Horace Perkins III plans for the Tennessee orange-painted casket with the Power T on the lid to serve as his final resting place.
But he won’t be the first man to lie inside.
Talk-show host Paul Finebaum borrowed Perkins’ casket Saturday for a stunt that ranks among the best performed on “SEC Nation.”
The SEC Network’s game-day show aired from Tennessee’s campus, and it concluded with Finebaum impersonating the Undertaker, the WWE character who famously rose out of a casket multiple times during his wrestling career.
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But, for Finebaum, popping out of a casket to declare the Vols reincarnated as he predicted Tennessee would upset No. 1 Alabama tops the list of hijinks he’s performed.
“Not many people get to climb their way out of a coffin,” Finebaum, a Memphis native and Tennessee alumnus, deadpanned.
Perkins, a 58-year-old Vols fan from Dickson, Tennessee, found the casket in an old barn several months ago. He figures the casket to be older than he is.
Perkins’ kids had long said they planned to bury their dad an orange-and-white casket, and he got a jumpstart on that by having this casket painted Tennessee’s colors at the family’s autobody shop.
Perkins plans to first use the casket for some lively fun, incorporating it as a tailgate prop before home games.
“For now, we’ll eat hot wings out of it and serve a little libation out of it,” Perkins said.
The casket debuted at the Alabama game after its refurbished Tennessee look was completed Wednesday. When the Vols host Kentucky in two weeks, Perkins plans to place a Halloween skeleton dressed in a UK shirt and cap inside the casket.
Perkins hopes the casket becomes “a conversation piece” around which tailgaters can gather.
Now, that conversation will include that the “Mouth of the South” once lay inside the closed casket before correctly predicting Tennessee would snap its streak of 15 consecutive losses to Alabama.
“College GameDay” and “SEC Nation” each broadcast from UT’s campus on Saturday. Tennessee alumnus Jeffrey Dillard, who knew of Perkins’ casket, made some phone calls last week to inquire whether it might be of use.
Word passed to Baron Miller, the coordinating producer for “SEC Nation.” As soon as Miller saw a photo of the orange casket, he hatched an idea: Have Finebaum pop out of the casket while predicting a Tennessee victory and resurrecting the Vols.
Miller had a couple of questions, though: Did Finebaum plan to pick the Vols? Miller doesn’t encourage contrived picks. And, would Finebaum be up for getting closed inside a casket and carried onto the stage?
“It was the strangest pitch I’ve ever had in my life,” said Miller, who has worked in television for 22 years, “to ask someone if they would be willing to lay in a coffin, have almost a fake funeral, and pop out of a coffin.”
Miller soon got his answers.
Yes, Finebaum had planned to pick the Vols, and, yes, he’d be up for a casket gag.
Perkins brought the casket to campus Saturday morning before the show, and Finebaum sized it up. Perkins headed to Walmart to buy a pillow for Finebaum to rest his head to make his several-minute stay inside the casket comfier.
Perkins’ work wasn’t finished.
He and his sons, Horace IV and Neyland, along with Dillard and Perkins’ friends Michael Moore and Chris Holland would serve as “Paul-bearers,” carrying the casket onto the stage during the Alabama-Tennessee picks segment toward the end of the show.
Unbeknownst to viewers and the live audience, Finebaum would be inside the casket. He could not have gotten trapped inside, Miller and Perkins say.
“It’s got some levers,” Perkins said, “but we had them unlocked.”
Finebaum felt no fear, considering the show’s panel of analysts includes the muscle-bound Tim Tebow, Florida’s former star quarterback.
“I think Tebow could have probably picked the whole thing up himself and cracked it in half,” Finebaum said. “I always felt better with Tebow being in close proximity.”
Finebaum joined Tebow, Jordan Rodgers, Roman Harper and host Laura Rutledge throughout the two-hour show before ducking off during the final commercial break to a secluded staging area, where he slipped into the casket unnoticed.
The toughest part for Finebaum was wriggling into a tiny Vols jersey he was supposed to put on before entering the casket.
“I don’t know if this was a kid’s Tennessee jersey or what, but I needed help getting it on,” Finebaum said. “It had to be a small.”
Finebaum wore his headset inside the casket, so he heard Miller in his ear while the show continued without him.
After the commercial, Tebow, Rodgers and Harper logged their picks for Alabama. Rutledge wondered aloud where Finebaum had disappeared to.
Cue the Undertaker’s music, which WWE gave “SEC Nation” permission to play for the gag.
With three grim-faced “Paul-bearers” on each side, the casket made its way toward the stage.
“This doesn’t look good for Tennessee,” Rodgers said.
Tebow and Rodgers cautiously approached the casket and slowly lifted the lid.
Finebaum sat straight up – Undertaker style – and shook an orange and white pompom.
“The Vols win!” Finebaum shouted to the crowd’s delight before he sprang from the casket.
Hours later, the Vols ended their streak of futility against the Crimson Tide when Chase McGrath’s 40-yard field goal barely cleared the crossbar as time expired for a 52-49 victory. Thousands of fans spilled onto the field and tore down the goal posts.
Tennessee football is very much alive.