John Adams: Jay Graham can sell UT from the heart

John Adams
Jay Graham

Photo by UTSPORTS.COM

Jay Graham

The product doesn't matter to great salesmen. They can change car lots on a lunch break without a lapse in conviction.

But that doesn't mean they can outsell a true believer.

I don't know don't if Jay Graham is a great salesman. I know he is a true believer in Tennessee football.

He didn't convince me of that by anything he said when introduced as one of UT's new assistant football coaches late Friday afternoon. He convinced me by returning to his college home.

Graham could have stayed at South Carolina, an ascending program that just cracked the top 10 for the first time in school history and which will return

Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Lattimore at running back. He left that for UT.

This UT isn't the one Graham left. The Vols have a losing record for the last four years and lost seven of eight SEC games in 2011. Graham lost six SEC games in his four seasons at UT from 1993 through 1996.

That's the Tennessee he will be selling to recruits.

"I think that's very important for our young men to understand that and understand the tradition here and what it means. I will talk a lot about that (to recruits)."

But nothing he says can trump what he did. He came back.

He's the running backs coach who left Lattimore for who knows what at UT. That should get the attention of even the most self-absorbed prospect, particularly if he's a running back.

The best running backs probably don't need a coach as much as they need someone who appreciates the specifics of their craft and knows it's not as easy as they sometimes make it look. Sure, they have to learn pass protection and pass routes, but they earn their scholarships by doing what most of them have been doing since they were big enough to pick up a football. Graham can relate to that as well as he can UT.

He left Concord, N.C., to play football for the Vols. His signing said as much about his confidence as his ability. The depth chart already included proven running backs Aaron Hayden, James Stewart and Charlie Garner. They welcomed him aboard and cautioned him at the same time.

"You're not going to play till your junior year," they told him.

He didn't believe them. What good running back would? Self-doubt never helped anyone break a tackle or turn the corner.

Graham doesn't just understand what it takes to play the position. He understands what the position requires in the SEC. Regardless of what decade in which you tried to dent an SEC defense, this has never been a place for padding your rushing statistics. Graham is candid about the requirements.

"You've got to have a dynamic skill level," he said. "Some of the defenses we play can be in the top five (nationally) and you have to have a mental toughness and the ability to break tackles. I always look for young men that have the ability to adapt."

A younger Graham made the adjustment a long time ago as he worked his way up the depth chart. He rushed for 99 yards as a freshman and 275 as a sophomore before leading the Vols in rushing each of his last two seasons. But his best memories aren't measured by statistics.

"When I see Gibbs hall, I remember walking out of the dorm and heading over to the weight room to work out," he said. "It's funny, 15 or 16 years later, to have the opportunity to coach these young men.

"I walked in their same shoes. Those are the things I think about."

And those are the things he can sell.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 30

BigBadVol writes:

Awesome to have you back Coach Graham.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Jay Graham will be a valuable asset for the football program. Jay, bring us in a stellar runningback or two that can take us to the promised land!

Rocky Top Forever!

MidTennVol writes:

I watched that press conference and saw the pride in Coach Graham's eyes. Heard the respect and humility in his voice -- as well as the toughness.

There are some things you can't teach a great running back -- the heart, the bull-stubbornness, the refusal to go down, the instincts, field vision, etc. The great ones either have it or they don't. Earl Campbell and Montario Hardesty come to mind.

My guess is that Coach Graham will be able to quickly recognize if a player or recruit has those intangibles or not. And that's half the battle, as I see it.

Welcome home, Coach Graham. Tennessee is glad to have you back.

MidTennVol writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

I watched that press conference and saw the pride in Coach Graham's eyes. Heard the respect and humility in his voice -- as well as the toughness.

There are some things you can't teach a great running back -- the heart, the bull-stubbornness, the refusal to go down, the instincts, field vision, etc. The great ones either have it or they don't. Earl Campbell and Montario Hardesty come to mind.

My guess is that Coach Graham will be able to quickly recognize if a player or recruit has those intangibles or not. And that's half the battle, as I see it.

Welcome home, Coach Graham. Tennessee is glad to have you back.

"The great ones either have it or they don't. Earl Campbell and Montario Hardesty come to mind."

As does, quite obviously, Jay Graham the former Tennessee RB.

