John Chavis on Tennessee's 1997 SEC Championship
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis spoke to the Knoxville Quarterback Club on Monday and recalled many of the good times he had while playing and coaching for the Vols.
Like his first day at practice under former UT coach Johnny Majors, who also attended the Quarterback Club luncheon.
And like his recruiting trips while coaching under Majors, and the SEC championships he helped win under Majors and former coach Phillip Fulmer, and the 1998 national championship he helped win under Fulmer.
Chavis hardly mentioned UT's current football situation — a team that is struggling (3-4, 0-4 SEC), a fan base that is uneasy (at best), and a head coach ( Derek Dooley) who may be coaching to save his job.
About the only time Chavis mentioned this year's Vols was when he went through a rundown of SEC results Saturday and came to the UT-Alabama game.
"Alabama, I won't say it," Chavis said. "I'll skip that."
There were some chuckles from the crowd, but just a few. Folks at the Quarterback Club are there for enjoyment. Not much of that in UT's 44-13 loss to the Tide.
Chavis instead chose to stay positive — which meant he talked a good deal about his time at LSU, where he is in his fourth season.
Chavis plays a big role in the nation's No. 6-ranked team, one that beat No. 22 Texas A&M 24-19 on Saturday. His sour ending at UT — a 5-7 season in 2008 when Fulmer was fired — is a distant memory.
"Obviously, I enjoy my experience working with Coach (Les) Miles," Chavis said, "and being in Baton Rouge has been a great opportunity for me and I'm loving every minute of it, an opportunity to coach really outstanding players and compete for championships."
When the luncheon ended, Chavis spent several minutes talking with Majors and with Todd Kelly, who played defensive back at UT (1989-92) under Chavis.
Afterward, Chavis talked with the media and was asked if it pained him to see UT's fall in football after playing and coaching in the program for so long.
"Listen, I want nothing but the best for Tennessee unless we're playing 'em," Chavis said. "I had a lot of pride in this place, and had a chance to talk with Coach Majors just a few minutes ago, and it kind of reminded me of when we were working together, me as a player and he as a coach, to get Tennessee back to where it needed to be and how special those times were. You don't like to see anybody or anything that you care about go through tough times, but tough times are just tests for us."
UT's next test is Saturday at No. 17 South Carolina (TV: ESPN, noon). The Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2) are 14-point favorites. Not good odds for UT fans badly in need of a victory.
So what would Chavis tell UT's restless fan base?
"You've got to support your program," Chavis said. "Sometimes it's not going to be exactly the way you want it, and it's tough, and listen, I understand, nobody likes losing. Nobody feels good after it, but you've got to support your football team, and you've got to support your program both with your presence there and financially too because college football has turned into a big-money business, and there's a lot of bills to be paid."
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.