KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones is about to embark on his fifth year as Tennessee’s head coach, his 11th straight year overall as a head coach at the FBS coaching level.
The 49-year-0ld Michigan native has become known for his competitive fire on the sidelines and his resiliency off of it, sometimes going to extremes to defend his players.
Ainge played quarterback for Tennessee 2004-2007, leading the Vols to their most recent SEC Championship Game appearance his senior season before a brief NFL career with the New York Jets.
Wednesday’s question-and-answer session had some football talk, but also other questions that revealed a bit more about the Vols’ fifth-year head coach and his family.
Co-host Brian Rice and Ainge host their show each day from 9 a.m. to noon on WNML-99.1 FM, leading into SEC Country podcast host Josh Ward and Will West on Sports 180 from noon to 3 p.m., and then the SportsTalk show hosted by Jimmy Hyams and John Wilkerson from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“We’re just going through and re-clinicing our throw game,” Jones said at the top of his interview.
“So we’re talking about Smash in the Red Zone, and with the wide departure hitches, whether we keep them on the move or have them stay stationary, so that’s been the topic of conversation this morning.”
Jones’ offense set the Tennessee single-season record last season for points and touchdowns en route to a 9-4 mark and second straight Top 25 finish.
Here are some of the questions and answers (some paraphrased for clarity):
Q: If you could go back to December 2012 and tell that Butch Jones what the next four or five years would be like, what would you say?
Jones: To go back in 2012, I would probably say, and I say it to myself all the time, ‘Stay the course.’
There’s always going to be roadblocks, there’s always going to be naysayers, individuals that want to take shots, that’s the nature of the business, but enjoy the journey along the way and celebrate the small victories.
But keep your eyes up and stay focused on staying the course, and the journey, and that’s to win championships here and develop a championship style football program in eveything we do. Not just on the field, but also in the community. I would say stay the course and keep working every day.
Q: How do you handle work-life balance with new recruiting calendar?
Jones: It’s very hard to have balance. The cell phone is always on you, you’re recruiting 24/7, you’re always in constant dialogue, even when you’re away from the office, of how the team is going.
First of all, you have to have a family that understands your profession, and for us it’s our livelihood. I try to spend quality time with the family.
One of the best things I did this summer was be a dad and go to a couple of football camps with my middle son, Adam, and he’ll be a junior at Knoxville Catholic, and just be a dad and sit in the stands. I had Andrew, my 10-year-old, at my side.
Q: How do you identify so well with such a wide range of prospects in recruiting?
Jones: I think it’s the way I was growing up. I was growing up in a law enforcement household, and I was able to watch my father from afar and how he dealt with people.
Part of being a football coach, you have to be a psychologist, and for us, we get older, but the people we deal with never get older, they stay 17 to 22 years of age.
You have to continue to understand what’s going on, and I think having three young kids of my own has helped.
Q: Talk about your wife, Barb … (The Jones’ celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this week)
Jones: She’s been a great friend, and I obviously couldn’t have done it without her. That’s the thing people don’t understand. They see us now, they don’t see the many sacrifices that goes into raising a family and her having two jobs when (I was) making $14,000 a year coaching football with no benefits.
She’s kind of the patient one of the household, but she takes her role very seriously with the wives, and they are doing Habitat for Humanity (Wednesday). She’s the even-keeled one, she sets the temperament.
Q: What enabled you to endure those hard times?
Jones: You have to have a passion and a love for what you do, and have a passion for impacting the lives of young adults and coaching football.
I knew getting into this profession you are fighting the law of longevity, and I had a coach tell me you’ll see many people come and go and give up on the career, and what you have to do is have the ability to persevere and sustain.
It’s worked out well and I’ve had very good teachers and mentors along the way.”
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