping up with other games, outside of a radio.

Primitive tailgating with Donna, Dad, and Mom

Once Jonathan and I officially got off the "payroll", Dad decided that it was time for a tailgating upgrade. The year was 2010 and Big Tom's Tailgate added its newest member - a state of the art tailgating trailer, equipped with a satellite TV, a small gas grill, AND a beer tap. We were living high on the hog now! This is where we saw the biggest growth in our little tailgate and two huge additions - mine and Jonathan's wives, Amanda and Holly. This "little" trailer was a trooper and even survived the deadly tornadoes that hit all of Alabama in 2011!

The new and improved tailgate

Before I go on, let me first address the elephant in the room. Yes, on the logo, that IS a bulldog and yes, we know Alabama's mascot isn't a bulldog. That is Big Tom's Tailgate's unofficial mascot Otis. Otis was Mom and Dad's bulldog from 2008 to 2018. He was instantly part of our family of 4 and even though J and I didn't live at home, he felt just like he was our pet too. There was no way Big O wasn't going to be on the trailer's artwork! O-Man came down to a few games in Tuscaloosa, but when J and Holly moved to Starkville, you KNOW we had to bring that bulldog to Mississippi State's campus! Even though he was decked out in Bama gear, he was the hit of the town!

With a face like that, how could Otis NOT be Big Tom's Tailgate's mascot?

As the tailgate grew in numbers, Mom and Dad realized that we needed to upgrade the equipment, and in 2016, the current trailer came into the "family". This trailer makes the old way of tailgating seem very primitive. We've got a 60 inch satellite tv, surround sound, a microwave, running water, a kitchen (mostly for storage, but there is a fridge in there), a Traeger grill, and of course, a kegerator! We've grown from just one tent, to where we set up four every week now; just a tailgate and a small table, to four food tables and a preparation table; just four people, to almost 90 people in the Big Tom's Tailgate facebook group, and that's not counting the people who are too young to have a Facebook account!

The current home of Big Tom's Tailgate

This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Big Tom's Tailgate. My family has grown from four to ten in that span. The tailgate has grown from four to almost 100 "family" members. For some, going to a game at Alabama is something they do and that's the main attraction. For my family, the game is secondary, the tailgate is the main event!

The Big Tom's Tailgate family: Ellie on Jonathan's shoulders, Holly, Dad, Mom holding Stewart Ann, Me holding Everett, Amanda holding Harper, and my grandmother Memaw

The original Four members of Big Tom's Tailgate sitting together for the first time in Bryant Denny Stadium at the Iron Bowl 2016

The next generation of tailgaters: Everett, Stewart Ann, Ellie, and Harper! (Can someone please do something with Harper's hair???)

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