As I sit here, my office completely empty and my car packed full with all my hard work, I don’t know what to say or let alone do. I spent so much time in these offices. I met my wife here. I had my first child here. I got my master’s degree here. Coach Pearl and this great university gave me my first opportunity in the coaching profession, and I am forever grateful for that.
I grew up in Schaumburg, Illinois (20 minutes outside of Chicago), so SEC athletics were foreign to me. Sure, I knew about Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee football and Kentucky basketball, but that was about it. When I packed up my dad’s ugly teal minivan and moved down here, just eight days after Coach Pearl offered me a graduate assistant position, I had no clue the next five years of my life would be this much of a blessing.
I’ll never forget my first football weekend here. We were playing highly ranked Cal on an absolutely beautiful opening weekend. As our staff did on numerous home football weekends, we had a large number of recruits on campus that day. As the Vol Walk approached, we all began making our way toward the stadium. Mind you, this was not only my first college football game ever, it was my first as a UT staff member who was supposed to be talking it up with recruits and their parents about all the festivities taking place all around them. With the sun gleaming and people tailgating in orange and white everywhere, I was absolutely speechless! It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe all the people and the excitement they had for the start of a new football season. Right then and there, I was hooked.
As sappy as it sounds, I fell in love with the University of Tennessee.
Since that day, this university, the people within it and the supporters around it have been nothing but great to me. I have experienced college athletics at the highest level and have been witness to one of the best—if not THE best—fan bases in the country. I have been blessed to be a part of the highest of highs that this program has ever seen. Chris Lofton’s shot over Durant to beat Texas. The #1 vs. #2 showdown vs. Memphis. Advancing to the Elite Eight. The list of big wins could go on forever but it’s the relationships with the players and the passion of the fans that I will remember most. These last five years have been special, have taught me a ton and have made me not only a better coach but a better person. This may be the end for me here, but with every ending there comes a new beginning, and there is no doubt that whatever my future entails, I will continue to work my hardest to make a positive difference in the lives of those around me. I will succeed!!
No matter where I go, no matter who I coach, I will always remember how great it is to be a Tennessee Vol!