He brought out the orange pants a year before Derek Dooley.
He loves football. He played tight end at Miami of Ohio and would shave his head if his beloved Cleveland Browns ever got to the Super Bowl.
He scubas and has skied down Olympic mountains at Innsbruck and Squaw Valley. He once jumped out of a plane.
A few years ago, he went "City Slickers," signing on for a week-long cattle drive in Wyoming. He even learned to play the harmonica for those nights sitting around the camp fire.
Rob Patrick, if you get the picture, has varied interests and passions for living a full life.
And we should mention two recent passions, his wife of three years and their 7-month-old daughter.
Somehow, Patrick has found the time over the past 15 years to build Tennessee into a formidable volleyball program.
The Lady Vols (27-3) open the NCAA tournament tonight at 7 in Thompson-Boling Arena against Duke (21-8).
Ohio State (19-14) and Middle Tennessee State (21-11) play at 4:30 p.m. The winners meet Friday at 7 for the right to advance to the Round of 16 in Gainesville, Fla.
Tennessee, the SEC champion, earned a No. 14 seed, which Patrick felt was too low.
"I thought our body of work would allow us to be seeded higher,'' he said. "But I'm very glad we do have a seed because that allows us to host. That's the most important thing.''
Patrick was hired in 1997 to rebuild a program that had fallen to obscurity. It was his first head collegiate job after three years as an assistant at Stanford that saw the Cardinal win two NCAA titles.
"That opened some doors,'' he said.
Recruiting in the early days required quite a sales pitch. Enough people listened, though. The 2004 team went 32-3 and in 2005, the Lady Vols crashed the Final Four.
The program has upgraded from Alumni Gym to Stokely Athletics Center to Thompson-Boling. The past four years, from 2008-11, have seen an unprecedented run of consistent success, a 98-28 record.
"Rob is the ultimate professional,'' said Joan Cronan, the athletic director who hired him. "He has gone about building a program exactly the right way.
"I liked his game plan and I liked his passion.''
The 2011 season started on an ominous note when senior captain and All-SEC player Kayla Jeter suffered a season-ending knee injury.
A lineup heavy with freshmen and sophomores closed ranks, grew up fast and won an outright SEC title.
Sophomore Kelsey Robinson was named SEC player of the year and setter Mary Pollmiller the SEC freshman of the year.
Leslie Cikra and DeeDee Harrison made first-team All-SEC. Pollmiller and freshman Tiffany Baker made second-team.
"If we had Jeter,'' Patrick said, "I'll be very honest, I don't know if we'd be better or if we'd be the same.
"What happens is other people have to step up in different ways. As much as we'd love to have Kayla playing with us, she has been an unbelievably supportive person.
"It's hard when you're injured,
but she has taken no energy from the team at all. She has provided energy, being supportive, being happy, on the bench screaming.''
Patrick is prone to screaming a bit as well. His coaching mentors came from football, back in a time when they'd grab you by the face mask.
"People still think I'm intense,'' he said, "but it's been dialed down.''
Though he loved football, volleyball emerged as a sport that he could pursue past college.
Toward that end, he moved to the sport's mecca, Southern California. His accounting degree helped land a good job in real estate development, but that was a means to an end — volleyball.
"I lived two blocks from the Manhattan Beach pier,'' he said. "Every weekend and as many nights as I could, I was down there on the beach. I wanted to see how good I could be.''
Pretty good, it turned out.
He played indoors and on the two-man beach circuit. Even after he got into coaching club teams, he kept playing. He was on a team that won the 40-and-over national championship and played in the coed national championship.
Coaching gradually won out. Patrick was so devoted to his club team he would fly back-and-forth from L.A. to his main work in Las Vegas twice a week to avoid missing practice.
It was his late father who inspired him to turn full-time to his first love.
Dr. Eugene Patrick was born in Pakistan and qualified for the country's Olympic track team in 1956. But before the Games, he got accepted at medical school.
"His dream was to go to medical school and come to America,'' said Patrick, "so he opted out of the Olympics.''
So Patrick opted out of his day job in development and got hired as an assistant coach at Stanford.
Three years later, he came to Tennessee. Now, he ranks third in career victories among all-time SEC coaches with 319. He has been both SEC and national coach of the year.
"I haven't been disappointed in anything he's ever done for our program,'' Cronan said.
One secret to his success, he says, is grasping the subtleties of coaching women.
"It took me a while to figure it out,'' he said. "It's made me a better coach.
"I've been able to push the girls but they know I care about them. That's the one thing, make sure they know you care about them.''
Follow Mike Strange at http://twitter.com/strangemike44.