Someone dug through the archives at Troy University this week to come up with a promotional poster of Derrick Ansley, circa 2004.
Today, Ansley is Tennessee's first-year cornerbacks coach. Back then, he was an outstanding senior defensive back who finished fifth in the nation with nine interceptions a year earlier.
In the poster, sporting cornrows, a thin mustache and a serious glower on his face, Ansley is billed as "AMERICA'S D.A.: Tough on Quarterbacks."
Any of Ansley's players who found the image on Twitter probably got a good laugh out of the poster, but they also learned something they might not have realized: It wasn't that long ago that Ansley was a really good player.
"I did my job in a really good defensive scheme," Ansley said Wednesday with modesty.
Tennessee (3-5) faces Troy (4-4) on Saturday (TV: FSTN, noon) in a game that will allow Ansley to reconnect with some of his old coaches and friends on the other sidelines.
Although the Trojans have struggled this year, they've consistently been among the best teams in the Sun Belt since joining the conference in 2004,
and they've been among the most notable "giant-killers" in college football since joining Division I-A (now the Football Bowl Subdivision) in 2001.
"I think our class laid the foundation for the success they have now," Ansley said.
One of the reasons Ansley is so modest about his own personal accomplishments in college is because he played on a defense with elite linemen Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware. Umenyiora has made two Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants. Ware, who plays for the Dallas Cowboys, is considered by many to be among the best players in the NFL on either side of the ball.
Both came to Troy after being overlooked by SEC schools. That, Ansley said, is one of the reasons the Trojans have had so much success. Players come to Troy hungry and with something to prove.
"SEC schools can only sign so many," Ansley said. "In (Alabama) and in the South, there are a lot of guys who fall between the cracks. We had a lot of good players that weren't highly recruited coming out of high school."
Ansley grew up in Tallassee, Ala., a small town between Montgomery and Auburn in an area that the Trojans recruited heavily. He had no immediate plans to enter coaching after a successful college career, but a friend at Huntingdon, a Division III college in Montgomery, encouraged him to join the staff.
Ansley spent five years there before landing an opportunity to join Nick Saban's staff as a graduate assistant at Alabama. (He had actually turned down Saban once before because he was recently married and had just purchased a house. When Saban approached again, Ansley said yes.)
Ansley worked with Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri at Alabama, and got to know Sunseri's son, defensive back Vinnie Sunseri. Ansley said he and Vinnie would spend an hour every evening going over calls and talking football.
"He's the one who tutored my son. And my son's play speaks for myself," said Sunseri, his voice rising for emphasis. "That's what I think of Derrick Ansley. The bottom line is the guy's a helluva football coach and he's going to have a helluva future. I believe in him and the players' believe in him."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.