KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — New Tennessee defensive backs coach Charlton Warren doesn’t tout a traditional coaching background.
Nearly two decades in the military tends to change a man.
Warren spent 18 years in the Air Force — as a player, an active-duty serviceman and a coach. He was the Falcons’ captain in the mid-1990s, winning the Mr. Intensity award as a senior. He then spent a decade on active duty, serving as “a weapons guy” and a systems acquisitions program manager on bases in Georgia and Florida during the height of pre-and-post 9/11 America.
Following “a chance encounter” in 2005, Warren jumped back into football as a coach, and the Vols’ new, jacked assistant coach quickly “had the bug.”
“I knew there was nothing more on the face of the earth that I wanted to be other than a football coach,” he said, serving as Air Force’s recruiting coordinator, secondary coach and defensive coordinator at various points from 2005-13.
“It sort of just flipped for me. Not coming out of college, like a (graduate assistant), that was a little different.
“Now, I was older, which sort of helped me I think. I had a different sense of perspective on what I would be as a football coach because I was on active duty so long. I was on active duty the whole time right after 9/11 happened. My perspective on things is a lot different. I really know what’s important.”
After his coaching stint at Air Force, Warren spent a season at Nebraska and then two years at North Carolina before replacing the fired Willie Martinez at Tennessee last week.
He joked that his new players had a funny “WHAT?” moment when he gave Tennessee’s defensive backs a chance to ask him some questions about his background.
“When they heard I was in the military for 10 years, a lot of their eyes popped out of their heads like, ‘What?!?’”
“But that’s important because they need to understand the standards and discipline and accountability that I’m going to be about.”
While Warren has evolved into a respected recruiter and an impressive position coach, he said his time in the Air Force forged the man he is today, instilling the value of discipline, trust, brotherhood and teamwork. He plans to bring those same principles and lessons to Tennessee.
He knows college football and the military are apples and oranges in the big picture, but “all those things aren’t just taglines for me.”
“This is not the military,” Warren said. “These are 18-year-old kids that are trying to be young men, playing at a high level and getting an education. But the principles I learned what back in those days still apply.”
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