Yes, we talk about Tennessee football here. I probably won’t talk about it often but in this case I had something a bit more than typical fanboy ranting to say, so bear with me a bit. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, I promise to try and make this relevant to more than just the guys who go and paint their chests orange and go shirtless at the games.
If you follow college football at all closely, the SEC specifically, you likely know that Tennessee has been in a bit of a slump in recent years. They fired 17 year Hall of Fame coach, Phillip Fulmer in 2008. Since then they have been through 2 more coaches and a handful of losing seasons. Last year they hired Butch Jones to be their coach from the University of Cincinnati. Butch came in and promised a return to glory, a return to winning and a return to tradition. He adopted the slogan “Brick by Brick” for his rebuilding campaign. Now in his second year and after only 1 game, I’m a believer in the product that Butch is advertising on the field and here’s why.
He promotes honorable camaraderie on the field.
Here’s what I saw when I watched this game online. Young men who were more interested in their team and each other than they were in personal aggrandizement. Sure they got excited when they scored or made a great play but they turned their excitement towards each other. They ran across the field to congratulate each other. High fives, chest bumps and backslaps abounded. What they didn’t do was taunt their opponent or take their celebration into excess. They supported one another but were gracious to a defeated opponent.
They also were quick to run over and help a downed player. Twice I saw team mates rush to help a fallen comrade off the field of play. Their attitude and demeanor made it obvious that these guys really did care for one another. It wasn’t just an act. There had been instilled in them that made the collective whole something that they valued even beyond their personal accolades.
His players display a teamwork first mentality.
One of my favorite plays was watching Josh Smith take a quick screen pass 20 yards and almost to the checker boards. He was only able to get out there because Jalen Hurd, a highly touted runningback, hustled out there to the perimeter and threw a block for him. It wasn’t Hurd’s moment to shine. He wasn’t the one with the ball. He still ran his butt out there and put his body on the line for a team mate. I like that.
It wasn’t the only time it happened, either. Repeatedly, 4 and 5 star recruits that have enjoyed the media spotlight and have been told they are superstars over and over, hustled and worked to do the stuff that doesn’t make the highlight reel in order to better the team. I like that a lot. It isn’t always the norm in major sports nowadays.
He was the first to take a chance on Von Pearson.
I know this seems kind of weird. I just really like Pearson. Here’s a guy who didn’t even go to college out of high school. He thought he was going to be working fast food for the rest of his life. A buddy says, “Hey! You should go to a community college and play football.” He does so and the Tennessee coaches see him play and offer him a scholarship to UT. The kid is well-spoken, as talented as they come and humble. According to his coach and team mates, he thanks his coach every, single practice for the opportunity to play. Then he goes out there and fakes some guy out of his cleats on his way to scoring his first Tennessee Volunteer touchdown.
Sure, Von’s path to UT was a bit different but he seems to fit the mold of the kind of athletes Coach Jones and his staff recruit. Listen to them talk during their interviews. They seem to be intelligent, hard-working and respectful. Either they are the best actors and need to be on the movie screen and not the grid iron or they really are what they seem to be. I like this bunch of kids. Let me rephrase that. I like this bunch of young men. If you can recruit this kind of talent with this kind of character, I’ll be a fan.
He expects his team to work.
Multiple times, Coach Jones has said that he constantly preaches to the players that they have to work for the right to win. It isn’t a right that comes because you’re talented. It doesn’t come because you’re entitled or a nice guy. Winning comes because you work hard at it. You do the small stuff consistently and with energy. It doesn’t matter if you came highly recruited or you flew under the radar. Everyone works. Everyone contributes. Everyone sweats. THEN everyone wins. I like that.
It’s only been 1 game in this second season. UT has a brutal schedule to play and I don’t know what is going to happen from here. What I do know is that I like watching these guys play. I like their enthusiasm. I like their energy. I like their sportsmanship. What I think is that they are going to get better and they are going to be a lot of fun to watch. I’m a believer in Brick by Brick. I’m a believer in Butch.
Go Big Orange.