Peyton Manning on Butch Jones, being back at UT
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“The most inspiring thing is how excited he is to be here,” Manning said Friday during a visit to Knoxville to speak at UT’s spring clinic for high school coaches. “This is the job he wanted and this is where he wants to stay and retire. Those are the kind of people we want here at Tennessee — people that are all in, all Tennessee Vol.”
Manning briefly met with reporters during a break in the program at Thompson-Boling Arena. Jones said more than 500 coaches were in town, lured by the chance to hear Manning speak.
“I think that’s a tribute to him and what he stands for,” Jones said. “He means so much to us and our football program. We love him and we’re very proud of him.”
Manning said he came away impressed after chatting with Jones for more than an hour about their backgrounds and football philosophies on Thursday.
“(Jones) has it all mapped out. I like his slogans and philosophies,” Manning said. “I really like what he is saying.”
While it was the first time the two men had met, it was not the first time they had talked. Manning placed a call to Jones a few days before Jones accepted the Tennessee job, but the conversation had nothing to do with Rocky Top.
At the time, Jones had interviewed for jobs at Purdue and Colorado, but not Tennessee. Manning said Denver Broncos president John Elway was asked to help pitch the Colorado job on behalf of a friend. He turned to Manning.
“At this point, (Jones) hadn’t been contacted by Tennessee,
and I didn’t know much about him,” Manning said. “When the boss asks you to make a phone call, you make a phone call.”
Manning wasn’t sure what to tell him.
“I said, ‘I don’t know anything about Colorado,’ ” Manning said. “He said, ‘Tell him it’s a good place to play football and it’s a nice place to live.’ ”
Manning shrugged: “I could do that.
“It caused some confusion that I was recruiting a guy to Colorado,” he said. “I recruit to one school and one school only, the University of Tennessee.”
A few days after their conversation, Jones was being introduced as the Vols’ new coach at the Peyton Manning Locker Room.
Now Jones has enlisted Manning to help sell his rebuilding of UT’s struggling football program. Manning, who posed with a brick for UT’s #BrickByBrick campaign, has been happy to oblige.
“We all know the past few years haven’t been the most fun for the Tennessee football family and Coach Jones is determined to turn that around,” Manning said. “I believe that he will turn that around.”
That’s the message he tried to convey to players when he met with them this week.
“The players this year have a great opportunity to create their own legacy and to be part of a turnaround here at Tennessee,” he said.
In his talk with high school coaches, Manning showed video clips from his freshman season at Tennessee in which he worked with then-offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe.
“Some of the same drills I did in 1994 with Cutcliffe, I’m still doing today in Denver,” he said. “The shorts I was wearing were almost illegal in 1994 and Cutcliffe’s were worse. But my point is, I was telling the high school coaches and Coach Jones’ staff, if you have a good drill, a fundamental, or mechanic, do it all the time. It doesn’t matter where you’re playing.”
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.