TrackVol1975 writes:

And don't forget that 69-yard scamper against Bama in '96 to beat the Tide or the long TD run against Ohio State just before the half. We have good memories of this guy!

BigBadVol writes:

I will never forget the Citus Bowl against Ohio State. Eddie George got out performed by Jay. He popped a long run on a rained soaked day and lead the Vols to victory. VFL!

VolinCalif writes:

We will be a team to deal with this year. 9-3 is very doable. I liked the coaches that just left but they were mostly new to the SEC type of play. The new ones I believe are better. CJW had a good mind for coaching def. but he didn't have the competition week in and week out as he faced in the SEC. I think that CDD hoped that his youth would bail him out but CDD didn't have a lot of time to make a search for those he may have really wanted. CLK had not finished the job he had started and thing were in shambles. We have a great start this year and CDD has some players that should show up to play. Watch out Super Steve we are back. Could go 10 2 but not likely.

allvol8 writes:

in response to BigBadVol:

I will never forget the Citus Bowl against Ohio State. Eddie George got out performed by Jay. He popped a long run on a rained soaked day and lead the Vols to victory. VFL!

Eddie who?;) I ony remember Jay Graham! Glad to have him home!

VolzsFan writes:

It's BASKETBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!!! The sub 500 football phooey will wait until August.

jimr07 writes:

Wait until Clay Travis and his gang log on..

volforeverandever writes:

He sure was one of the best in tough games.If he wants them to see film on how it`s done just show his own tapes.

MidTennVol writes:

SB Nation is reporting that Lance Thompson may take Sunseri's job at Bama.

http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2012/1/13...

Where do they get this stuff?

Thompson would be a huge loss, in my view. Great recruiter, great coach.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

I'll take a Jamal Lewis to start and a Travis Stephens for a change of pace!...They're out there!...Go find 'em! GBO!

volforeverandever writes:

When you leave one program for another especialy in the same confrence and a main rival I don`t think you could go back and everything be OK.Coach Thompson is a very good coach and I would hate to lose him.He may leave but it won`t be there.

FLVOL_79 writes:

Graham beat Bama like a DRUM.

FWBVol writes:

People sometimes forget that Jay Graham, like many other top running backs, was a great sprinter in high school.

We need horses at running back that can run through, and then away, from the opposition.

not_guilty writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

I'll take a Jamal Lewis to start and a Travis Stephens for a change of pace!...They're out there!...Go find 'em! GBO!

Jamal Lewis? I can remember when he was the third best tailback on the team (behind Travis Henry and Onterrio Smith, who was then a freshman).

Of course, if the 1985 Chicago Bears had "the Refrigerator" William Perry, I suppose Jamal Lewis wanted to be the coke machine.

MidTennVol writes:

in response to FWBVol:

People sometimes forget that Jay Graham, like many other top running backs, was a great sprinter in high school.

We need horses at running back that can run through, and then away, from the opposition.

An amen to that, brother. I remember when so many of our players also ran track at UT. Maybe Graham might bring a little of that track mentality back.

Totally agree that we need bull-gazelles who can run through, over, around, and away from would-be tacklers.

txvolsfan writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

SB Nation is reporting that Lance Thompson may take Sunseri's job at Bama.

http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2012/1/13...

Where do they get this stuff?

Thompson would be a huge loss, in my view. Great recruiter, great coach.

Saban does not like LT and the way he left him the first time plus LT's exwife is still there and that is not a good mix!!!

txvolsfan writes:

Give me Reggie Cobb, the clean Reggie. As Majors would say, "That guy had more wiggle than any Vol RB I can remember"
Webb wasn't bad against the Pigs in the Cotton Bowl either!!! Wow we have had some great backs in our history!!!
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

SouthALVol writes:

I wonder if the pendulum will swing back. There was a time in the not too distant past when the HC, OC, & DC all played at UT. I'm not saying they shouldn't have been let go. It will simply be interesting to see if there will come a time again in which I actually know who all the coaches are.

GlassHalfFull writes:

I'm Psyched! I need extra Kool-Aid. This is shaping up to be the most exciting in recent years.

