I took my tour of UT on Sept. 5, 2007. It was the beginning of my senior year of high school, and the day this New Yorker fell in love with the Volunteer Tradition.
Since then, UT has hired three new football coaches, each of them different to the extreme.
We started off with the aggressive and extremely controversial hire of Lane Kiffin. He represented a fundamental shift for the program in that he was the first head coach to not come from the "Tennessee Family."
From publicly accusing Urban Meyer of illegal recruiting to adorning our boys in black uniforms for the South Carolina game in 2009, Kiffin infuriated the old guard of Vol faithful. A few months later, he made a sneaky departure for Southern California, confirming the alumni's worst fears and establishing himself as the most hated human being in the state of Tennessee.
Say what you want about Kiffin, but he could recruit; his year here invigorated the young Tennessee fans as much as it irritated the old ones.
To players, Kiffin was the consummate businessman. He expected results, and he could come down like a sledgehammer when his expectations weren't met. He didn't give off a vibe of caring about the players, the university or its fans as much as he cared about winning.
Volunteer fans everywhere insisted that the next hire be from our own, but they were met with quite the opposite. Instead, we hired the son of University of Georgia coaching legend, Vince Dooley.
Derek Dooley promised to not repeat the actions of Kiffin, though he never did well enough to have the option.
While we were all licking the wounds of Kiffin's all-talk demeanor, we hired a lawyer. Not only did he actually pass the Bar exam, but he looked and sounded like a smooth-talking advocate too. He always said exactly what he meant and made certain not to get himself or the university in hot water. He carried a briefcase to games, and Total Frat Move ranked him as one of the 10 "Frattiest Coaches in America" because of his flawless swoop.
The big boosters to the university loved Dooley and his family; he was smart, witty and extremely professional; plus his mother was downright hilarious. She would crack jokes about Derek and her husband. Losing her sincerity and charm was more of a detriment than losing her son.
If nothing else, Derek Dooley was the safe rebound dentist for UT, a heartbroken single woman who lost her traditional dignity to a skater punk bad boy named Lane Kiffin.
After three dismal seasons at the helm, Dooley was released. The intense search for a new coach began in earnest after the Vanderbilt loss last season.
Coming again from outside the "Tennessee Family," Butch Jones has gone to extreme efforts to make himself as much a part of the Tennessee family as he is the trademark leader of it.
Phillip Fulmer sums up Jones' approach nicely: "We're not trying to build a tradition, we're trying to get one back."
Not only has Butch met with campus student leaders to help encourage undergraduate attendance at games, but he has worked with the university and professors to strengthen his bonds with the academic side of the university.
During an afternoon practice in late September, he brought our most recent shining knight – Phillip Fulmer – back into the picture. Extending an invitation to the Hall of Fame coach represents the passion Jones has for our traditions.
Butch is young, ambitious and extremely capable of leading this team, and I am thrilled that he wants to learn from one of our greatest former coaches. Fulmer was the last coach to lead us to greatness – he led us to the National Championship in 1998 – and continues to love this university.
During his visit, Fulmer extended his own hand to Jones, saying, "Anything I can do to help."
After five years, three coaches and 34 losses, I can honestly say I trust Butch.
He's the first coach since Fulmer to invest in tradition, and if the Georgia game is any indication, it will be more than enough to help.
Nate Talbot is a senior in mechanical engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.