GlassHalfFull writes:

We need a local media that shares positive news like this. Their negativity in reporting and tweeting has contributed to the destruction of our reputation nationally. I am thrilled to finally see a different side of Mr. Adams. Excellent story!

johnlg00 writes:

If he can get us a couple of backs as good as he was, he will be worth every penny he is being paid. As Adams said, it's not so much about coaching good RBs as it is finding them and keeping them in the right frame of mind. Although his Vol career is ancient history to the current crop of HS RBs, his association with Lattimore is more current and relevant to them. Then when he gets them here, he can show them his tapes and let them marvel.

ACWLY writes:

I think Tennessee now has as good a running back coach as there is in the entire country! It's a great way to start back, Thanks for coming Jay! VFL

VolGrad writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

SB Nation is reporting that Lance Thompson may take Sunseri's job at Bama.

http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2012/1/13...

Where do they get this stuff?

Thompson would be a huge loss, in my view. Great recruiter, great coach.

Yeah, they do some really creative writing there on that site. I believe they were one of two different sites reporting that 1. Randy Shannon had been contacted about the DC position, 2. that it was all but a done deal, and 3. then implied that there would be an announcement about it this past Tuesday. Turns out each site was the other site's direct source on the whole matter. :O

I think the coversation between contributers to each site were talking and it just ballooned into a full-fledged work of fiction. Something like...
S1: You know, I think Randy Shannon would be a good DC for Tennessee.
S2: Yeah, I'm almost positive he'd be interested in the position.
S1: You say he's interested?
S2: Yeah, I'm sure. I wonder who is on UT's short list...
S1: Sounds to me like Randy Shannon is at the top of that list.
S2: You really think so?
S1: Well, I have it on a good source that he's interested. I'm sure that means they are talking.
S2: Makes sense; obviously he's a good fit. Probably just needing to iron out some specifics, eh?
S1: Sure thing. Sure thing.
S2: Gee, when do you think they may announce something?
S1: Well since they're just hammering out the details right now, it will probably be sometime early next week.
S2: Yep, makes sense.
S1: Sure thing.
S2: Thanks for the inside scoop, man.
S1: No problem, you've been real helpful yourself.
S2: 'preciate it. Later, dude.

oskie_score writes:

DaVante Bourque committed to Tennessee.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VolGrad:

Yeah, they do some really creative writing there on that site. I believe they were one of two different sites reporting that 1. Randy Shannon had been contacted about the DC position, 2. that it was all but a done deal, and 3. then implied that there would be an announcement about it this past Tuesday. Turns out each site was the other site's direct source on the whole matter. :O

I think the coversation between contributers to each site were talking and it just ballooned into a full-fledged work of fiction. Something like...
S1: You know, I think Randy Shannon would be a good DC for Tennessee.
S2: Yeah, I'm almost positive he'd be interested in the position.
S1: You say he's interested?
S2: Yeah, I'm sure. I wonder who is on UT's short list...
S1: Sounds to me like Randy Shannon is at the top of that list.
S2: You really think so?
S1: Well, I have it on a good source that he's interested. I'm sure that means they are talking.
S2: Makes sense; obviously he's a good fit. Probably just needing to iron out some specifics, eh?
S1: Sure thing. Sure thing.
S2: Gee, when do you think they may announce something?
S1: Well since they're just hammering out the details right now, it will probably be sometime early next week.
S2: Yep, makes sense.
S1: Sure thing.
S2: Thanks for the inside scoop, man.
S1: No problem, you've been real helpful yourself.
S2: 'preciate it. Later, dude.

Good one! Sounds like a digital-age version of the old kids' game of "Telephone". You may have thought you were joking, but I'll bet it happens that way more often than we realize. After all, it is almost a cliche that much "research" these days boils down to "something I read somewhere on the internet." Throw in the usual "anonymous sources" and multitude of conflicting agendas in these situations and--Voila! Scoop!

VolGrad writes:

in response to oskie_score:

DaVante Bourque committed to Tennessee.

Some more info:

ATH Davante Bourque from Crowley, Louisiana
@ 6'3" 200 w/4-stars RR-5.8 PR-14th

GBO!

DougSharp writes:

Did John Adams retire from serious journalism at some point and I just didn't get the memo. This is an intern level article yet the senior writer devoted his time and talent to submit it??? Doesn't make sense to use such a skilled writer for such a straight-forward piece. Makes me wonder if Mr. Adams has become a bit lazy of late. I liked his challenging articles over the years, especially those that stirred up a little controversy every now and then. Come on John, get back to work like the rest of us.

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